Justia Business Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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Byram Café Group, LLC (BCG), moved for summary judgment against Eddie and Teresa Tucker in a premises-liability action arising from Eddie’s slip-and-fall accident. BCG sought judgment as a matter of law based on a lack of evidence supporting any of the elements of a slip-and-fall case. In response, the Tuckers argued that genuine issues of material fact existed as to dangerous conditions that may have caused Eddie’s fall. The circuit court denied BCG’s summary judgment motion. BCG sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The issue the appeal presented was whether the Tuckers could survive a motion for summary judgment without producing evidence that a dangerous condition existed, that BCG caused the hypothetical dangerous condition, and that BCG knew or should have known about the dangerous condition. As a matter of law, the Supreme Court found the circuit court erred by denying BCG’s motion for summary judgment. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded the circuit court’s order. View "Byram Cafe Group, LLC v. Tucker" on Justia Law

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The issue this appeal presented stemmed from a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to First American Title Company (First American) and its grant of a declaratory udgment to Pinehaven Group, LLC (Pinehaven), against Singing River Health System Ambulatory Services (AS). Singing River Health System (SRHS) informed AS that its real estate purchase from Pinehaven ten years before was void for lack of ratification by the Jackson County Board of Supervisors (the board). AS sought to void the purchase and to recover from Pinehaven and First American. The circuit court held that AS’s purchase from Pinehaven was valid and enforceable. Finding that no factual dispute that the contract was valid and enforceable existed, the Mississippi Supreme Court declined to address the other issues presented on appeal that were based on the alleged ratification requirement. "AS properly considered, approved, and executed the contract for its purchase of the Pinehaven property. As such, we affirm the circuit court’s decision that lack of ratification did not render the Pinehaven purchase void." View "SRHS Ambulatory Services, Inc. v. Pinehaven Group, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Karen McGee was the president of a collections agency. When the company ran into financial trouble, she directed her business administrator to delay remitting the money it had collected for Comprehensive Radiology Services, PLLC. Meanwhile, the agency still billed for (and received commissions on) the money collected. When McGee’s scheme was discovered, her company had withheld almost $800,000 of Comprehensive Radiology’s money. McGee was sued for conversion and fraud. And the chancellor found her individually and personally liable to the radiology group for $785,549.71. On appeal, McGee argued she could not have committed conversion because, as a matter of Mississippi law, funds collected and deposited into a bank account cannot be the subject of conversion. The Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed with McGee's contention: "While the tort of conversion cannot be used to recover a mere debt, it can be used to recover identifiable money belonging to the plaintiff. ... McGee’s company had no right to keep this money to cover its own expenses but instead was obligated to remit it at the end of the month in which it was collected. By directing her employee to delay remittance of Comprehensive Radiology’s money, McGee committed conversion and is thus liable to Comprehensive Radiology for $785,549.71." View "McGee v. Comprehensive Radiology Services, PLLC" on Justia Law

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Frankie Ware died in 2011, survived by his wife, Carolyn Ware, and their three children, Dana Ware, Angela Ware Mohr, and Richard Ware. Richard was married to Melisa Ware. Carolyn was appointed executor of Frankie’s estate. At the time of his death, Frankie owned 25 percent of four different family corporations. Carolyn owned another 25 percent of each, and Richard owned 50 percent of each. Frankie’s will placed the majority of Frankie’s assets, including his shares in the four family corporations, into two testamentary trusts for which Carolyn, Richard, Angela, and Dana were appointed trustees. The primary beneficiary of both trusts was Carolyn, but one trust allowed potential, limited distributions to Richard, Angela, and Dana. Prolonged litigation between Carolyn and Richard ensued over disagreements regarding how to dispose of Frankie’s shares in the four corporations and how to manage the four corporations. Richard eventually filed for dissolution of the four corporations. The trial court ultimately consolidated the estate case with the corporate dissolution case, and denied Angela and Dana’s motions to join/intervene in both cases. It also appointed a corporate receiver (Derek Henderson) in the dissolution case by agreed order that also authorized dissolution. The chancery court ultimately ordered that the shares be offered for sale to the corporations, and it approved the dissolution and sale of the corporations. Angela and Dana appealed the trial court’s denial of their attempts to join or intervene in the two cases. Carolyn appeals a multitude of issues surrounding the trial court’s decisions regarding the corporations and shares. Richard cross-appealed the trial court’s net asset value determination date and methodology. The Receiver argued the trial court’s judgment should have been affirmed on all issues. In the estate case, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s determination that the estate had to offer the shares to the corporation prior to transferring them to the trusts; the corporations filed their breach of contract claim after the expiration of the statute of limitations. The Court affirmed the chancery court’s denial of Angela and Dana’s motions to intervene, and it affirmed the chancery court’s decision in the dissolution case. The Court reversed the judgment to the extent that it allowed the corporations to purchase shares from the estate. The cases were remanded to the chancery court for a determination of how to distribute the money from the corporate sales, in which the estate held 25 percent of the corporate shares. View "In The Matter of The Estate of Frankie Don Ware" on Justia Law

