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Northeast Mental Health Mental Retardation Com'n v. Cleveland

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

December 3, 2013

NORTHEAST MENTAL HEALTH-MENTAL RETARDATION COMMISSION, Appellant
v.
V.M. CLEVELAND, Appellee.

Page 1021

Fred L. Banks Jr., Jackson, William M. Beasley Sr., William Michael Beasley Jr., Tupelo, Luther T. Munford, Jackson, attorneys for appellant.

Jason D. Herring, Gary L. Carnathan, Michael Spencer Chapman, Tupelo, attorneys for appellee.

Before LEE, C.J., MAXWELL and FAIR, JJ.

MAXWELL, J.

¶ 1. Northeast Mental Health-Mental Retardation Commission (the Commission) appeals the partial grant of summary judgment in favor of V.M. Cleveland, which the chancellor had certified as final and appealable under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b). But just because an order is declared to be final and appealable

Page 1022

does not necessarily make it so. [1] And in this case, the order certified as final did not fall within the " limited category of decisions" to which Rule 54(b) may be applied. [2] Thus, the Rule 54(b) certification was invalid.

¶ 2. Because the decision that the Commission appeals is not a final, appealable judgment, we dismiss the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

Procedural History

I. Chancery Action

¶ 3. The underlying dispute involves the validity of a ninety-nine-year lease between the Commission and Cleveland. Under the terms of the lease, the Commission agreed to lease Cleveland land in Lee County, Mississippi. In turn, Cleveland agreed to build a mental-health facility on the property and turn around and rent the facility to the Commission for $18,000 per month so long as the Commission had the state and federal funds to pay the rent. But if the Commission was unable to fund the rent, it agreed to quitclaim the land and facility to Cleveland.

¶ 4. This arrangement lasted for a decade, until the Commission, now composed of different members, voted to void the lease as unreasonable. The Commission filed an action against Cleveland in the Lee County Chancery Court, seeking to have the lease declared void. Cleveland filed a counterclaim, seeking damages for breach of contract and to have the lease declared enforceable.

¶ 5. Both parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The chancellor denied the Commission's motion for summary judgment. But he granted Cleveland's motion in part. The chancellor found, based on the undisputed facts, that the Commission had the legal authority to enter the lease with Cleveland. But the chancellor could not fully rule in Cleveland's favor because there were " genuine issues of material fact [on] whether it is necessary for the Commission to rescind the agreement or whether such action directly or indirectly promotes its statutory purposes."

¶ 6. Despite not resolving any claim, the chancellor " certified" his decision as final and ...


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