OF JUDGMENT: 02/29/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PAUL S. FUNDERBURK
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: MARK NOLAN HALBERT STEPHEN JOSEPH
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: MARTHA BOST STEGALL.
IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.
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.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
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.
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.
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.
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.
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