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Tommy Brooks Oil Co. v. Wilburn

Supreme Court of Mississippi

March 29, 2018

TOMMY BROOKS OIL COMPANY, A MISSISSIPPI CORPORATION
v.
JERRY WILBURN AND WILBURN OIL COMPANY, INC. TOMMY BROOKS OIL COMPANY
v.
JERRY WILBURN

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/22/2016

          TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES SETH ANDREW POUNDS LEE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: MARTHA B. STEGALL WILLIAM C. SPENCER WILLIAM C. SPENCER, JR. MICHAEL D. GREER MICHAEL P. MILLS, JR.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: WALTER D. WILLSON RANDY L. DEAN KEVIN A. ROGERS

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: WILLIAM C. SPENCER, JR. WILLIAM C. SPENCER MICHAEL D. GREER MICHAEL P. MILLS, JR.

          BEFORE WALLER, C.J., CHAMBERLIN AND ISHEE, JJ.

          CHAMBERLIN, JUSTICE

         FOR THE COURT:

         ¶1. Tommy Brooks Oil Co. ("Brooks Oil") challenges the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Jerry Wilburn.[1] The party moving for summary judgment bears the burden to demonstrate that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that judgment should be rendered as a matter of law. Wilburn did not meet this burden, and the trial court erred in granting summary judgment.

         ¶2. According to Brooks Oil, Wilburn Oil Co., Inc. ("Wilburn Oil") had amassed nearly $1 million in unpaid fuel bills before Brooks Oil refused to sell Wilburn Oil any more fuel until Wilburn executed two personal guaranties for $250, 000. After Brooks Oil sued Wilburn to enforce the guaranties, Wilburn moved for summary judgment, claiming a unilateral or mutual mistake concerning the guaranties. According to Wilburn, the parties never intended the guaranties to include Wilburn Oil's past debt. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment, dismissing Brooks Oil's suit against Wilburn with prejudice. As Wilburn did not meet his summary-judgment burden, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand the case for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Background

         ¶3. Through the years, Brooks Oil supplied Wilburn Oil with fuel products at a number of Wilburn Oil's gas stations. Since late 2012, though, Wilburn Oil-according to Brooks Oil-had failed to pay all the fuel invoices sent by Brooks Oil. Brooks Oil claimed that Wilburn Oil owed it nearly $1 million in unpaid fuel bills by 2013. In order for Brooks Oil to resume selling Wilburn Oil fuel products, Wilburn signed two personal guaranties to Brooks Oil's benefit. The first guaranty, executed on June 20, 2013, was for $100, 000. The second guaranty, executed on August 29, 2013, was for $150, 000. Aside from the amount guaranteed, the language of the guaranties was identical and provided that Wilburn guaranteed to Brooks Oil that he personally would be liable for Wilburn Oil's debt "due or to become due . . . now existing or hereafter arising. . . ." Before resuming delivery, Brooks Oil had Wilburn Oil also agree to a two-cent-per-gallon increase in the purchase prices for fuel products. The increase was to be applied to Wilburn Oil's outstanding invoices.

         The Guaranties Suit by Brooks Oil against Wilburn

         ¶4. On May 8, 2014, Brooks Oil sued Wilburn (the "guaranties suit"). Brooks Oil claimed that Wilburn Oil was not paying the outstanding invoices and sought to collect from Wilburn on the personal guaranties. Wilburn answered the complaint, claiming that Wilburn Oil had not defaulted on any obligation to Brooks Oil. He also claimed that he had not breached any of the guaranties' obligations. Wilburn maintained that if there were any ambiguities in the guaranties, they should be resolved in his favor.

         ¶5. After engaging in discovery, Wilburn moved for summary judgment. In his brief in support of his motion, Wilburn argued that neither party intended for the guaranties to apply to past debt. He claimed that there was either a mutual mistake or a unilateral mistake. To support his motion, Wilburn quoted portions of his own deposition testimony as well as Brooks's deposition testimony. Wilburn cited the following exchange in Brooks's deposition:

Attorney: Okay. At what point did you ask Mr. Wilburn for a personal guaranty?
Brooks: When he come to me and needed more money. He said he had some accounts that he had to get gas to, and I said, "Jerry, I can't let you have any more." And that's when ...

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