Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Jean Hardin filed a claim with Farm Bureau, her homeowner’s insurance carrier, following an alleged sudden collapse in the floor of her home. After Farm Bureau denied the claim, Hardin sued Farm Bureau for specific performance, breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, damages, emotional harm and upset, depression, attorneys’ fees, costs of litigation, and punitive damages related to Farm Bureau’s denial of coverage for damage to Hardin’s home. Farm Bureau filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court denied. Farm Bureau sought, and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted, interlocutory appeal. The Court reversed, finding the trial court erred in denying Farm Bureau’s motion for summary judgment because Hardin demonstrated proof that the water damage to her home was caused by the failure of the Town of Leakesville to maintain the ditch beside her home. Thus, because Hardin’s damages were not covered under the policy, Farm Bureau was entitled to summary judgment. View "Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Hardin" on Justia Law

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This dispute centered on an acre of land in Scott County, Mississippi, arising from a counterclaim of T & W Homes Etc, LLC (T & W), which claimed T & W acquired the property by adverse possession. At the trial level, James and Terry Crotwell (the Crotwells) contended that T & W did not acquire the property by adverse possession or quitclaim deed, arguing that T & W could not satisfy the requirements for tacking its time to that of its predecessor, Richard Prestage. The Crotwells took this position, claiming that the foreclosure sale by which T & W had acquired the property was void. After a hearing, the chancellor concluded that Prestage had satisfied the adverse possession elements and that, even if the foreclosure sale were void, the quitclaim deed, which was executed seven years after the foreclosure, conveyed title to T & W. The Crotwells appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that even though the 2006 deed of trust was void ab initio and the foreclosure sale likewise was void, Prestage acquired title to the property in 2008 through adverse possession for the requisite ten years. Further, the Court found that Prestage did not lose the title until he conveyed it to T & W by means of a quitclaim deed in 2018. Therefore, the Court affirmed the chancellor’s decision. Title to the real property belonged to T & W. View "Crotwell v. T & W Homes Etc, LLC" on Justia Law

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Will Hughes and Chad Penn were commercial farmers who leased farmland in Madison County, Mississippi. They began using propane cannons in the summer months to deter deer from eating their crops. Because of the intentionally loud noise these devices created, neighboring property owners sought to enjoin Hughes and Penn from using the cannons. But citing the Mississippi Right to Farm Act, the chancellor found the neighbors’ nuisance claim was barred. Undisputedly, Hughes’s and Penn’s farms had been in operation for many years before the nuisance action was filed. So the chancery court ruled Miss. Code Ann. Section 95-3-29(1) was an absolute defense and dismissed the neighbors’ nuisance action. On appeal, the neighboring property owners argued the chancery court misinterpreted the statute. In their view, the chancery court erred by looking to how long the farms had been in operation instead of how long the practice of propane cannons had been in place. But the Mississippi Supreme Court found their proposed view contradicted the statute’s plain language. "The one-year time limitation in Section 95-3-29(1) does not hinge on the existence of any specific agricultural practice. Instead, it is expressly based on the existence of the agricultural operation, which 'includes, without limitation, any facility or production site for the production and processing of crops . . . .'" Applying the plain language in Section 95-3-29(2)(a), the Supreme Court found the properties being farmed were without question agricultural operations. And the propane cannons were part of those operations, because they were part of the farms’ best agricultural-management practices. Since the farms had been in operation for more than one year, the chancellor was correct to apply Section 95-3-29(1)’s bar. View "Briggs v. Hughes" on Justia Law

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Sherry Williams sued the City of Batesville, Mississippi for negligence in maintaining its sewer system after her home and property were flooded by raw sewage. The circuit court granted the City’s summary-judgment motion, finding the City immune from suit. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined that because Williams could possibly prove a set of facts under the MTCA for actions by the City that were not exempt from immunity, therefore the circuit court erred in dismissing the claims of basic negligence. Furthermore, the Court held the trial court erred by granting judgment in favor of the City as to the Williams' inverse-condemnation claim. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Williams v. City of Batesville" on Justia Law

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A tax sale was found void due to the Jackson County, Mississippi Chancery Clerk's failure to comply with the notice requirements of Mississippi Code Section 27-43-3 (Rev. 2017). After Deborah Hallford came home to find that her locks had been changed, she went to the tax collector’s office and learned that the issue was delinquent property tax. Hallford had never received notice in person or through certified mail that the redemption period on her property was soon expiring. Hallford filed a complaint seeking to set aside the tax sale of her property to Pierre Thoden, d/b/a ETC FBO Pierre H. Thoden IRA 47473. The chancery court set aside the tax sale and awarded Thoden the amount he paid for the property at the tax sale, plus interest. Thoden, believing he was owed for the taxes he paid on the property in the years following his purchase at the tax sale and for the value of the improvements he made on the land, appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s decision to void the tax sale for lack of notice. This matter was remanded for a hearing on any damages, statutory and otherwise, to which Thoden was entitled. View "Thoden d/b/a ETC FBO Pierre H. Thoden IRA 47473 v. Hallford" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Sand Solutions (Solutions) appealed a judgment by the Warren County Special Court of Eminent Domain denying its petition to establish a private right-of-way across lands owned by the defendants (the Fishers). Because the Mississippi Supreme Court fount the special court did not err by applying collateral estoppel to claims relating to access to Solutions’ property, judgment was affirmed. "When a party has been given voluntary access to its property over the land of another and that party continues to have access for the purposes of ingress and egress, that party cannot assert a claim under Mississippi Code Section 65-7-201 for a private road through the land of their obliging neighbor. Even without applying the doctrine of collateral estoppel, Solutions, by its own arguments and testimony of its own witnesses, demonstrated it could not make a prima facie case under this statute." View "Mississippi Sand Solutions, LLC v. Otis, et al." on Justia Law

