Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law

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The City of Horn Lake and DeSoto County appealed after the DeSoto County Chancery Court granted Sass Muni-V, LLC’s (Sass Muni’s) motion for summary judgment. The result of the chancery court’s decision voided a 2008 tax sale at which Sass Muni purchased some property in DeSoto County and also refunded Sass Muni the purchase price of $530,508. Due to the clear and unambiguous language of Mississippi Code Section 27-43-3, the chancery clerk’s failure to give proper notice of the tax sale rendered the sale void. Therefore, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "City of Horn Lake v. Sass Muni-V, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Sand Solutions, LLC (“MSS”) appealed a Chancery Court decree that MSS did not have an easement of any type across property owned by a group of heirs, the “Fisher Property.” MSS’s predecessors used the alleged easement across the Fisher Property to access another parcel of land from which they mined gravel and sand throughout the years. The Fisher heirs, who owned the Fisher Property, claimed that this access was by permission, evidenced by lease agreements with MSS’s predecessors. As a result, the Fisher heirs filed a declaratory action against MSS, seeking to have the alleged easement declared invalid. After a trial, the chancellor ruled that MSS did not have an easement across the Fisher Property. Given the standard of review and the sufficient evidence in the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s judgment. View "Mississippi Sand Solutions, LLC v. Otis" on Justia Law

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First Presbyterian Church PCUSA of Starkville, Mississippi, (“FPC”) sought declaratory relief, a temporary restraining order, and injunctive relief against the Presbytery of St. Andrew Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Inc. (“Presbytery”), after the Presbytery claimed FPC’s property was held in trust for the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (“PCUSA”). FPC has transitioned into and out of multiple Presbyterian denominations, including the Old School Presbyterian Church; the Presbyterian Church, Confederate States of America; and the Presbyterian Church in the United States (“PCUS”). In 1983, the PCUS merged with another Presbyterian denomination to create the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (“PCUSA”). FPC has been affiliated with the PCUSA since its inception. FPC claimed that, although it was affiliated with several different Presbyterian denominations, it existed as an “independent, unincorporated religious association from its founding until 2003.” Following its incorporation, FPC conveyed to the corporation its main property and facility in Starkville. The titleholder of record was then identified as FPC’s corporate entity. Any property duly transferred to the corporation remains held by and titled in the name of First Presbyterian Church, Starkville, Mississippi. Prior to 1982, no official documents of the PCUS included trust language. After the PCUSA was formed, the Book of Order contained a trust clause, and local churches then were required to “obtain permission before selling, mortgaging, or otherwise encumbering the property of that particular church.” Because this new trust clause was a departure from prior practice, the PCUSA’s constitution allowed for a “property exception.” Due to increasing disagreement with the PCUSA, FPC voted to cease monetary contributions to the Presbytery and look at the possibility of joining another Presbyterian denomination. In response to schism in the membership of FPC, the Presbytery notified FPC that it had appointed a Presbytery committee, called an Administrative Commission, to “inquire into and settle difficulties” at FPC. FPC’s session passed a resolution authorizing the filing of a legal action to determine the property rights of FPC, the Presbytery, and the PCUSA. FPC sought a declaratory judgment recognizing FPC’s exclusive ownership of all property held by it or in its name, free of any trust claimed by the PCUSA. FPC also requested a temporary restraining order prohibiting the Presbytery from taking control or possession of FPC’s property or from interfering with FPC’s property ownership. The chancery court granted summary judgment in favor of FPC, finding no evidence of any trust, express or implied. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and affirmed the finding of the chancery court. View "Presbytery of St. Andrew, Presbyterian Church U.S.A., Inc. v. First Presbyterian Church PCUSA of Starkville" on Justia Law

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In a preceding case involving these parties, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the special court of eminent domain, specifically finding plaintiffs Todd and Angela Kuhn were not entitled to condemn Cheryl High’s property for a private road. The statutory procedures governing eminent-domain actions permit a defendant like High to recover expenses, including attorney’s fees, when “the judgment be that the plaintiff is not entitled to a judgment condemning property[.]” Following the Court's mandate, High moved the special court for attorney's fees and expenses under Miss. Code Ann. 11-27-37 (Rev. 2004). The special court held Section 11-27-37 did not apply and denied High’s request. High again appealed to the Supreme Court. And once again, the Court reversed and remanded: the Kuhns clearly invoked the statutory procedures of the special court of eminent domain when they petitioned that court for the statutory right to condemn High’s property for a private road. Thus, Section 11-27-37 applied. Because the award of fees and expenses under Section 11-27-37 is discretionary, not mandatory, the case was remanded back to the special court of eminent domain to consider the merits of High’s motion and the reasonableness of her request for $25,990.58 in attorney’s fees and expenses, plus interest. View "High v. Kuhn" on Justia Law

