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Cope v. Thrasher Construction, Inc.

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

November 30, 2017

BRUCE COPE, MARY COPE AND IKE W. THRASH
v.
THRASHER CONSTRUCTION, INC.

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/01/2014

         ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI

         HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MICHAEL H. WARD

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: TAYLOR B. McNEEL SAMUEL C. KELLY KAREN E. HOWELL NICHOLAS VAN WISER WILLIAM J. LITTLE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: NICHOLAS VAN WISER

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: TAYLOR B. McNEEL SAMUEL C. KELLY KAREN E. HOWELL

          WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1. Thrasher Construction, Inc. (Thrasher) brought a third-party beneficiary action against Bruce Cope, Mary Cope, and Ike Thrash (the Copes and Thrash) in the County Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County. Thrasher sought damages for payments owed for waterproofing the Inn by the Sea, a condominium in which the Copes and Thrash had acquired a full ownership interest by agreeing, in part, to pay all outstanding bills for work previously performed on the property. During trial, the county court dismissed the third-party beneficiary claim but allowed Thrasher to proceed on a quantum meruit theory of the case. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Thrasher for $69, 290, and the county court entered judgment based on that verdict. The Copes and Thrash appealed the judgment to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, which affirmed the judgment of the county court. The Copes and Thrash then appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing the facts do not support a recovery on quantum meruit. Thrasher cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing its third-party beneficiary claim.

         ¶2. The Court of Appeals held quantum meruit was not the proper method of relief because the action should have proceeded as a third-party beneficiary claim. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. We agree the third-party beneficiary action was the appropriate basis for Thrasher's recovery; however, because the trial court ultimately reached the correct result, no further proceedings are needed in this case.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶3. The facts of this case required for review on appeal are adequately set out by the Court of Appeals in its majority opinion. Cope v. Thrasher Const., Inc., 2016 WL 3523874, at **1-2 (Miss. Ct. App. June 28, 2016).

Inn by the Sea was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The owners of the individual units engaged SeaInn LLC (SeaInn) to develop a new complex and rebuild. SeaInn consisted of two members, Greg Stewart and Kenny Labelle. The unit owners conveyed their interest in the property to SeaInn in order to begin the project. SeaInn then hired Madison Homes as its general contractor. Greg Stewart is the only known representative of Madison Homes.
In February 2009, Madison Homes contracted with Thrasher Construction in order to waterproof Inn by the Sea. Thrasher Construction was to be paid $106, 600 for this project. Thrasher Construction worked on the Inn by the Sea project from April to July of 2009. Each month, it sent an invoice to Madison Homes, but none of the invoices were paid. Eventually, upon completion of sixty-five percent of the work on the Inn by the Sea project, Thrasher Construction stopped work due to nonpayment. Thrasher Construction then filed a Notice of Construction Lien against the Inn by the Sea property in September 2009. The amount due at the time that Thrasher Construction stopped work was $69, 290, calculated based on the percentage of the project completed.
Ike Thrash later purchased Labelle's fifty percent interest in SeaInn. He then signed over part of his interest to Bruce Cope and Mary Cope. After realizing that neither Stewart nor Madison Homes was paying the subcontractors, Cope and Thrash entered into a settlement agreement with Stewart to remove him. Cope and Thrash agreed to take over and complete certain projects. Cope and Thrash agreed to pay the subcontractors on the Inn by the Sea project to the extent that the invoices provided by Stewart were "true, valid[, ] and correct." ...

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