Articles Posted in Contracts

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After remand, the trial court ruled that H.A.S. Electrical Contractors, Inc. (HAS) failed to meet its burden of proving purposeful discrimination. Hemphill Construction Company was the general contractor on a project in Waveland, Mississippi, to rebuild a state park after Hurricane Katrina. Hemphill entered a subcontract with HAS (one of many entered into between these companies - both before and after the event complained of) to perform the electrical work. According to HAS, Hemphill did not pay HAS all it was owed under the subcontract. HAS sued Hemphill for breach of contract, quantum meruit, and conversion. After a three-day trial, the jury found in favor of Hemphill on both HAS’s claims and Hemphill’s counterclaim. However, the jury declined to award Hemphill monetary damages. The subcontract entitled the “prevailing party” to reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses. HAS filed a motion for new trial or, in the alternative, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), arguing the trial court erred: (1) in allowing Hemphill to use two of its peremptory strikes to exclude two African Americans from the jury, arguing neither pretext nor purposeful discrimination; and (2) in not finding the unilateral attorney’s-fees provision of the contract to be unconscionable. The trial court denied HAS’s motion for new trial and alternative motion for JNOV. In its briefs appealing the trial court ruling to the Mississippi Supreme Court, HAS challenged the attorney’s-fees award and argued the trial court mishandled the Batson hearing when HAS challenged Hemphill’s use of peremptory strikes on the African-American jurors. The Supreme Court affirmed, finding HAS failed to prove: (1) purposeful discrimination in the jury selection process; (2) that the trial court’s ruling was clearly erroneous; or (3) that the trial court’s ruling was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the jury’s verdict, the trial court’s denial of HAS’s motion for new trial, and the trial court’s post-judgment award of attorney’s fees to Hemphill. View "H.A.S. Electrical Contractors, Inc. v. Hemphill Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a breach-of-contract action between Marc Daniels, Sandra Daniels, Crocker & Associates, Inc., and Maxx Investments, LLC (collectively, “the Danielses”) and Dennis Crocker, Gail Crocker and Crocker, Ltd. (collectively, “the Crockers”). The Danielses entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement (the “Agreement”) with the Crockers to acquire Crocker & Associates, Inc. (“C&A”). Within eighteen months of the sale, C&A lost a number of important contracts and its employees resigned. The Danielses sued the Crockers for failing to disclose all material information about C&A as required by the Agreement. The Crockers answered the suit and brought counterclaims. After extensive discovery, the trial court granted the Crockers’ motion for summary judgment on the Danielses’ claims against them. The Danielses now appeal the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. Because the record contained a genuine issue as to material fact concerning the Danielses’ contract claims and negligent and fraudulent misrepresentation claims, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on these claims. Further, because the Court remanded these claims for a jury to determine if the Danielses were entitled to compensation, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on the punitive damages claim. The Court affirmed in all other respects, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Daniels v. Crocker" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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In a matter of first impression, the Mississippi Supreme Court addressed testamentary provisions in a contract. A provision in a lease stated that upon the lessor’s death, the lessor’s rights (primarily the right to receive lease payments) transferred to the lessor’s daughter, who was not a party to the lease. The lessor died, and the question presented under the facts of this case was whether the provision of the lease or the provisions of the lessor’s will determined the owner of the lease payments. The distinction turns on whether the instrument conveys any present interest to the grantee. The relevant question was when the interest vests in the grantee and whether it may be modified during the grantor’s life, not who has the right to prevent any interest from vesting. Because the grantee lacked a vested right, the provision at issue here was testamentary in nature and treated as a will. The parties agree the lease failed to comply with the statutory formalities required of a will, so the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ decision to reverse the chancellor’s decision finding the provision enforceable. View "Estate of Rose Greer v. Ball" on Justia Law

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Arbitration is a contractual agreement between parties. And only agreed-upon arbitrable disputes are subject to arbitration. On de novo review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found in this case a valid arbitration agreement, but the subject of the lessee’s premises-liability claim (a dispute that stemmed from a physical and sexual assault on the apartment complex premises) was not within the arbitration agreement’s scope, as it did not arise under or relate to her “occupancy and leasing of the [apartment].” Because the dispute was outside the agreement’s scope, the trial court erred by staying proceedings and ordering arbitration. View "Jane Doe v. Hallmark Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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Thomas L. Swarek and Thomas A. Swarek (father and son) appealed a Chancery Court’s finding that no binding enforceable contract existed between the Swareks and Derr Plantation, Inc. (DPI) for the lease and purchase and sale of Derr Plantation to the Swareks, thus denying Swareks’ equitable-relief request for specific performance. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court. View "Swarek v. Derr Plantation, Inc." on Justia Law

