Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Jan. 23, 2014

Lott v. Saultersland SOL dispute – In 2001 Francis, in an attempt to create a problem for law exams, conveyed land to her son Ralph reserving a life estate. Four months later she conveyed the same land to her daughter Brenda again reserving a life estate. Betty knew about the deed to Ralph. Nevertheless, Ralph and Brenda recorded their deeds on the same date but Brenda beat Ralph by 45 minutes. In 2012, Ralph filed suit to set aside the deed to Brenda, to remove cloud and quiet title, to confirm title, and for failure of covenants of warranty of deed. Ralph also sought actual and punitive damages from Frances and Brenda, alleging that Frances violated the covenants of warranty in the first deed, that Brenda took her deed with actual knowledge of his deed, and that Brenda procured her deed from Frances by undue influence, fraud, and bad faith. Brenda and Frances moved to dismiss claiming the SOL had run. The first question was whether Ralph had sufficient interest to file suit. The Court held that he did. “Brenda would be able to claim superior title to the land only if she had no knowledge of Ralph’s deed at the time she obtained her deed and if she recorded her deed first. Brenda may have won the race to the courthouse, but she loses on the issue of notice.”

The next question was the SOL – three years for fraud or ten years for possessory interest in land. The Court held that an action alleging a possessory interest in the land whether to clear title or to recover land obtained by fraudulent conveyance, is ten years disagreeing with the Fifth Circuit’s interpretation of Mississippi law on this issue in Suthoff v. Yazoo County Industrial Development Corporation, 722 F. 2d 133 (5th Cir. 1983). Furthermore, the action is tolled until Ralph obtains a present right of possession at the termination of the life estate. Finally, the Court held that Ralph’s action for damages was three years and it began to run on the day that they both recorded their deeds in 2001.

In the Matter of the Estate of Justin Michael Smith – Justin Smith was married to Holly when they had a daughter Halley. When the couple divorced eight years later, Justin had a DNA test done of Halley that determined he was not the father. Justin’s name was removed from the birth certificate and replaced with that of her true father. Before the divorce could be granted, Justin died. The issue was whether Halley was a wrongful death beneficiary. Halley argued that she was an in loco parentis child of Justin Smith. The Miss.S.Ct. agreed with the lower court finding that “[b]ecause Mississippi Code Section 11-7-13 does not provide a cause of action for in loco children, we affirm the trial court’s determination that Halley is not a wrongful-death beneficiary of Justin.”

Allred v. State – Allred was convicted of two counts of sexual battery of a child under fourteen years of age and sentenced to twenty-five years. His attorneys filed a brief pursuant to Lindsey v. State, 939 So. 2d 743 (Miss. 2005) (stating that counsel could find no errors in the record). Allred was given additional time to file his own brief which he failed to do. Not surprisingly. the Miss.S.Ct. affirmed the conviction and sentence.

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