Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The Tippah County Board of Supervisors abandoned a public road, then rescinded its decision a year and a half later without giving notice to the owners of the land on which the road was located. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that doing so violated the landowners’ due-process rights, so it affirmed the circuit court’s order voiding the recision order. View "Tippah County v. Lerose" on Justia Law

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From 2007 to 2014, the parties employed significant resources in litigating “the rights of the various parties as to Nicola Road, a [Mississippi] county road that allowed the various property owners access to Highway 603.” Jourdan River Estates (JRE) prevailed in that litigation, securing much-needed access to Nicola Road for the purpose of developing its 269-acre tract of land and constructing hundreds of condominiums. “[T]he seven year delay has been costly for” JRE and Jourdan River Resort and Yacht Club, LLC (Yacht Club). In December 2011, JRE and Yacht Club sued Scott Favre, Cindy Favre, and Jefferson Parker - neighboring property owners who opposed development - for damages, asserting fifteen different causes of action. All of the causes of action were based on the allegations that defendants delayed development of the condominium complex. After years of protracted proceedings, the circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of defendants. In its order, the circuit court divided its analysis between JRE and Yacht Club, disposing of each cause of action by: (1) applying the statute of limitations bar; (2) finding that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claim; or (3) utilizing the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, which immunized defendants from tort-based liability for having petitioned the government. The trial court denied defendants’ request to apply judicial estoppel to all of the remaining claims. JRE and Yacht Club appealed the order granting summary judgment, and defendants cross-appealed regarding the court’s application of judicial estoppel. During pendency of the appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court sua sponte requested the parties address the issue that JRE, a foreign limited liability company, was not in good standing with the Mississippi Secretary of State prior to filing its complaint. The Court found that the parties waived the issue. Thereafter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of defendants, but reversed and remanded the court’s application of judicial estoppel. View "Jourdan River Estates, LLC v. Favre" on Justia Law

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This case arose from Hurricane Katrina insurance litigation. After the hurricane had destroyed many homes, policyholders and insurance companies began litigating whether the hurricane losses were caused by flood damage or wind damage. The distinction determined whether the insurance companies would pay claims on those polices that did not cover flood damage. This case is before the Court on interlocutory appeal. Safeco Insurance Company (Safeco) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company individually challenged the circuit court’s reassignment of their respective cases and the appointment of a special master. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in reassigning judges, but vacated the order appointing the special master, finding an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. “The order itself acknowledged a blind-billing provision was “unusual.” But the Supreme Court found it was more than that: requiring both parties, one of which is the State of Mississippi, to pay an attorney in Louisiana to act as a judge, allowing either side to meet with him ex parte, and not requiring this special master to mention these meetings or even justify or detail his bill far exceeded the discretionary authority to appoint special masters.” View "Safeco Insurance Company of America v. Mississippi, ex rel. Hood" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Sand Solutions (MSS) and its predecessors hauled gravel and sand off its property via a private road on property belonging to the Fisher heirs. At some point, any agreement between the parties ended, and MSS sued in chancery court, asking the chancery court to find that it had an easement over the Fisher property. The chancery court ruled that MSS did not have an easement, and MSS appealed that decision. The Mississippi Supreme Court unanimously affirmed the chancery court’s ruling that MSS did not have an easement over the Fisher heirs’ property. Settlement negotiations between the parties broke down, and the Fisher heirs demanded that MSS cease and desist traversing their property. The Fisher heirs placed “no trespassing” signs on their property and put up a gate. MSS ignored the signs and tore down the gate. The Fisher heirs reported that MSS was damaging their property by dumping trash and gravel on the property and in waterways on the property. Additionally, the Fisher heirs were cited by the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality for the dumping and burning of household waste on the Fisher property and were required to clean the site. The Fisher heirs then sued MSS in chancery court alleging trespass, and asked for an Emergency Motion for Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction. After the hearing on the emergency motion, the chancery court issued a decree on the merits of the trespass complaint in favor of the Fisher heirs and awarded the Fisher heirs damages and attorneys’ fees. However, because MSS did not receive notice the case was being tried or heard on the merits, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court decree on the merits and remanded for further proceedings. View "Mississippi Sand Solutions, LLC v. Otis" on Justia Law

