Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – May 14, 2015

Cleveland MHC, LLC v. City of Richland – zoning case. The City of Richland passed an ordinance stating that if a mobile home was removed from the Cleveland Mobile Home Park, it could not be replaced by another mobile home on the site.  Cleveland MHC filed a bill of exceptions.  The mobile home park had existed since the 50s.  At some point, the property was annexed by the City of Richland.  When the property was annexed, it was zoned light industrial.  The mobile home park, then, was a non-conforming use since residences are not allowed on industrial-zoned property.    Sect. 405 of the City ordinances states that non-conformities are allowed to continue until they are removed.  This, however, was not enforced against CMHC.  WHen the Appellant brought the property in 2008, it was told that it could continue its practice of replacing mobile homes that moved with new ones.  In April 2011, the City changed its policies and informed CMCH that it could no longer replace removed mobile homes.  CMCH appeared before the Board of Alderman to argue against enforcement of Sect. 405.  Instead the Board passed an ordinance specifically aimed at CMCH stating that once a mobile home was removed, it could not be replaced.  CMCH appealed and the Circuit Court upheld the ordinance.The Ct of Appeals reverses: “We conclude that the reasonable interpretation of the ordinance is to construe the nonconforming use to relate to the mobile-home park as a whole. As long as the park is operated as such, without expansion, it is a permitted use. The City’s resolution, on the other hand, seeks to transform the nonconforming use to a pad-by-pad use and to destroy it by attrition.”  The City’s resolution, then, “is arbitrary, capricious, and illegal.” The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert. and affirms the COA.

Ronald McMorris v. Joe Tally –  SOL/failure to procure insurance –  In Jan. 2006, Tally purchased a one year farmers and ranchers policy. It expired at  the end of Jan. 2007.   A year later the Fortenberrys were riding their motorcycle down a country highway and  hit one of Joe Tally’s donkeys that had escaped from his farm.  Tally called his agent  McMorris to report the accident and make a claim against his farm liability policy. McMorris reported that his policy had expired. In January of 2009, the Fortenberrys filed suit against Tally. On November 16, 2011, the trial court granted Tally leave to file a third-party complaint against McMorris and American Reliable. And on January 3, 2012, Tally finally asserted his claims against McMorris and the insurer American Reliable.  Both filed for summary judgment based on the SOL.  The trial court denied the motions.  They filed interlocutory appeals which were granted. Meanwhile, Tally agreed to dismiss American Reliance.  In analyzing the issue, the Court states that it “has been clear that the statute of  limitations begins to run when an insured—or uninsured, as the case may be—learns that there is a problem with an insurance policy, or that no insurance policy is in effect.”

In this case, Tally denies that he received the March 23, 2006, letter informing him that his policy would not be renewed. But it is undisputed that on March 19, 2008, he knew that his liability policy with American Reliable had expired, and that his farm was not covered by any liability policy. As soon as he learned that he had no liability coverage, he suffered a cognizable injury. Tally immediately could have filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that he was covered by American Reliable and, if not, that McMorris would be liable for any damages, losses, and attorney fees that would have been covered under the policy.

The Court reverses and renders in favor of McMorris.

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