Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Feb. 16, 2017


Jon A. Swartzfager v. Thomas R. Saul breach of agreement to sell land – Swartzfager owned a large tract in Jones County on which he planned to build a subdivision, Deerfield.  Thomas Saul was a Mississippi highway patrolman who lived in a home nearby.  Swartzfager approached Saul and offered to sell him a piece of the property and Saul agreed to purchase  a five-acre tract.  Saul sold his own home and he and his family lived in a mobile home waiting on the deal with Swartzfager to go through. Meanwhile, Swartzfager was making a deal with a man named Bill Jenkins to buy the entire property.  Swartzfager at first tried to get Jenkins to buy all but Saul’s five acres but when Jenkins did not agree, Swartzfager asked Saul if he would relinquish any interest in the five acres at Deerfield and accept six acres in the Grand View Estates subdivision. Saul agreed and picked out acreage in Grand View Estates.  But Swartzfager again failed to follow  through and Saul filed suit.   The trial court found for Saul as follows: $53,400 for breaching the contract, plus $79,098.81 in prejudgment interest; $22,785 in losses and costs incurred by Saul, as a “direct and proximate result of the egregious actions and omissions by [Swartzfager]”;  $50,000 for Saul’s  emotional distress; and $88,362.40 in attorneys fees. Swartzfager appeals.  The Miss.S.Ct. affirms on all but the prejudgment interest because there was no demand for such in the complaint.

John K. Hamilton v. Kidron S. Wise Young interstate custody modification –  John and Kidron were divorced in Ohion in 2010.  That judgment granted Kidron  residential parent and legal custodian status with regard to their daughter Adelie. Thereafter Kidron and Adelie moved to Mississippi. Kidron registered the Ohio order in Lee County.  In 2013, that court  registered the Ohio decree, granting full faith and credit to the judgment. It also announced that it was taking  jurisdiction “of all matters relating to the minor child including, but not limited to: custody, visitation, and support, pursuant to Section 93-25-101.” A month later, the Ohio Court heard John’s motion to modify  parental rights and responsibilities to reflect the fact that Kidron and Adlie had moved.  Both parties signed the order. And in 2014, the Ohio court decreased the amount of support to be paid by John. In May 2015, Kidron  filed in Lee County  a complaint for modification of the Ohio orders.  John moved to dismiss on the grounds that Ohio had continuing jurisdiction to modify its order. The chancellor in Lee County ruled otherwise and John filed for an interlocutory appeal which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted and reverses.

 Reviewing the procedural history and the facts of the case, we find that (1) neither the Ohio court nor the parties consented in writing to the transfer of jurisdiction, and (2) because evidence indicates that the Ohio court never relinquished jurisdiction, that court is the proper forum for proceedings on modification. Thus, this Court reverses the chancery court’s ruling and enters judgment in favor of the father, dismissing the mother’s complaint for lack of jurisdiction.


Earnest Lee v. John Earl Booker –   parole plan – this is another case the Miss.S.Ct. reverses finding the inmate is not entitled to a parole plan because he was sentenced prior to the effective date of HB 585. Booker was sentenced in July 1981 and in 1982.


And the Court grants cert in Estate of Rose Greer, Deceased: John Oaks a/k/a John Oakes v. Linda Greer Ball  (the link is to the COA opinion).  In  2002, Rose Greer leased some farmland in Lincoln  County to  Jene and David Nunnery.  The rent was $600 per month for a  one-year initial term. The lease included automatic one-year renewals, with a final termination date of July 31, 2025.  The lease contained a section in contemplation of Greer’s death: “In the event of the death of the Lessor, this lease agreement shall not terminate[;] rather the rights and obligations of Lessor shall immediately be transferred to Linda Ball, who will also have the right to receive payments hereunder.”  Greer died in 2010.  Her 2009 will left the remainder of her estate to John  Oaks but did not mention the lease assignment to Ball.  In 2013,  Oaks filed a complaint for declaratory relief against Ball asking the court to find the section of the lease dealing with Greer’s death to be invalid. Oaks claimed that the assignment was not valid because it was testamentary in nature and did not comply with the requirements of a testamentary document. As alternative relief, Oaks sought a declaratory judgment that, if the assignment was valid, Ball was responsible for the payment of ad valorem taxes and insurance premiums on the property. The court found the lease valid and ruled that Ball was to pay the ad valorem taxes on the property, and denied Oaks’s request that Ball pay the casualty-insurance premiums on the property.  The COA reverses.

Linda Ball’s  cert. petition argues that “Left alone, this decision could generate needless litigation by extending the term “testamentary in nature” to end of life decisions heretofore accepted by way of 1) life insurance beneficiary designations; 2) termination on death declarations; 3) joint depositor agreements; and 4) corporate bylaw buy-out provisions; to name only a few.”




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