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Thrasher Construction, Inc. (Thrasher) brought a third-party beneficiary action against Bruce Cope, Mary Cope, and Ike Thrash (the Copes and Thrash). Thrasher sought damages for payments owed for waterproofing the Inn by the Sea, a condominium in which the Copes and Thrash had acquired a full ownership interest by agreeing, in part, to pay all outstanding bills for work previously performed on the property. During trial, the county court dismissed the third-party beneficiary claim but allowed Thrasher to proceed on a quantum meruit theory of the case. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Thrasher for $69,290, and the county court entered judgment based on that verdict. The Copes and Thrash appealed the judgment to the Circuit Court, which affirmed the judgment of the county court. The Copes and Thrash then appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing the facts did not support a recovery on quantum meruit. Thrasher cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing its third-party beneficiary claim. The Court of Appeals held quantum meruit was not the proper method of relief because the action should have proceeded as a third-party beneficiary claim. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the third-party beneficiary action was the appropriate basis for Thrasher’s recovery; however, because the trial court ultimately reached the correct result, no further proceedings were needed in this case. View "Cope v. Thrasher Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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A property owner defaulted on his obligations, and the construction lender foreclosed the property at issue in this appeal. The general contractor had a materialman’s lien on the property. At the foreclosure sale, the purchase price for the property was significantly lower than the total amounts owed. The sole issue before the chancery court was which lien had priority – that of the construction lender, or that of the contractor. The chancery court found that the contractor’s lien had priority. Because the chancery court did not abuse its discretion in arriving at that conclusion, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Whitney Bank v. Triangle Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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A homeowner appealed an award of attorney fees associated with a complaint filed against him for injunctive relief to enforce a neighborhood’s restrictive covenants. The Deer Haven Owners Association filed a Complaint for Mandatory Injunction and Other Relief against Arlin George Hatfield III, claiming he had violated the subdivision’s restrictive covenants by erecting pens for various fowl without the covenants’ required prior approval, and that Hatfield’s fowl had violated the covenants’ prohibition against noxious or offensive activities by roaming around the subdivision and making loud noises. The Association sought an injunction ordering Hatfield to comply with the covenants and an award of attorney fees. According to the chancellor, the original complaint sought to have the fowl and pens removed for violations of the covenants, and the Association prevailed on that argument, therefore, fees were warranted for the Association. Hatfield appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hatfield v. Deer Haven Homeowners Association, Inc." on Justia Law

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Anita White appealed the Chancery Court of DeSoto County’s confirmation of title to certain real property located in Yalobusha County to Charles Thomas White (“Tommy”). Anita claimed the property through the residuary clause of Charles William White’s (“Bill’s”) will. Tommy claimed the property through an earlier conveyance from his father and long-time partner, Bill. The chancellor found the earlier conveyance valid. Anita appealed. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Estate of C.W. White v. White" on Justia Law

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This interlocutory appeal involves an action by Lucille Crotwell’s heirs against Richard Prestage’s successors in title. In 1973, Gilbert Lum conveyed a forty-acre tract of land by warranty deed to his daughter, Lucille Crotwell, reserving a life estate in the lands and all mineral interests owned by him. The deed recited receipt of good and valuable consideration and was filed of record. No words of inheritance were contained in the deed. A quarter of a century later, Lum attempted to reconvey one acre of the same forty-acre tract to Prestage. By special warranty deed, Prestage subsequently deeded the property from himself to himself and his wife, Sheri, as an estate by the entirety with full rights of survivorship. The Prestages then executed a deed of trust in favor of American Title Company, Inc., as trustee for Hurricane Mortgage Company, Inc. This deed of trust ultimately was assigned to HSBC Bank, USA, N.A., as trustee for Wells Fargo Asset Securities Corporation Home Equity-Backed Certificates. In 2011, Emily Courteau, as Substituted Trustee, conducted a foreclosure sale of this deed of trust. T&W Homes, Etc, LLC (“T&W”) was the successful bidder and received a Substitute Trustee’s Deed. The Crotwells filed a complaint to confirm title, remove cloud on the title, and for ejectment. The parties filed competing motions for summary judgment. The chancellor found that Lum had reserved a life estate in the land and minerals only and that he could have conveyed his reserved life estate, but that reading the conveyance as retaining the right to reconvey title in fee simple was repugnant to the granting clause in the conveyance to Crotwell. The Chancery Court granted summary judgment to the Crotwells on this issue only. T&W Homes filed this interlocutory appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "T & W Homes Etc, LLC v. Crotwell" on Justia Law

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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