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Taylor Made Smiles, PLLC v. Franklin Collection Service, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 8, 2017

TAYLOR MADE SMILES, PLLC APPELLANT
v.
FRANKLIN COLLECTION SERVICE, INC. APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/29/2016

         LEE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PAUL S. FUNDERBURK

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: MARK NOLAN HALBERT STEPHEN JOSEPH CRAMBLITT, JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: MARTHA BOST STEGALL.

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. This appeal arises from the collection of a debt. Franklin Collection Service Inc. ("Franklin") was hired by Taylor Made Smiles PLLC ("Taylor Made") to collect on an outstanding patient account held by Taylor Made. Two payments were made on the patient's account but were returned. Before confirming the receipt of payment, Franklin submitted payment to Taylor Made. When Franklin discovered that the payment was returned, Franklin requested that Taylor Made return the account payment that was mistakenly made. Taylor Made refused to return the payment, and Franklin sued Taylor Made for breach of contract and unjust enrichment in the Lee County County Court. The county court ordered Taylor Made to return the account payment to Franklin plus eight percent interest. Taylor Made appealed the verdict to the Lee County Circuit Court, which affirmed the order of the county court. Taylor Made now appeals. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Taylor Made, a dental-service provider, hired Franklin to perform collection services on Taylor Made's delinquent patient accounts. Taylor Made and Franklin's contract for collection services provided that Franklin would collect certain debts in exchange for the retention of thirty-five percent of the debtors' payments. One of the delinquent accounts assigned to Franklin for collection concerned patient "C.T." C.T. owed Taylor Made $6, 900. On March 15, 2008, C.T. paid Franklin a check for $500. According to the contract, the $500 payment would have resulted in a payment of $325 to Taylor Made, after Franklin retained thirty-five percent of the payment for its collection services. However, no payment was made to Taylor Made for its share of the $500.

         ¶3. On March 25, 2008, the $500 check was returned for insufficient funds. On March 31, 2008, C.T. authorized Franklin to debit her bank account in the amount of $6, 315. On April 8, 2008, the payment was rejected by the bank. On April 10, 2008, Franklin sent a check to Taylor Made for $4, 104.75, representing the $6, 315 less Franklin's thirty-five percent collection fee. Franklin's documentation accompanying the check advised Taylor Made that $6, 315 was collected from the debtor. Taylor Made accepted the payment of $4, 104.75, without knowledge that the payment had been rejected a few days prior.

         ¶4. After Franklin learned that the payment had been rejected by the bank, it notified Taylor Made that it would be filing suit against C.T. Franklin also demanded that the payment be returned, because it was mistakenly made. Taylor Made refused to return the amount paid by Franklin, and advised Franklin that its remedy was against C.T. On November 14, 2008, Franklin sued C.T. in court and obtained a judgment against C.T. However, collection efforts were fruitless.

         ¶5. On December 21, 2010, Franklin filed a lawsuit against Taylor Made in the county court. Franklin contended that the payment made to Taylor Made was due to a mistake of fact. Franklin further asserted that Taylor Made's refusal to return the $4, 104.75 payment constituted a breach of contract, amounting to unjust enrichment. Taylor Made asserted that Franklin could not substantiate a breach-of-contract claim, because the contract did not address the issue. Taylor Made also asserted that the equitable remedies sought by Franklin under a "mistake in fact" were not applicable to Franklin's case. On July 1, 2013, the county court issued its ruling in favor of Franklin in the amount of $4, 104.75, plus post-judgment interests and court costs.

         ¶6. Taylor Made filed a motion for reconsideration, which the county court denied. Thereafter, Taylor Made filed its notice of appeal in the circuit court. On February 29, 2016, the circuit court issued its opinion affirming the judgment of the county court. In its opinion, the circuit court surmised that since Franklin never collected payment from C.T., no collection occurred. The circuit court found that since collection did not occur, Franklin was not under any obligation to remit payment to Taylor Made. As a result, the circuit court affirmed the ruling of the county court. Taylor Made now appeals the decision of the circuit court, contending that there was no legal basis for the county-court and circuit-court decisions, and Taylor Made's refusal to return the payment to Franklin was not a breach of contract. Taylor Made further asserts that the circuit court misconstrued its interpretation of the contract when the court found that equitable principles applied to a contract matter. Finding no error, we affirm the judgment of the circuit court.

         STANDARD ...


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