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When this case came before the Mississippi Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal, the Court reversed in part. Because it was undisputed that neither sub-subcontractor Ground Control, LLC nor subcontractor Capsco Industries, Inc. (both Alabama companies) had a statutorily required certificate of responsibility to work in Mississippi, the Court agreed that the subcontract was void. But the Court found, despite the void contract, "Ground Control should not be precluded from having the opportunity to proceed in court under a claim for the value of what it expended in labor and supplies on the project." The case was remanded to the trial court so Ground Control could pursue the nonbarred "claims of unjust enrichment and quantum meruit." Despite this holding, Ground Control argued in this appeal that the trial court erred by limiting its claims on remand to unjust enrichment and quantum meruit. The Supreme Court found no error in the trial court so limiting Ground Control's claims. The Supreme Court did, however, find W.G. Yates and Sons Construction Company (Yates) and Capsco raised reversible errors in their cross-appeals. Based on the evidence presented at trial, the Supreme Court found Yates was entitled to a directed verdict because Ground Control failed to prove Yates’s liability for quantum meruit damages. The Court also found the quantum meruit damages award against Capsco was against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. Consequently, Capsco was entitled to a remittitur. The Court affirmed on Ground Control’s and Ground Control owner Frank Beaton’s direct appeals. On cross-appeal, the Court reversed a $36,644.69 judgment against Yates and rendered a judgment in Yates’s favor. The Court also reversed a $825,583.31 judgment against Capsco. The quantum meruit claim against Capsco was remanded, instructing the trial court to conduct a new trial on damages alone, unless a remittitur of $626,407.31, making the damage award $199,096, was accepted by Ground Control and Capsco. View "Ground Control, LLC v. Capsco Industries, Inc." on Justia Law

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Thomas Saul and Jon Swartzfager initially reached a verbal agreement for Saul’s purchase of a piece of property located within a larger tract of land Swartzfager owned. But another person came along and offered Swartzfager a significant sum to buy the whole tract. Swartzfager approached Saul and asked if he would forego their original land deal and in exchange accept a separate parcel within a different tract of land. Saul agreed to Swartzfager’s new offer, and Swartzfager reduced their agreement to writing, stating that for “good and valuable consideration” already received, he would transfer the second parcel to Saul upon request. However, Swartzfager later backed out and never transferred any land to Saul. Saul filed suit against Swartzfager seeking damages and specific performance. The chancellor found a valid contract existed between Saul and Swartzfager, and awarded him damages, attorney’s fees, and prejudgment interest. After review, the Supreme Court found the chancellor correctly ruled that Saul and Swartzfager had a contract, and Swartzfager was equitably estopped from denying the land deal. Furthermore, the Court found the chancellor’s awards for intentional infliction of emotional distress and attorney’s fees are supported. But Court found the chancellor erred in awarding prejudgment interest, because Saul did not plead a request for prejudgment interest. View "Swartzfager v. Saul" on Justia Law

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Following court-ordered mediation, spouses Gary Rolison and Martha Rolison and Caleb Fryar and his father, Robert Fryar, entered into a mediation settlement agreement that resolved four lawsuits pending between the Rolisons and the Fryars. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court found that the Rolisons had breached the settlement agreement, and the court entered a final judgment pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and postponed hearing the issue of damages. The Rolisons appealed the final judgment but later dismissed the appeal voluntarily. After the trial on damages, the trial court awarded the Fryars $399,733.02 in damages, including lost profits and attorney fees. The Rolisons appealed, arguing that their jury trial waiver was ineffective, the trial court’s Rule 54(b) certification was erroneous, and the trial court erroneously denied a motion to intervene filed by two interested parties. Because the Rolisons dismissed their appeal from the Rule 54(b) final judgment, those issues were not at issue before the Supreme Court. After further review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court committed no error by finding that the Rolisons had waived their right to a jury trial on damages and attorney fees. Further, the Court rejected the Rolisons’ challenges to the trial court’s awards of damages and attorney fees because those awards were supported by substantial, credible evidence. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Rolison v. Fryar" on Justia Law

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The State and the City of Pass Christian’s entered into a forty-year lease. Under the terms of the lease, the City would use a portion of the Harrison County shoreline as a harbor and pursue related commercial development. Russell RP Services, LLC, filed its complaint against the State and the City on November 21, 2013. Russell RP asserted that it held an undivided one-half interest in a parcel of land lying between U.S. 90 and the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, and that the City and State, by executing the aforementioned lease, had effectuated a taking upon its property which required just due compensation. On August 18, 2015, the Harrison County Circuit Court granted the State and City's motions for summary judgment. Concluding that Russell Real Property lacked standing to pursue its claim of inverse condemnation, the circuit court dismissed without prejudice its claim of inverse condemnation. Russell RP appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Russell Real Property Services, LLC v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Sweet Valley Missionary Baptist Church appealed a circuit court order denying its request for prejudgment interest against Alfa Insurance Company. This suit arose from a 2005 insurance claim Sweet Valley filed with Alfa Insurance Corporation (“Alfa”), following storm damage to its property caused by Hurricane Katrina. Sweet Valley had a commercial insurance policy with Alfa Insurance. Sweet Valley filed suit against Alfa for breach of contract and alleged that Alfa had undervalued its claim. Sweet Valley requested prejudgment interest in its complaint. It was determined that Sweet Valley was entitled to $462,761.89. Alfa remitted the full amount to Sweet Valley. Subsequently, Alfa filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that, since an appraisal had been conducted and it already had paid Sweet Valley $462,761.89, no genuine issues remained. The trial court granted Alfa’s motion. Because there was no judgment in this instance upon which interest could accrue, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Sweet Valley Missionary Baptist Church v. Alfa Insurance Corporation" on Justia Law