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Easterling v. Russell

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 17, 2015

CYNTHIA EASTERLING A/K/A DR. CYNTHIA MOORE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS MEMBER OF MELIOTUS L.L.C. APPELLANT
v.
RHETT R. RUSSELL, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS A MEMBER OF MELIOTUS L.L.C. APPELLEE

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/13/2013.

LEE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, HON. KENNETH M. BURNS, JUDGE.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JOHN A. FERRELL.

ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: L.F. SAMS JR.

EN BANC.

LEE, C.J.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶1. In 2002, Cynthia Easterling and Rhett Russell formed Meliotus LLC in order to purchase real estate. Cynthia and Rhett are siblings and were the sole members of the LLC. In 2009, the parties began discussing the possibility of dissolving the corporation and dividing the properties. On May 6, 2013, Cynthia sent a settlement offer to Rhett desiring to dissolve the corporation and distribute the properties. Rhett, treating the letter as a contract, accepted Cynthia's terms on May 24, 2013, and prepared deeds in accordance with the agreement. Rhett did not receive a response from Cynthia, which he indicated in a second letter to Cynthia dated June 18, 2013. In this second letter, Rhett indicated he had accepted Cynthia's offer via letter dated May 24, 2013, and desired "prompt performance of our agreement." Receiving no response from Cynthia, Rhett had the deeds recorded in the chancery clerk's office in Pontotoc County. Ultimately, Cynthia filed a complaint in the Lee County Chancery Court[1] to set aside the deeds executed by Rhett and to judicially dissolve the corporation. Cynthia claimed there was no binding contract, the deeds contained errors, and Rhett's alleged acceptance of the contract did not address all material terms.

¶2. Rhett filed a motion for summary judgment; then Cynthia filed a counter-motion for summary judgment. The chancellor granted Rhett's motion, finding that there was a binding contract between the parties. Cynthia now appeals, asserting the chancellor erred in granting Rhett's motion for summary judgment. Finding no error, we affirm.

STANDARD OF REVIEW

¶3. In considering a trial court's grant of a motion for summary judgment, this Court conducts a de novo review and "examines all the evidentiary matters before it – admissions in pleadings, answers to interrogatories, depositions, affidavits, etc." City of Jackson v. Sutton, 797 So.2d 977, 979 (¶7) (Miss. 2001) (citation omitted). The Mississippi Supreme Court recently clarified the summary-judgment standard, explaining that "[t]he movant bears the burden of persuading the trial judge that: (1) no genuine issue of material fact exists, and (2) on the basis of the facts established, he is entitled to [a] judgment as a matter of law." Karpinsky v. Am. Nat'l Ins. Co., 109 So.3d 84, 88 (¶11) (Miss. 2013) (citation omitted). The supreme court further stated that "[t]he movant bears the burden of production if, at trial, [she] would bear the burden of proof on the issue raised. In other words, the movant only bears the burden of production where [she] would bear the burden of proof at trial." Id. at 88-89 (¶11) (citations omitted). The supreme court further clarified that

while [d]efendants carry the initial burden of persuading the trial judge that no issue of material fact exists and that they are entitled to summary judgment based upon the established facts, [the plaintiff] carries the burden of producing sufficient evidence of the essential elements of her claim at the summary-judgment stage, as she would carry the burden of production at trial.

Id. at 89 ...


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