Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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The plaintiffs were the wrongful-death beneficiaries of a man killed in an apartment fire and two other people injured in the same fire. The fire occurred at an apartment complex in Pike County, Mississippi. The plaintiffs sued the apartment complex’s management company, Alpha Management Corporation, which had its principal place of business in Madison County. And they also named as a defendant the purported property owner, Community Park Apartments, Inc. (CPA). At the time the complaint was filed, the Mississippi Secretary of State’s website listed CPA as having its principal office in Hinds County. So the plaintiffs filed suit in Hinds County. The controlling issue in this interlocutory appeal is fraudulent joinder—did the plaintiffs join a defendant for the sole purpose of establishing venue in Hinds County? Alpha Management asserted that CPA did not own the apartments. And because CPA was not a proper defendant, Alpha Management moved that venue be transferred from Hinds County to Pike County or Madison County. CPA similarly filed a motion to dismiss, attaching a copy of the same warranty deed showing it had sold the apartments in 1975 and then ceased to operate as a nonprofit corporation. Hinds County Circuit Court denied both motions. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded with instructions to dismiss CPA as a defendant and transfer the case to either Madison County or Pike County. View "Alpha Management Corporation, et al. v. Harris, et al." on Justia Law

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The junior creditor, WBL SPO, LLC (WBL), claimed it was entitled to sue the foreclosing creditor, West Town Bank & Trust (West Town), for not bidding a high enough price for an encumbered property. In 2015, West Town loaned $4.4 million to DIA Lodging and DJ Lodging (collectively, DJ Lodging). The loan was secured not only by the Biloxi hotel but also by another hotel in Forrest City, Arkansas. At the time of the loan, the preloan appraisal valued the Biloxi hotel at $5.45 million. WBL had the second mortgage on the Biloxi hotel; both loans were secured by the Biloxi and Arkansas hotels. DJ Lodging quickly fell behind on its weekly payments to WBL. It also defaulted on its payments to West Town. Based on the default, West Town informed WBL of its intention to commence a nonjudicial foreclosure. West Town had obtained an appraisal of the hotel in January 2020 that indicated the fair market value of the property was $2.75 million. The year before, in February 2019, West Town had obtained an appraisal from a different firm valuing the property at just $1.7 million. West Town decided to split the difference between the two appraisals and make a $2.195 credit bid at the foreclosure sale. West Town averred that, at the time of foreclosure, DJ Lodging still owed $4.5 million. WBL was owed half a million dollars. The foreclosure sale proceeded in March 2020, and West Town’s $2.195 million credit bid was the only bid. West Town transferred its interest in the hotel to Patriarch, LLC, a single-purpose entity established to hold properties West Town acquired in foreclosure. Patriarch then sold the property to a third party for $1.9 million. WBL claimed it was entitled to an “equitable credit” in the form of money damages for the difference between the amount West Town purchased the hotel at the foreclosure sale and the allegedly higher commercially reasonable value of the property. The trial court rejected WBL’s equitable-credit claim. Because WBL’s claims against West Town were based on an asserted legal right that did not exist, the Mississippi Supreme Court concurred West Town was entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. View "WBL SPO I, LLC v. West Town Bank & Trust" on Justia Law

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Wilburn Lord, Jr. agreed to sell SEL Business Services, LLP and Skip Lloyd (collectively, SEL) a building in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, for $60,000. SEL moved into the building and alleged to have begun making improvements and paying the taxes. But Lord never followed through with the sale. Instead, Lord sold the building to Sharkey Issaquena Community Hospital, a community hospital operated by Sharkey and Issaquena Counties (collectively, Hospital Defendants). SEL initially sought to enjoin the sale. In an amended complaint, in addition to seeking the injunction, SEL alleged Lord breached his contract with SEL to sell the building. SEL requested specific performance. Alternatively, SEL alleged detrimental reliance and promissory estoppel. SEL finally requested, “should the Court find that specific performance, promissory estoppel and/or equitable estoppel are somehow inapplicable and/or the Contract should not otherwise be enforced based on the principles of equity and/or other grounds/for other reasons, . . . [that] the Court disgorge all funds paid to Defendants and/or otherwise award all monetary damages available under Mississippi law.” Both Lord and the Hospital Defendants moved for summary judgment, claiming the statute of frauds barred not only SEL’s contract-based claim for specific performance but also any “derivative” equitable claims. Both the chancery and Court of Appeals relied on Barriffe v. Estate of Nelson, 153 So. 3d 613 (Miss. 2014) to conclude that the statute of frauds barred not just claims for equitable liens but all potential equitable remedies. