Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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The property owner failed to timely pay his taxes or to redeem them within two years of the tax sale of his property. The owner objected to the sale, asserting that he was deprived of his property without the statutorily required prior notice. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancery clerk’s first notice was returned undelivered. At that point, by statute, the clerk was required to diligently search for a different address for the property owner. But despite having another address readily available in the county’s land records, no notices were ever mailed to that address before the redemption period ended. Thus, the clerk’s search and inquiry did not strictly comply with the applicable law. The Supreme Court reversed the chancellor’s judgment affirming the tax sale and confirming title in the tax sale purchaser, and set aside the tax sale as void. View "Campbell Properties, Inc. v. Cook" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case was whether NRG Wholesale Generation’s proffered expert used an acceptable method to determine the “true value” of its power plant in computing ad valorem tax. The expert used a mixture of the sales-comparison approach, the income approach, and the cost approach to determine the true value of the facility. Lori Kerr, the tax assessor for Choctaw County, and Choctaw County, Mississippi (collectively, the “County”), contended that Mississippi law mandates a trended historical cost-less-depreciation approach to calculate the true value of industrial personal property. The circuit court found in favor of the County and excluded NRG’s proffered expert testimony. NRG argued the circuit court abused its discretion. In addition, NRG also argued the circuit court erred in denying its motion to change venue because because many of the jurors knew the county officials named as defendants in this case, a fair trial in Choctaw County was impossible. The Supreme Court held the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) regulation controlled and that NRG’s expert applied an unacceptable method to determine true value. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in excluding NRG’s proffered expert testimony. Additionally, because NRG was afforded a fair and impartial jury, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to change venue. View "NRG Wholesale Generation LP v. Kerr" on Justia Law

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Landowners David Neil Harris, Sr., Vecie Michelle Harris (“Harris”) and Clyde H. Gunn III filed suits to confirm title to their waterfront properties in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The State, Jackson County, and the City of Ocean Springs (the “City”) asserted title to a portion of the same waterfront properties claimed by the landowners: a strip of sand beach located south of a road and a seawall. After a full trial on the merits, the chancellor found that the State held title to the sand beach in front of the Harris and Gunn properties as public-trust tidelands. The landowners appealed, but finding no reversible error in the chancellor’s final judgments, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Harris v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Consolidated appeals involved two separate circuit-court actions (one an appeal from justice court) emanating from a foreclosure action that were consolidated after one of the circuit-court actions was transferred to the chancery court. Sadie Tillman contested the transfer by filing a motion to reconsider in the circuit court. But the circuit court took several months to rule on the motion. When it finally did, the circuit court denied Tillman’s motion to reconsider, and Tillman filed an interlocutory appeal contesting the order denying reconsideration. Tillman also filed an appeal of the denial of reconsideration under Rule 4 of the Mississippi Rules of Appellate Procedure. Upon review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that by operation of Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(c), Tillman’s appeals of the motion to reconsider were untimely. As a result, the Court dismissed the appeals. View "Tillman v. Ditech Financial, LLC" on Justia 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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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