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An explosion at the Omega Protein Plant in Moss Point, Mississippi killed one man and seriously injured several others. Multiple lawsuits were filed against Omega in federal district court. Colony Insurance Company filed a declaratory judgment action in state circuit court seeking a declaration that it did not cover bodily injuries arising out of the Moss Point facility explosion. Evanston Insurance Company intervened also seeking a declaration of no coverage for the same injuries: Evanston provided a $5 million excess liability policy, which provided coverage after Colony’s $1 million policy was exhausted. Because Colony settled one of the underlying personal injury cases for $1 million (the limits under its policy), Omega sought excess coverage from Evanston for the injuries that occurred at its plant. A special master was appointed, and the trial court granted Evanston’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the pollution exclusion in the insurance contract barred coverage. Omega appealed that grant of summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that a pollution exclusion in the insurance contract was ambiguous, and should have been construed in favor of the insured, allowing coverage. Further, the Court found the question of whether coverage was triggered was governed by the language of the contract, and that Evanston failed to prove there could be no coverage under the excess liability policy. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment as to all issues and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Omega Protein, Inc. v. Evanston Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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Ken Rogers and Costas Pavlou entered into an agreement for Rogers to potentially purchase a concession stand from Pavlou. The concession business, costas Place, would operate at the Mississippi State Fair, The agreement required Rogers to pay Pavlou $35,000 “on or before October 25, 2009.” If that condition was satisfied, Pavlou would give Rogers the option to purchase Costas Place for an additional $35,000 payment “on or before two weeks after the last day of the Mississippi State Fair in the year 2011.” Rogers failed to pay the first $35,000 by the deadline; he first made a payment of $30,225 on November 23, 2009, which Pavlou accepted. Then, from 2009 to 2011, Pavlou paid Rogers an equal share of the net income from Costas Place per the agreement. Nevertheless, all that remained was for Rogers to provide the final $35,000 payment in 2011, but the deadline passed. Rogers contended Pavlou waived the 2011 deadline. Rogers claimed that during his divorce proceeding, Pavlou represented to Rogers that he would extend the deadline for the option to purchase the business until after the divorce proceedings ended. Pavlou countered that, pursuant to the contract, Rogers’s option to purchase the business lapsed when he failed to pay the remaining $35,000. Rogers sued Pavlou asserting breach of contract. Including his claims of waiver, Rogers insisted that Pavlou gave reassurances that he would accept that second installment of $35,000 after Rogers’s divorce was final. The case proceeded to trial, but, in the meantime, Pavlou died, and his estate was substituted as party-defendant. After discovery and litigation but before trial, Pavlou’s estate filed two pretrial motions, a motion to take judicial notice of prior testimony and a motion to exclude parol evidence. Pertinent here, the estate sought to introduce Rogers' testimony at his divorce proceeding; Pavlou’s counsel asked the trial judge to “take judicial notice that he testified [the joint venture agreement] was void, that he swore to the Chancery Court it was void.” On the motion to exclude parole evidence, Pavlou’s counsel argued the 2009 agreement “very specifically and expressly said that modifications had to be in writing, that there would be no verbal alterations to the contract.” The trial court granted Pavlou's motion for a directed verdict, finding Rogers failed to present competent proof that Pavlou waived the payment deadline. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "Rogers v. Estate of Pavlou" on Justia Law

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Appellant Watkins & Eager, PLLC brought an interlocutory appeal of a circuit court decision. Appellant argued the circuit court erred by denying the firm’s motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Appellant contended that the provisions at issue within its operating agreement were structurally unambiguous and authorized the firm to terminate any member, including Appellee Richard Lawrence for any reason whatsoever. Furthermore, the firm opposed Appellee’s attempt to shoehorn a "McArn" exception into this dispute. Reviewing the complaint and the PLLC operating agreement central to the dispute, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that Appellee’s breach-of-contract and wrongful-termination claims should have been dismissed. Appellee also pleaded twenty-eight separate additional claims that emanated from the same alleged breach resulting in Appellee’s expulsion from the firm. To this, the Court found Appellant exercised rights found in the agreement, which were not ambiguous. Accordingly, the Supreme Court found all claims within the complaint failed as a matter of law. Judgment was reversed and the case remanded for the circuit court to enter a judgment consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. View "Watkins & Eager, PLLC v. Lawrence" on Justia Law

