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Cade v. Beard

Supreme Court of Mississippi

January 9, 2014

RICHARD L. CADE INDIVIDUALLY AND d/b/a THE RIDGES PLANTATION
v.
KENNY BEARD, INDIVIDUALLY, AND ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF ZACHARY WARREN BEARD AND ALL WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES AND MICKIE BEARD TRUSTMARK NATIONAL BANK AS TRUSTEE OF THE ESTATES OF THE DEFENDANT TRUSTS OF, CHARLES LAMBERT HUFF, ILANETTE HUFF BYRD AND KATHLEEN HUFF COWLING
v.
KENNY BEARD, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE OF ZACHARY WARREN BEARD AND ALL WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES AND MICKIE BEARD

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/23/2012

JEFFERSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. LAMAR PICKARD, TRIAL JUDGE

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: GROVER CLARK MONROE, II ERIC REYNOLDS PRICE ROSLYN NICHOLE GRIFFIN

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: REBECCA M. LANGSTON SHANE F. LANGSTON JESSICA ELIZABETH MURRAY

BEFORE RANDOLPH, P.J., KING AND COLEMAN, JJ.

KING, JUSTICE

¶1. Zachary Beard, while hunting on Ridges Plantation, died of injuries he sustained in an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) accident. Zachary's parents, Kenny and Mickie Beard, sued Richard Cade (doing business as Ridges Plantation) and Trustmark Bank, trustee of the property (the Trust), alleging that the defendants failed to adopt policies and procedures regarding the operation of ATV s by unlicensed and unsupervised minors. Cade and the Trust filed motions for summary judgment, and the trial court denied both motions. Now, Cade and the Trust appeal and argue that (1) Zachary was a licensee, and (2) the parties had no duty to implement such policies and procedures.

¶2. We find that the trial court erred by denying the motions for summary judgment and thus, reverse the trial court's judgment and remand for entry of judgment in favor of the appellants.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶3. C.L. Huff, Cade's grandfather, owned a tract of land known as Ridges Plantation. On May 16, 1997, Huff leased Ridges Plantation to Cade for twenty years and gave Cade exclusive hunting rights to the property and the ability to sublet the property for hunting. In exchange, Cade agreed to pay the yearly property taxes, approximately $12, 000.

¶4. Huff died, and in 2001, Ridges Plantation passed to a trust owned by his daughters –Ilanette Huff Byrd and Kathleen Huff Cowling. Trustmark Bank manages the trust, which includes several properties. Specific to Ridges Plantation, Trustmark maintains documents pertaining to the real estate and monitors the lease, taxes due, and insurance. A Trustmark representative testified that the property is inspected yearly to ensure the property still exists; a forester also inspects for fallen timber and monitors the growth and cutting of timber.

¶5. Given his rights under the lease, Cade organized an informal hunting club which included several of his friends. No membership applications or agreements were executed. In 2008, each member paid $1, 500 in dues. Cade used the dues collected to pay the property taxes and other hunting-club expenses.

¶6. Kenny Beard (Kenny) was a dues-paying member of the hunting club for more than ten years. As a general practice, members were allowed to bring their minor children to hunt for no additional fee.[1] Kenny's son Zachary hunted with him at Ridges Plantation. Members also were allowed to use and store their personal ATVs on the property. Neither Cade nor Ridges Plantation provided ATVs for members' use. At all times, each member had exclusive control of his personal ATV. Kenny owned a modified, red Honda ATV with a 680-cc engine, and Zachary owned a yellow ATV with a 400-cc engine.

¶7. On January 26, 2008, Kenny gave Zachary permission to retrieve deer-hunting stands with other members of the hunting camp. Unbeknownst to Kenny, Zachary took the larger, red ATV on his excursion. At some point, Zachary separated from the group. The ATV rolled and landed on top of Zachary, causing his death. No one witnessed the accident.

¶8. In his deposition, Kenny stated that he rarely allowed Zachary to use the red ATV because he did not want him to damage it. Kenny indicated that Zachary had been riding ATVs for seven years, and he considered Zachary to be an expert rider. Kenny also stated that Zachary was able to navigate difficult terrain, and he was familiar with Ridges Plantation's terrain, having hunted there for years.[2] Kenny guessed that Zachary, in an attempt to avoid small trees, had attempted to ride the steep slope of the spur or slid off the side of the spur. Kenny did not blame Zachary's accident on the landscape. Kenny stated that the landscape was in its natural condition, and he did not think anything should ...


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