The Estate of Claud L. Johnson, Deceased: Michael Johnson, Executor v. The Kitchens Law Firm, P.A. – contingency fee contract survives death – The Kitchens law firm represented Claud Johnson in his quest to be declared the only heir of famous bluesman Robert Johnson. He entered into a contingency fee arrangement with the law firm where the law firm. If successful, would receive 40% of the income derived from Robert Johnson’s estate. Ultimately Claud was declared to be Robert Johnson’s son. When Claud died, the law firm no longer received 40% of the revenue stream. The law firm moved for an accounting and for monies owed. The chancellor found that the fee contract survived Claud’s death and found for the law firm. The Estate appealed. The COA affirms.
Sherry Buckhaults v. Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi – PERS disability – In May of 2012, Buckhaults was slapped on the right side of her face by a developmentally-disabled male patient while she was working at Ellisville State School. In June she stopped working after experiencing vertigo. In September she filed an application for PERS duty-related disability benefits. She had worked there for only two years and was eligible only for duty-related disability benefits. According to Buckhaults, she could not work due to dizziness, vertigo, nausea, headaches, and occasional vomiting—all of which she attributed to slap. The evidence, though, showed she had experienced problems with Meniere’s disease in her left ear prior to the slap. PERS denied the request for disability benefits and the circuit court affirmed the PERS Board’s decision. The COA also affirms.
Starkville Lodging, LLC v. v. Mississippi Transportation Commission – eminent domain – MDOT deeded a 2.45 acre of land it no longer needed for drainage or transportation purposes to Starkville Lodging. Eight years later Starkville sold a 20.34 acre piece of land formerly used as a sewage lagoon. To Dr. York. York needed an easement, though, via the property MDOT had given to Starkville Lodging. When Starkville Lodging proved less than amenable, MDOT started eminent domain proceedings. Starkville Lodging filed a motion to dismiss which was denied. It appealed and the COA affirms.
Perry Edward Littlefield v. Brooke Dixon Littlefield – divorce – Five years after they married, Brooke filed for divorce on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment. The chancellor granted a divorce in favor of Brooke on the ground of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment and dismissed Eddie’s counterclaim for divorce based upon adultery with prejudice. The chancellor also found that the parties acquired most of their debts and personal property during the marriage. Because Brooke waived her right to most of the marital and disputed property, the chancellor awarded this property to Eddie. Brooke was awarded all remaining property, including a 2007 Infiniti, while Eddie was awarded the couple’s Nissan Xterra. The chancellor also denied Eddie’s request for alimony and for Brooke to bear responsibility for the remainder of his student loans. Eddie appealed. The COA affirms.
F. Michael Matthews v. Whitney Bank a Mississippi State Chartered Bank f/k/a Hancock Bank, Joy Lambert Phillips as Trustee, and James Kaigler – allegations of a forged deed of trust – Michael and Beth Matthews owned A&M Petroleum, a petroleum jobber. To finance the business they took out two equity lines of credit on their home from Whitney Bank. The Mathhews defaulted on the loans in 2014 and the bank , faced with the Matthews’ insistence that the second deed of trust was forged, filed a declaratory judgment action. The chancellor found that Michael’s signature on the deed was not forged and that Michael owed in excess of $400,000 on the debts secured by the deed of trust. Michael appealed. The COA affirms.
In the Matter of the Estate of Ruth Bourne, Deceased: Bailey Law Firm PLLC v. Morgan & Morgan PLLC – division of attorneys fees – On April 9, 2011, Ruth suffered bilateral hip fractures from an accident while being transported by Grove Transportation. She died days later and that same month her daughter Arneetria hired Morgan & Morgan to file a wrongful death lawsuit. In March 2016, Arneetria hired lawyer Chynee Bailey who settled the case at mediation for $115,000. At that point there developed a dispute over legal fees. The circuit court found that Morgan & Morgan contributed 95% of the effort and should recover 95% of the fee ($43,700) and that Bailey would recover only $2,300. On appeal the COA reverses and remands finding that the court applied the wrong law and made manifestly erroneous factual findings including with regard to how much work Morgan & Morgan put into the case versus Ms. Bailey.
Lisa D. Garner Pritchard v. Donald L. Pritchard – service of process in divorce – Donald and Lisa were married in March of 1997. In March of 2017, Donald filed a complaint for divorce alleging adultery, habitual drug use, and desertion. He sent a copy of the complaint for divorce along with a Summons via certified mail to two different addresses he knew Lisa to use in the State of Alabama—her primary residence and her mother’s residence. Neither was marked “restricted delivery.” The post office marked the copy addressed to Lisa’s primary residence “Unclaimed” and returned it. ¶4. On April 14, 2017, Lisa’s sister, Pamela Berthiaume, retrieved the copy delivered to Lisa at their mother’s address. Berthiaume signed the return receipt, indicating that she was Lisa’s agent. Three days later, Donald filed the return receipt Berthiaume signed with the chancery court as proof of service that Lisa was served by certified mail on April 14, 2017. The court clerk docketed Lisa’s answer due date as May 14, 2017. Lisa never answered and the court granted a divorce on the grounds of desertion. A week later she moved to set it aside. The court denied the motion and she appealed. The COA reverses on the grounds that Lisa was never properly served.