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Manning v. Perry

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 7, 2017

L.H. MANNING, VIRGINIA WARREN, JOHN HENRY MANNING, GEANNIE JONES, NIKIESHA FUNCHESS, AND EVA MANNING APPELLANTS
v.
ROBERT PERRY AND PAIGE PERRY APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 09/10/2015

         PIKE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. J. LARRY BUFFINGTON TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: JOHNELL MOSBY MATTHEWS CHRYSTAL MICHELLE MATTHEWS

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: WAYNE DOWDY

         EN BANC.

          FAIR, JUDGE.

         ¶1. This action involves a roughly seventy-eight acre parcel of land in Pike County, once owned by Henry and Addie Manning. Part of an eighty-six acre parcel that had been titled in their names, they deeded it to their son Ed in 1994. Following his death in 2011, his widow and sole devisee, Joan Manning, sold the seventy-eight acre parcel to Robert and Paige Perry in a transaction financed by the Pike National Bank ("the Bank").

         ¶2. Ed's siblings, claiming Ed was only the trustee of their parents' former land, sued Joan, the Perrys, and the Bank for an adjudication of their ownership of the property as beneficiaries of a constructive trust of which Ed had been trustee. The chancellor granted motions for partial summary judgment filed by the Perrys and the Bank, dismissing the Perrys and the Bank as defendants.

         ¶3. The chancellor certified that his partial summary judgment was final, and the Mannings have appealed as to the Perrys. Joan remains the sole defendant, litigating title to the remaining 9.05 acres of the original eighty-six on which the Manning family home is located. Joan had deeded the home to the Mannings upon the dismissal of their first suit against her.

         Record Title

         ¶4. An examination of the Pike County land deed records reflects that in 1994 Henry and Addie executed a quitclaim deed conveying their eighty-six acres of real property to their son Ed, one of their seven children. Very shortly thereafter, Henry died; Addie followed him in death in 1998. They were survived by Ed and his six siblings. Ed's siblings are the plaintiffs and appellants in this cause.

         ¶5. In 2011, Ed died at home in Texas. Probated in his home state, his will was also probated in an ancillary proceeding in Mississippi. Pursuant to his will, the eighty-six acre parcel deeded to him by his parents passed to his wife Joan along with all of his other assets. Passage of title was reflected in a final judgment in the Mississippi probate action, which was filed of record in the Pike County land deed records. Thereafter Joan, relying on that judgment, sold seventy-eight of the eighty-six acres to the Perrys for almost $244, 000 by warranty deed dated October 18, 2013.

         ¶6. On the date of the deed from Joan to the Perrys, Joan held clear record title to all eighty-six acres described in Ed's deed from his parents. Shortly before the sale, however, the Mannings had filed against Joan for the first time. They sought adjudication of the deed as part of an established family trust by their parents and conversion of the quitclaim to Ed to a trust instrument. The Mannings did not file a lis pendens notice until after Joan's deed to the Perrys had been executed and recorded, as had the deed of trust in favor of the Bank.

         ¶7. The Perrys obtained a title opinion prior to closing and a loan from the Bank, and purchased both lender's and owner's title insurance. Around $94, 000 in a down payment came from their funds, and the Bank loaned them the remainder. They testified that they relied on the advice of their realtor and their lawyer and the land deed records of Pike County in closing on their purchase of the seventy-eight acres.

         Claim of the Mannings

         ¶8. At the time record title passed to the Perrys, there was no active claim to the realty in question reflected in the land deed records by Ed's six siblings. There was, however, a pending lawsuit against Ed's widow, Joan, by the Mannings. It was dismissed from the Pike County Chancery Court, refiled in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, dismissed again, and refiled for the third time in this action. In each of their filings, the Mannings asserted that Ed was not really a fee simple owner of the real estate at issue, but was rather a trustee of the land for himself and his siblings. On their return to the chancery court, they again filed for reformation of the 1994 deed and imposition of a constructive trust on the 9.05 acres now titled of record in Joan's name and, as well, the seventy-eight acres held by the Perrys.

         Course of Litigation

         ¶9. The Mannings filed their first suit seeking reformation of the deed and imposition of a constructive trust against Joan on August 13, 2013. That first filing was pending on October 18, 2013, when she sold the seventy-eight acres at issue to the Perrys. A lis pendens notice reflecting the litigation was filed of record on November 8, 2013, after the deed to the Perrys had been filed. A ...


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