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Harry Green owned multiple properties at the time of his death, eight of which were at issue in this appeal. Several years prior to his death, Harry conveyed these properties to his sister Shirley Cooley, and later had Shirley reconvey six of the properties back to him. The reconveyance deeds were not notarized or recorded. Years later, Harry executed a will that divested the properties to his wife, Cristina Green, and to his grandchildren. The chancery court and the Court of Appeals found that Harry never accepted the reconveyance deeds and declined to impose a constructive trust, holding that Shirley owned all eight properties. Because the evidence clearly indicates that Harry accepted the six reconveyance deeds, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the chancery court as to the ownership of the six reconveyed properties. However, the Court found Cristina did not establish by clear and convincing evidence that a constructive trust was warranted. The Court therefore affirmed the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the chancery court regarding the ownership of the two properties not subject to reconveyance deeds. View "In Re Estate of Harry J. Green" on Justia Law

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Mark Gibson and Court Properties, Inc., appeal the circuit court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of their county-court appeal. In 2009, the Bells acquired a loan from Tower Loan. The Bells’ house was collateral for the loan. The Bells later experienced financial hardship. As a result, Tower Loan recommended that the Bells contact Gibson and Court Properties, Gibson’s wholly owned corporation, for financial assistance. On September 20, 2013, the Bells executed a promissory note, a deed of trust, and an assumption warranty deed with Court Properties. Approximately three months later, Gibson evicted the Bells and shortly thereafter, sold their house. The Bells sued Gibson and Court properties alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, bad faith and wrongful foreclosure. A jury returned a verdict unanimously in favor of the Bells. Gibson and Court Properties moved for a new trial and for judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The motion was denied, and the Bells' request for attorneys' fees was granted. Gibson appealed within thirty days of the trial court's denial of his motions, but did not pay the cost bond within thirty days of the final judgment as required by statute. Gibson paid the estimated costs on April 18, 2018, which was one day before the circuit clerk’s deadline, but five days after the thirty-day statutory deadline required by Section 11-51-79. The Bells moved to dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction, which was granted. Because Gibson and Court Properties failed to pay the cost bond within thirty days of the final judgment as required by Mississippi Code Section 11-51-79 (Rev. 2019), the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s dismissal for lack of jurisdiction. View "Gibson v. Bell" on Justia Law

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In this case's second time before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Court held in High v. Kuhn, 191 So. 3d 113 (Miss. 2016) (High I), that article 4, section 110, of the Mississippi Constitution forbade the condemnation of a private road across the property of Cheryl High for the benefit of Todd and Angela Kuhn. After the Court’s mandate, High moved the Harrison County Special Court of Eminent Domain for attorney fees pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 11-27-37 (Rev. 2019). The special court found that Section 11-27-37 did not apply. High appealed, and the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the special court to consider the merits of the motion for attorney fees and the reasonableness of the amount of fees requested. On remand, High filed an amended motion requesting attorney fees for a frivolous filing under the Mississippi Litigation Accountability Act (LAA). After a hearing, the special court awarded attorney fees to High as a sanction for the Kuhns’ frivolous filing. The special court found that the $29,049.60 requested by High was reasonable and assessed that amount jointly and severally against the Kuhns and their attorney, Virgil Gillespie. The special court denied the Kuhns’ motion to reconsider and amended the judgment to add $1,000 in attorney fees that High had incurred in defending the motion for reconsideration. The Kuhns and Gillespie appealed, arguing that the special court erred by: (1) adopting High’s findings of fact and conclusions of law; (2) awarding a judgment to one of High’s attorneys who was not a party to the lawsuit; (3) imposing a sanction for a frivolous filing; (4) awarding interest; and (5) allowing attorney fees beyond those permitted by Section 11- 27-37. The Supreme Court concluded the special court of eminent domain did not abuse its discretion by imposing the sanctions nor did it err in its application of the law. The Court reversed in part only to correct a scrivener’s error in the amended judgment. View "Kuhn v. High" on Justia Law

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Matthew Wiggins appealed a decision of a special court of eminent domain to the County Court of Hinds County, Mississippi, approving the City of Clinton’s exercise of eminent domain. Wiggins bought property in March of 2016. At the time, the structures located there were dilapidated and were in need of extensive structural repairs. Soon after Wiggins took possession of the properties, Clinton found that the properties should be demolished due to neglect. Clinton assessed 1,434 separate code violations to property Wiggins owned. Wiggins pleaded guilty to the violations on January 26, 2017. Clinton then found additional violations against Wiggins at those properties and at other properties he owned in Clinton. Wiggins was found guilty of two violations by the County Court of Hinds County in 2018. The remaining violations were dismissed. In June 2018, Clinton adopted an urban-renewal plan. Wiggins' parcel was within the renewal area, and sought to take it. The special court found Clinton’s exercise of eminent domain proper. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found sufficient evidence in the special court record to support the taking my eminent domain. Similarly, the Court determined the record offered no evidence to demonstrate the determination of the special court was manifestly wrong. Therefore, judgment was affirmed. View "Wiggins. v. City of Clinton" on Justia Law