Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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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

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Thomas L. Swarek and Thomas A. Swarek (father and son) appealed a Chancery Court’s finding that no binding enforceable contract existed between the Swareks and Derr Plantation, Inc. (DPI) for the lease and purchase and sale of Derr Plantation to the Swareks, thus denying Swareks’ equitable-relief request for specific performance. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court. View "Swarek v. Derr Plantation, Inc." on Justia Law

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After the Mississippi Supreme Court held in "Jones County School District v. Mississippi Department of Revenue," (111 So. 3d 588 (Miss. 2013)), that a school district was not liable for oil and gas severance taxes on royalties derived from oil and gas production on sixteenth-section land, the Chancery Court of Wayne County held that Wayne County School District (WCSD) was owed interest by the Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) on its overpayment of severance taxes at the rate of one percent (1%) per month. The chancellor determined, based on Section 27-65-53 of the Mississippi Code, that the payment should have started on June 5, 2013, ninety days after the Jones County decision. Finding that the chancellor correctly applied the statute, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the chancery court. View "Wayne County School District v. Morgan" on Justia Law

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Thomas Saul and Jon Swartzfager initially reached a verbal agreement for Saul’s purchase of a piece of property located within a larger tract of land Swartzfager owned. But another person came along and offered Swartzfager a significant sum to buy the whole tract. Swartzfager approached Saul and asked if he would forego their original land deal and in exchange accept a separate parcel within a different tract of land. Saul agreed to Swartzfager’s new offer, and Swartzfager reduced their agreement to writing, stating that for “good and valuable consideration” already received, he would transfer the second parcel to Saul upon request. However, Swartzfager later backed out and never transferred any land to Saul. Saul filed suit against Swartzfager seeking damages and specific performance. The chancellor found a valid contract existed between Saul and Swartzfager, and awarded him damages, attorney’s fees, and prejudgment interest. After review, the Supreme Court found the chancellor correctly ruled that Saul and Swartzfager had a contract, and Swartzfager was equitably estopped from denying the land deal. Furthermore, the Court found the chancellor’s awards for intentional infliction of emotional distress and attorney’s fees are supported. But Court found the chancellor erred in awarding prejudgment interest, because Saul did not plead a request for prejudgment interest. View "Swartzfager v. Saul" on Justia Law

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After a nearby ditch began to erode causing significant property damage and mold-related health issues, Plaintiffs John and Patsy O’Callaghan filed an inverse condemnation action under the Takings Clause of the Mississippi Constitution, requesting that the City of Tupelo compensate the couple for both personal injuries and significant property loss. The City presented an interlocutory appeal challenging the County Court’s order denying its motion for summary judgment on the matter. Finding that personal injuries were not recoverable in a claim under the Takings Clause and that the three-year limitations period under Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49 was applicable to takings claims, the Supreme Court reversed the lower court’s ruling, rendering a decision for the City. View "City of Tupelo v. O'Callaghan" on Justia Law

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In the early-morning hours of New Year's Day 2012, sixteen-year-old Devin Mitchell was shot to death outside the apartment of his cousin, Queenie Walker, at Ridgewood East Apartments in West Point. Mitchell’s family sued Ridgewood East, alleging, inter alia, premises liability. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment to Ridgewood East. Agreeing that no genuine issue of material fact existed with regard to whether Mitchell’s murder was foreseeable to Ridgewood East Apartments, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "Mitchell v. Ridgewood East Apartments, LLC" on Justia Law

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Robert Stratton Sr. filed a replevin action, without bond, against Jerry McKey. Stratton sought to recover an antique truck that he had on McKey’s property for several years. The circuit court granted Stratton relief, conditioned on Stratton paying McKey storage fees. Stratton appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. The Supreme Court held that the circuit court erred in awarding McKey damages for storing Stratton’s truck when McKey never filed a responsive pleading giving Stratton notice that he was seeking damages. Because the Court held that the circuit court erred, it followed that the Court hold the Court of Appeals erred in affirming the circuit court’s judgment. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s and Court of Appeals’ decisions, and rendered judgment in favor of Stratton for possession of the truck. View "Stratton v. McKey" on Justia Law

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The State of Mississippi entered into a Public Trust Tidelands lease with the City of Bay St. Louis to build a municipal harbor on beachfront property. After the City began construction of the harbor, brothers Kenneth, Ray, and Audie Murphy filed an inverse condemnation action, claiming that the State and the City had taken and damaged their property without compensation. The case was tried and a jury ultimately found the State liable to the Murphys for $644,000 in damages. The State appealed. The State claimed true ownership of the property under the authority of the Tidelands Act, or alternatively, its sovereign power of eminent domain. There was no evidence in the record indicating that the City could have constructed the harbor without the State first exercising a claim of ownership over the property. Because the State’s claim of ownership ultimately converted private property to public use, the Supreme Court found that the jury acted reasonably in assessing the full amount of damages to the State. Therefore, finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed the jury’s verdict. View "Mississippi v. Murphy" on Justia Law

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The State and the City of Pass Christian’s entered into a forty-year lease. Under the terms of the lease, the City would use a portion of the Harrison County shoreline as a harbor and pursue related commercial development. Russell RP Services, LLC, filed its complaint against the State and the City on November 21, 2013. Russell RP asserted that it held an undivided one-half interest in a parcel of land lying between U.S. 90 and the Gulf of Mexico shoreline, and that the City and State, by executing the aforementioned lease, had effectuated a taking upon its property which required just due compensation. On August 18, 2015, the Harrison County Circuit Court granted the State and City's motions for summary judgment. Concluding that Russell Real Property lacked standing to pursue its claim of inverse condemnation, the circuit court dismissed without prejudice its claim of inverse condemnation. Russell RP appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Russell Real Property Services, LLC v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The City of Jackson was unable to serve notice to Willie Jordan by certified mail that his property was subject to condemnation and demolition. The City tried notice by publication, and set a hearing for twelve days after the first publication date. The applicable statute required two weeks’ notice. Jordan did not appear at the condemnation hearing. The property was declared condemned, and the house on the property was ordered demolished. After the house was demolished, Jordan filed a notice of tort claim with the city. When he filed his complaint, he alternatively asserted a constitutional claim for deprivation of property without due process. After a bench trial, the trial court awarded Jordan $12,513.53. The city appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "City of Jackson v. Jordan" on Justia Law