United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Eastern Division
WELLS FARGO FINANCIAL LEASING, INC. PLAINTIFF
WALTER T. POPE DEFENDANT
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
STARRETT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
reasons below, the Court grants both Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment  on its conversion claim and its
Motion for Summary Judgment  on Defendant's
son, Aaron Pope, was an independent poultry farmer in
Covington County, Mississippi, under contract with Sanderson
Farms, Inc. Aaron Pope financed his operation by
sale-leaseback arrangements and/or loans secured by farm
equipment from Defendant, Wells Fargo Financial Leasing, Inc.
See Exhibits A-L to Complaint, Wells Fargo Fin.
Leasing, Inc. v. Pope, No. 2:15-CV-160-KS-MTP (S.D.Miss.
Dec. 10, 2015), ECF Nos. 1-2, 1-3, 1-4, 1-5, 1-6, 1-7, 1-8,
1-9, 1-10, 1-11, 1-12, 1-13. He repaid Wells Fargo via a
“Poultry Proceeds (Security Agreement) And Notice to
Buyer, ” pursuant to which Sanderson Farms remitted
$17, 540.00 from the proceeds of every poultry flock grown by
Aaron Pope directly to Wells Fargo, while paying the
remaining balance to Pope. See Exhibit G, ECF No. 1-8.
2013, Aaron Pope filed for bankruptcy in the United States
Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Mississippi.
Before he filed for bankruptcy, he transferred his grower
contract with Sanderson Farms to Defendant, Walter Pope.
Aaron Pope grew four poultry flocks for Sanderson Farms under
Defendant's grower contract, using the equipment which
Wells Fargo either owned and/or in which it possessed a
security interest. Sanderson Farms did not deduct and remit
payments to Wells Fargo from the proceeds of these final four
flocks because Defendant, Walter Pope, was not subject to a
proceeds assignment. Defendant then transferred the funds to
his son or used them to pay his son's other creditors.
filed this action against Defendant, asserting claims of
conversion, tortious interference with contract, tortious
interference with business relations, and unjust enrichment.
Defendant asserted counterclaims of negligence, defamation,
“bad faith prosecution, ” abuse of process, and
malicious prosecution. Plaintiff filed Motions for Summary
Judgment [18, 19] as to its conversion claim and
Standard of Review
provides that “[t]he court shall grant summary judgment
if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to
any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a); see also Sierra
Club, Inc. v. Sandy Creek Energy Assocs., L.P., 627 F.3d
134, 138 (5th Cir. 2010). “An issue is material if its
resolution could affect the outcome of the action.”
Sierra Club, Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. “An issue
is ‘genuine' if the evidence is sufficient for a
reasonable jury to return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Cuadra v. Houston Indep. Sch. Dist.,
626 F.3d 808, 812 (5th Cir. 2010).
Court is not permitted to make credibility determinations or
weigh the evidence. Deville v. Marcantel, 567 F.3d
156, 164 (5th Cir. 2009). When deciding whether a genuine
fact issue exists, “the court must view the facts and
the inference to be drawn therefrom in the light most
favorable to the nonmoving party.” Sierra Club,
Inc., 627 F.3d at 138. However, “[c]onclusional
allegations and denials, speculation, improbable inferences,
unsubstantiated assertions, and legalistic argumentation do
not adequately substitute for specific facts showing a
genuine issue for trial.” Oliver v. Scott, 276
F.3d 736, 744 (5th Cir. 2002).
contends that Defendant converted proceeds from the sale of
poultry flocks which it was owed under the various security
and financing agreements entered into by Aaron Pope.
“To make out a conversion, there must be proof of a
wrongful possession, or the exercise of a dominion in
exclusion or defiance of the owner's right, or of an
unauthorized and injurious use, or of a wrongful detention
after demand.” Smith v. Franklin Custodian Funds,
Inc., 726 So.2d 144, 149 (Miss. 1998). The plaintiff
must present “proof that the defendant either did some
positive wrongful act with the intention to appropriate the
property to himself, or to deprive the rightful owner of it,
or destroyed the property.” Greenline Equip. Co. v.
Covington County Bank, 873 So.2d 950, 955 (Miss. 2002).
Phrased differently, the defendant must have exercised
“some unlawful assumption of dominion over the personal
property involved, in defiance or exclusion of the
plaintiff's rights, or else a withholding of the
possession under a claim of right or title inconsistent with
that of plaintiff.” Id. The plaintiff's
interest in the property must have been “made known and
resisted . . . .” Id. In summary, to prove a
conversion claim, Plaintiff must demonstrate that it had a
right or interest in the disputed property, that Defendant
knew of its right or interest, and that he exercised control
or dominion over the property in exclusion of its right or
interest. Id.; see also Cmty. Bank, Ellisville,
Miss. v. Courtney, 884 So.2d 767, 773-74 (Miss. 2004).
the Court must determine whether Plaintiff had any right to
the disputed poultry flock proceeds. According to the Poultry
Proceeds (Security Agreement), Aaron Pope was obligated pay
Plaintiff “the sum of $17, 540.00 per flock, 5 flocks
per year, payable . . . UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE.” Exhibit
G, [1-8]. It is undisputed that Aaron Pope failed to make
four payments to Plaintiff from the final four flocks he
raised, defaulting on his obligations under the Poultry
Proceeds (Security Agreement).
Pope also entered into various Security Agreements [1-4, 1-5,
1-6, 1-7] related to his leases with Plaintiff. Under three
of the Security Agreements, an event of default was
“[a]ny default under the Lease or other obligations due
under any other Lease Agreements or other financing
agreements, or other indebtedness when due . . . .”
Exhibits D-F, [1-5, 1-6, 1-7]. Likewise, a fourth Security
Agreement [1-4] “secure[d] the payment and performance
of each and every debt, liability and obligation of every
type and description that Debtor may now or at any time
hereafter owe to” Plaintiff, and defined a default as
“fail[ing] to pay any or all” such obligations
when due. Exhibit C, [1-4]. Therefore, Aaron Pope's
failure to make the required payments to Plaintiff upon sale
of his four ...