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Hodnett v. Hodnett

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 17, 2018

SARAH HODNETT, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS TRUSTEE OF THE HODNETT LAND TRUST, AND BANK OF ANGUILLA, A MISSISSIPPI BANKING CORPORATION APPELLANTS
v.
TIM HODNETT APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/12/2016

          SHARKEY COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. HOLLIS MCGEHEE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: OLIVER E. DIAZ JR. DAVID NEIL MCCARTY BENJAMIN MCRAE WATSON JOHN C. HENEGAN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: PHILIP MANSOUR JR.

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., FAIR AND GREENLEE, JJ.

          FAIR, J.

         ¶1. Tim Hodnett sued his sister, Sarah Hodnett, to set aside a deed to the family farm from their mother to a revocable trust. The trust named Sarah as the sole beneficiary upon her mother's death. The chancery court found that Sarah, who had acted as her parents' attorney for many years and had prepared all of the various instruments involved in these transactions, had been in a confidential relationship with her mother when the deed was executed, raising the presumption that it was the product of undue influence. Sarah failed to rebut that presumption by clear and convincing evidence, and thus the chancellor set aside the deed.

         ¶2. On appeal, Sarah contends that Tim lacked standing to challenge the deed, that the statute of limitations had run at the time this suit was filed, and that the chancery court employed an incorrect legal standard in reaching its finding of a confidential relationship. The Bank of Anguilla also appeals, challenging the trial court's conclusion that Tim's claim had priority over some of the Bank's security interests in the deeded property, which were acquired by the Bank after a lis pendens was filed. We affirm the chancery court's judgment in its entirety.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶3. A chancellor's factual findings will not be reversed unless they are manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous. Paw Paw Island Land Co. v. Issaquena & Warren Ctys. Land Co., 51 So.3d 916, 923 (¶26) (Miss. 2010). However, a chancellor's legal conclusions are reviewed de novo. Id.

         DISCUSSION

         1. Standing

         ¶4. Sarah contends that Tim lacks an interest in the deeded property and therefore does not have standing to pursue any claims relating to its disposition.

         ¶5. "In Mississippi, parties have standing to sue when they assert a colorable interest in the subject matter of the litigation or experience an adverse effect from the conduct of the defendant, or as otherwise provided by law." In re City of Biloxi, 113 So.3d 565, 570 (ΒΆ13) (Miss. 2013) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). "A party's claim must be grounded in some legal right recognized by law, whether by statute or by common law and that party must be able to show ...


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