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Mize v. Westbrook Construction Co.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

September 4, 2014

JERRY P. MIZE
v.
WESTBROOK CONSTRUCTION COMPANY OF OXFORD, LLC, JIMMY ALVIS LEWIS, JR., KAY W. LEWIS AND JIMMIE WALLER

Page 345

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LAFAYETTE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/20/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. GLENN ALDERSON.

THE JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF APPEALS IS REVERSED IN PART. THE JUDGMENT OF THE CHANCERY COURT OF LAFAYETTE COUNTY IS REVERSED IN PART AND THE CASE IS REMANDED.

FOR APPELLANT: R. BRADLEY BEST, ELBERT EARL HALEY, JR., ERIK GREGORY FARIES.

FOR APPELLEES: WILLIAM TROY SLOAN, BELA J. CHAIN, III.

RANDOLPH, PRESIDING JUSTICE. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON, P.J., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 346

ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - REAL PROPERTY

RANDOLPH, PRESIDING JUSTICE.

¶1. This case arises from a property-line dispute between neighboring landowners in Lafayette County, Mississippi. Jerry Mize filed suit to confirm title to property described in a recorded corrected warranty deed. Westbrook Construction Company of Oxford, LLC, Jimmy A. Lewis, Jr., Kay W. Lewis, and Jimmie Waller, hereinafter referred to as Defendants, answered the complaint, counterclaimed to quiet and confirm their titles, and sought damages for slander of their respective titles. The chancellor found for Defendants and awarded damages and attorneys'

Page 347

fees on their slander-of-title claims. The Court of Appeals affirmed. In his petition for certiorari, Mize raises multiple issues. We granted certiorari to consider whether all the elements of a slander-of-title claim were met. Our review is limited to whether there was sufficient evidence to support a slander-of-title action.[1]

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Mize purchased fifty-six acres in Lafayette County. Without dispute, the vast majority of this property lies north of County Road 206. However, in reliance upon what the prior landowner (Estelle Kiger) communicated to him prior to the conveyance, Mize was led to believe that a small portion of the tract lay to the south of the road. Defendants, owners of properties south of County Road 206, claimed that their properties extended to the center line of the road, as described in their deeds.

¶3. To resolve the issue, Mize commissioned W.L. Burle Engineering of Oxford to survey his property. Jim Cannatella performed the survey. Cannatella has a B.S. in civil engineering. He maintains licenses as a professional engineer and professional surveyor in multiple states, including Mississippi. He is affiliated with multiple professional surveying and engineering associations. He has more than twenty years of experience in this field. His survey opined that Mize's property crossed County Road 206 and included a portion on the southern side of the road that was claimed by Defendants. Cannatella prepared a property description based on his findings and provided this description to Mize's attorney, who drafted a corrected deed for Mize that closed the property.[2] Subsequently, Kiger executed the corrected deed, and Mize filed the deed.

¶4. Westbrook declined to recognize Cannatella's survey and Mize's corrected deed. Westbrook relied on its warranty deed that included a property description drawn from a survey conducted in 2004 by Robert Karl Sealy, who is also a professionally licensed surveyor with more than twenty years of experience. Sealy's survey set ...


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