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James Hughes twice invested in the Shipp family’s efforts to develop their property near Bentonia, Mississippi, into a gated community called Rose Lake, in exchange for lots in the future subdivision. Twice, he came up empty handed and sued the Shipps. At the close of Hughes came up empty handed. Hughes sued the Shipps. At the close of Hughes’s case, the chancellor found the situation “very inequitable.” Yet he still denied Hughes any equitable relief based on the running of the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeals affirmed on alternate grounds. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari review specifically to address Hughes’s unjust-enrichment claim. And after review, the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the statute of limitations should not have run from the date Hughes cut the checks for the lots, but from the time his cause of action for unjust enrichment actually accrued. But the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ deciding to resolve this fact-intensive question on appeal. Furthermore, the Court disagreed that the dismissal of this claim should have been affirmed on alternate grounds, namely Hughes’s failure to “identify a promise.” Hughes’ unjust-enrichment claim was reversed and remanded that claim to the trial court for further proceedings. The trial court was affirmed in all other respects. View "Hughes v. Shipp, et al." on Justia Law

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Cascio Investments, LLC (Investments), sued Philip Cascio (Cascio) for breach of contract, alleging violations of a noncompetition agreement (NCA). The circuit court found in favor of Investments, and Cascio appealed. Investments cross-appealed, seeking review of a punitive damages award and injunctive relief. The patriarch of the family, Phil Cascio, Sr., founded Cascio’s Storage and Warehouse, Inc. (CSW), during the 1970s, a business that primarily engaged in warehousing and storage of agricultural products in the Mississippi Delta region and beyond. Phil Cascio, Sr. passed the general management of the business to his son, Cascio while his other children, Jackie Pearson, Phyllis Cascio, and Patrick Cascio, pursued other careers. Not until later did Phil Cascio, Sr., divide his interests among his children. This extremely dissatisfied Cascio, Jr., who believed he should receive full ownership of the family businesses on account of the years of work he had poured into them. This chain of events led to a degeneration of the familial bonds between the Cascio siblings, which ultimately resulted in the action on review by the Mississippi Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded substantial evidence supported the trial court’s findings, so judgment was affirmed as to all issues except the joinder of Jackie and Phyllis as plaintiffs. As for the cross-appeal, the issue of the constitutionality of the punitive- damages cap was procedurally barred, and the circuit court was affirmed as to the denial of additional injunctive relief. View "Cascio v. Cascio Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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Eric Parish and Parish Transport LLC (Parish Transport) emailed Doug Jordan, the Vice President of Jordan Carriers Inc. (Jordan Carriers), to inquire about purchasing heavy haul equipment from Jordan Carriers. After several email exchanges, Doug Jordan offered to sell the equipment for $1,443,000. Months later, Eric Parish responded, submitting Parish Transport’s offer to buy the equipment for $1,250,000. Later that day, Jordan replied, informing Parish Transport that he needed to discuss the offer and would get back with an answer. Jordan concluded his email with his name and contact information. After discussing the deal with his partner, Jordan replied to Parish’s email, stating, “Ok. Let’s do it.” But this time, Jordan’s email concluded with “Sent from my iPhone” instead of his name and contact information. The next day, Jordan received a higher bid for the equipment from Lone Star Transportation LLC (Lone Star), which Jordan accepted verbally over the telephone. After receiving a confirmation email from Lone Star, Jordan emailed Parish Transport informing the company that “a contract has already been entered into for the sale of [the equipment].” Parish Transport sued for breach of contract and negligent misrepresentation. The matter was later transferred and consolidated with Jordan Carriers’ motion for declaratory judgment. After the cases were consolidated, Jordan Carriers moved for summary judgment, arguing “that it did not have an enforceable contract with Parish [Transport] for the sale of the equipment.” The circuit court agreed and granted Jordan Carriers’ motion for summary judgment. Parish Transport appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment because “[w]ithout a signature, an enforceable contract does not exist.” The Court of Appeals determined that “[m]erely sending an email does not satisfy the signature requirement” and that “[a]n email that states ‘Sent from my iPhone’ does not indicate that the sender intended to sign the record.” The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari to address an issue of first impression: an interpretation or application of Mississippi’s Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA). After careful analysis, the Court found the UETA permitted contracts to be formed by electronic means, i.e, emails. Further, the Court found that the determination of whether an email was electronically signed pursuant to the UETA was a question of fact that turned on a party’s intent to adopt or accept the writing, which was a determination for the fact finder. Because there was a genuine issue of material fact about Doug Jordan’s intent, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Parish Transport LLC, et al. v. Jordan Carriers Inc." on Justia Law