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Green Hills Development Company, LLC, forfeited property to the State for failure to pay taxes. Five years later, the State sold the property, following the statutory procedure under which the Secretary of State accepts written applications to purchase and, if an application is approved, issues a land patent. After learning of the sale, Green Hills sued the Secretary of State and the purchasers to have the land patents set aside. Green Hills argued it had been entitled to notice of the purchasers’ pending applications. Had it been properly notified, Green Hills claimed it would have filed its own application. And its application would have received priority based on Green Hills’ status as former owner. Green Hills also sued one of the purchasers for interfering with its rights as developer to enforce protective covenants and maintain common areas within the development. The Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment on Green Hills’ notice-based claims. The trial court ruled that the notice provision on which Green Hills relied was no longer in effect when the purchasers submitted their applications. And under the then-current administrative rules, Green Hills undisputedly received all required notice. The court further ruled the priority status for former owners’ applications was contingent on Green Hills’ filing an application, which Green Hills never did. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed this part of the trial court’s judgment: the record confirmed the material facts were not in dispute, and Green Hills received all required notice, and never filed an application to purchase, despite multiple opportunities. So the Defendants were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on Green Hills’ notice-based claims. However, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s ruling that Green Hills lacked standing to challenge the validity of the land patents issued. Because Green Hills’ claims based on the development’s protective covenants and common areas were still pending, Green Hills had a colorable interest in whether the purchasers held valid land patents. Green Hills also suffered an adverse effect from the purchasers’ countersuit to declare the protective covenants unenforceable and to divest Green Hills of its interest in the common areas. Thus, Green Hills had standing to challenge the land patents’ validity. View "Green Hills Development Company, LLC v. Mississippi Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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Previous opinions in this case were withdrawn. John and Cindy Henderson sued Copper Ridge Homes and First Bank regarding the construction of their new home in Magnolia, Mississippi. The case spiraled into foreclosure proceedings; the trial court granted First Bank’s motion for judicial foreclosure. On appeal, the Hendersons argued the trial court erred in granting First Bank a judicial foreclosure, by granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment, and by denying their motions for leave to amend and add wrongful disclosure to their complaint. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the trial court erred in granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s post-foreclosure motions for dismissal of the Hendersons’ claims. The Court affirmed the grant of judicial foreclosure, but reversed the grant of summary judgment to both parties, and remanded the case back to the trial court for a determination of the Hendersons’ claims. View "Henderson v. Copper Ridge Homes, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Lamar County Mississippi School District denied a request by Smith Petroleum to erect and construct an LED advertising billboard on its Sixteenth Section leasehold located on Old Highway 11 in Hattiesburg. Smith Petroleum filed its Notice of Appeal and Bill of Exceptions with the Chancery Court of Lamar County. The chancellor affirmed the School District’s denial of Smith Petroleum’s request to erect and construct the LED billboard. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court. View "Smith Petroleum, Inc. v. Lamar County School District" on Justia Law

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Judy Johnson appealed the circuit court's affirmance of a county court judgment granting Ronnie Goodson’s motion for summary judgment. Johnson claimed she was injured while she was an invited guest on Goodson’s property and a passenger in his golf cart. Johnson sued Goodson, alleging Goodson had operated the golf cart carelessly, recklessly, and negligently, causing Johnson to be thrown about in the vehicle and to suffer injuries. Johnson filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that, at the time of the accident, Goodson was the operator of a motor vehicle, and, as such, the applicable standard of care was that of a reasonable person. Johnson argued Goodson breached his duty of care by operating a vehicle on his property in an unsafe manner, proximately causing Johnson’s injuries. Goodson responded that Johnson was a licensee, that he did not breach any duties owed to her as a licensee, and the standard Johnson sought was not applicable. In Goodson’s motion for summary judgment, he sought to be shielded from ordinary negligence by alleging that Johnson’s cause of action was one of premises liability, and that he, as a landowner, only owed Johnson, a licensee, a duty to refrain from wilfully, wantonly, knowingly, or intentionally injuring her. Were premises liability the only law applicable, the Mississippi Supreme Court opined the trial and appellate courts would be affirmed. But given the facts presented, the Supreme Court concluded both erred: that the circumstances surrounding a moving golf cart, which the property owner was driving, raise an issue of negligence proper for resolution by the trier of fact. View "Johnson v. Goodson" on Justia Law

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Families filed suit at the Circuit Court seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that they owned lignite under a Mississippi Power Company (“MPC”) plant built on land MPC had purchased, a fact not disputed by any party. One month later, MPC filed suit to confirm and quiet title to its property and further asserted that lignite could only be removed economically by surface mining, a fact not disputed by any party. MPC asked to enjoin all defendants from asserting any right, title, or interest to the lignite. Alternatively, MPC asked for a declaratory judgment that lignite removal would deplete and destroy the surface of its land, rendering it unusable, a fact not disputed by any party. Two orders at issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court were "authored by two learned trial judges—one chancery, one circuit." Although the Supreme Court's review was de novo, the applicable law was neither new nor novel. Because neither trial court failed to follow controlling law, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barham v. Mississippi Power Company" on Justia Law

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John and Cindy Henderson filed suit against Copper Ridge Homes (“Copper Ridge”) and First Bank regarding the construction of their new home in Magnolia, Mississippi. The case quickly spiraled into foreclosure proceedings upon the Hendersons’ defaulting on their loan with First Bank. The judge granted First Bank’s motion for judicial foreclosure. After that, the Hendersons unsuccessfully moved multiple times to amend their complaint to add wrongful foreclosure. The judge granted Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment on the Hendersons’ claims, finding that the claims, which arose from the alleged faulty construction of the house traveled with the title to the property. Because the Hendersons no longer owned any interest in the house and land, the judge found that they had lost their right to seek damages. On appeal, the Hendersons argued the trial court erred by granting First Bank a judicial foreclosure, by granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment, and by denying their motions for leave to amend and to add wrongful foreclosure to their complaint. Finding that the trial court erred in granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s post-foreclosure motions for dismissal of the Hendersons’ claims, The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the grant of judicial foreclosure, reversed the grant of summary judgment to both parties, and remanded the case to the trial court for determination of the Hendersons’ claims. View "Henderson v. Copper Ridge Homes, LLC" on Justia Law