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Simmons v. Mississippi Transportation Commission

July 23, 1998

STANLEY SIMMONS AND WIFE, SONNIA SIMMONS, OWNERS
v.
MISSISSIPPI TRANSPORTATION COMMISSION



Before Sullivan, P.j., Roberts And Waller, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/13/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MIKE SMITH

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WALTHALL COUNTY SPECIAL COURT OF EMINENT DOMAIN

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - EMINENT DOMAIN

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED

¶1. The primary issue presented by this case is whether a Special Court of Eminent Domain has authority to decide the issue of title. The Simmonses assert that only the chancery court can solve the title question, and the special court of eminent domain lacks authority to hear the issue regarding previous acquisition of the access rights.

¶2. The Commission's position is that the Special Court of Eminent Domain may decide questions of legal title by way of pendent jurisdiction whenever those issues arise from a common nucleus of fact. This Court answered this question in McDonald's Corporation v. Robinson Industries, Inc. , 592 So.2d 927, 934 (Miss. 1991) ( quoting Hall v. Corbin , 478 So.2d 253, 255 (Miss. 1985)). Clearly, trying title is not limited to the chancery court if another court has subject matter jurisdiction of the action and the issue of title is pendent to that claim. Historically, this Court has allowed courts other than chancery to try title where that issue is incidental to the main action. Where the eminent domain court has subject matter jurisdiction of a condemnation action based upon the pleadings presented by the parties, the court should be allowed to adjudicate title where that issue arises out of the same occurrence.

Id. at 934-35.

¶3. On January 12, 1996, the Mississippi Transportation Commission filed a Complaint for Special Court of Eminent Domain against Stanley and Sonnia Simmons in Walthall County. The Commission sought to obtain rights of access from the Simmonses in order to extend the U.S. Highway 98 Tylertown Bypass to four lanes, as part of a limited access project. The Commission attached its Order to Condemn the access rights to its complaint, referencing a December 13, 1977, Controlled Access Order indicating that ingress and egress from Highway 98 would be prohibited. The Commission's Statement of Values indicated that the fair market value of the property was $0, but the Simmonses filed a Statement of Value, estimating the value of the access rights to be $129,600.

¶4. Shortly after trial began on June 5, 1996, it became apparent that a legal issue existed on whether the Commission had previously obtained title to the access rights by deed from the former owners of the Simmonses' property, Mr. and Mrs. Humphrey Breeland. At the suggestion of the Simmonses, the trial court held a special hearing on the issue of title, after dismissing the jury and declaring a mistrial in the condemnation suit.

¶5. On November 13, 1996, Judge Mike Smith entered final judgment in favor of the Commission. Judge Smith found that based on the language in the deed, the consideration paid by the Commission to the Breelands covered all of the access rights along the Highway 98 Bypass, other than the driveway excepted on the plat of the proposed project filed in the Walthall County Chancery Clerk's Office in 1980. As a result, Judge Smith ordered that the Simmonses were not entitled to any compensation for the claimed taking of their access rights.

¶6. We have responded to the first question on this appeal and now turn our attention to the charge that the trial Judge made erroneous findings of fact and that the Simmonses are entitled to compensation for the taking of access rights.

ΒΆ7. It is argued that it is contrary to the evidence to find that the Breelands received full compensation for the access rights in the 1978 deed to the Commission. It is further asserted that the deed from the Breelands to the Commission does not specifically grant the particular access rights in question ...


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