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted SEL’s petition for writ of certiorari to overrule the erroneous Barriffe decision and to reinstate the Supreme Court’s long-standing equitable principles. Consequently, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. Specifically, the Court reversed the chancellor’s dismissal of SEL and Lloyd’s equitable claims against Lord. The Court affirmed the chancellor’s judgment of dismissal as to the remaining defendants. The case was remanded to the chancery court for further proceedings. View "SEL Business Services, LLC v. Lord, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2017, Charles Green was stabbed and killed. His body was found in a parking lot in front of an abandoned building. Deepak Jasco, LLC, owned and operated a convenience store in the adjacent lot. Luretha Green Palmer, Green’s sister and the executrix of his estate, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit and asserted a claim for premises liability based on negligent security. The circuit judge denied the motion for summary judgment, and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted an interlocutory appeal. Palmer did not allege that defendants had actual knowledge of the violent nature of Green’s attacker and offered no affidavit or evidence to establish this element. Instead, Palmer argued that Defendants were aware of an atmosphere of violence on their premises. Further, Palmer insisted that summary judgment was properly denied because there was a genuine issue of a material fact in dispute about whether Green was killed on Defendant’s premises at 1034 West Woodrow Wilson Drive and whether Deepak Jasco, LLC, exercised possession and control over the portion of the common parking lot where Green died from his injuries. The Mississippi Supreme Court did not agree with Palmer's contentions, finding she failed to establish an atmosphere of violence through police records of other instances of crime at or near the property in question, and that defendants owned or operated the property. With no genuine issue of material fact in dispute, the Court found defendants were entitled to summary judgment. View "Deepak Jasco, LLC, et al. v. Palmer" on Justia Law

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In 2019, after Roosevelt Jones paid his annual rent more than thirty days late, the North Bolivar Consolidated School District, pursuant to a late penalty provision contained in the lease between the parties, assessed Jones a late fee for $11,028.60. Jones filed suit arguing, amongst other things, that the district should be estopped from enforcing the late payment penalty provision because it had a custom of accepting late rent payments without penalty. Jones argued he relied on the custom to his detriment when making his rent payment late. In August 2021, the school district moved for summary judgment, arguing that it could not be estopped by the unauthorized acts of its officials. The chancellor found that the district had failed to show the acts of its officials in accepting the late payments were not authorized. The school district sought interlocutory appeal of the denial of summary judgment, and was granted. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the school district was a trustee of sixteenth section school lands and, consequently, bore a statutory duty to collect all funds due from the sixteenth section properties that it leased. Any past failure by it to collect such funds was unauthorized as a matter of law and could not form the basis for estoppel. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s judgment and rendered judgment in favor of the school district. View "North Bolivar Consolidated School District v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to Mississippi Code Sections 61-9-1 to -9 (Rev. 2022) the City of Jackson passed an ordinance on August 6, 2019, to incorporate land in Rankin County that surrounded what was known as the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. Rankin County, the City of Pearl and the City of Flowood appealed the ordinance; the trial court declared the ordinance void because Jackson had failed to obtain the consent and approval of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors before passing the ordinance. Jackson appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court claiming that the trial court erred by finding that approval of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors was required. The Supreme Court found the ordinance void and affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "City of Jackson v. Cities of Pearl & Flowood, & Rankin County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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TransMontaigne Operating Company, LP, sought to enjoin Loresco I, LLC, from using an easement conveyed by Loresco’s predecessor, Amerada Hess Corporation (Hess), for any other purpose or at any other time than Hess had used it. The chancellor found the clear language of the express reciprocal easement had no such limitation. Because TransMontaigne attempted to limit Loresco’s use of the express easement in a manner inconsistent with the easement’s clear terms, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s denial of TransMontaigne’s request for declaratory and injunctive relief. View "TransMontaigne Operating Company, L.P. v. Loresco I, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Hub, LLC ("MS HUB") operated an underground natural gas storage facility mostly located in Simpson County. In 2007, MS HUB and Simpson County entered into a fee-in-lieu agreement regarding ad valorem taxes on the first phase of the facility. It was agreed that, in exchange for locating the facility in Simpson County, for ten years MS HUB would pay a third of what its taxes would have otherwise been. It was also agreed that the facility was industrial personal property for taxation purposes, that the value of the property would be determined in accordance with Mississippi Code Section 27-35-50 (Supp. 2021), and that economic obsolescence would be considered by the tax assessor at the request of the company. In 2017, MS HUB contacted the Simpson County Tax Assessor regarding market changes in the natural gas storage industry and how those changes affected the value of the MS HUB facility. The assessor ultimately concluded that a reduction of 20 percent for economic obsolescence should be applied for the 2019 tax year. The Simpson County Board of Supervisors, however, assessed the property at $56,527,560—which would correspond to a true value of $376,850,400, the assessed true value without the adjustment for economic obsolescence. MS HUB objected to the assessment at the board’s August 5, 2019 equalization meeting. The board dismissed the objections made by MS HUB without giving a written explanation. MS HUB thereafter filed a “Petition for Declaratory Judgment and, in the alternative, Petition for Appeal from Determination of Ad Valorem Tax Assessment.” Simpson County and its tax assessor, Charles Baldwin, were named as defendants. Simpson County argued that the appeal by MS HUB was untimely and its expert based his opinion on the wrong approach to valuation. The circuit court granted summary judgment, but the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed, finding there were no grounds upon which summary judgment should have been granted. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Mississippi Hub, LLC v. Baldwin" on Justia Law

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Phillip and Anna Kennedy contracted with DIMA Homes, Inc., to build a house on property they owned in Marion County, Mississippi. The Kennedys failed to pay DIMA, and DIMA obtained a judgment, which it properly enrolled, creating a judgment lien on the property. The Kennedys then failed to pay property taxes, and in 2016, the land was sold at a tax sale to ACC Tax Sales Property, LLC. HL&C Marion, LLC, obtained the property from ACC. DIMA did not receive notice of the tax sale. In 2019, more than two years after the tax sale, HL&C filed suit to quiet title. The chancery court ruled that the failure to give written notice of the sale to DIMA resulted in an extension of the two-year redemption period and set aside the tax sale. The Court of Appeals affirmed. Granting certiorari review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and the chancellor, holding that no legal authority required notice of the tax sale to have been given to DIMA. Accordingly, judgment was rendered in favor of HL&C Marion. View "HL&C Marion, LLC v. DIMA Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC (the Resort), leased a parcel of land located on the Public Trust Tidelands from the City of Long Beach. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court to determine was whether the Resort was required to enter into a separate lease with the Secretary of State for the use of the tidelands property or whether the Resort already had a valid lease allowing use of the tidelands in question. The Supreme Court found that the State of Mississippi had, through its Boundary Agreement and Tidelands Lease with the City of Long Beach, ratified the prior lease entered into between the City and the Resort. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the chancery court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Resort and found that the Resort had a valid tidelands lease as ratified by the Secretary of State. View "Mississippi v. Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC" on Justia Law