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Frisby v. Warden

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 8, 2018

CLIFFORD C. FRISBY AND OASIS REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT, INC. APPELLANTS
v.
FERRELL "BJ" WARDEN APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/04/2016

          HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. JENNIFER T. SCHLOEGEL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: MICHAEL JOSEPH YENTZEN

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: JAMES F. THOMPSON WILLIAM W. DREHER JR.

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

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. Clifford C. Frisby appeals from the Harrison County Chancery Court's finding that three handwritten documents were enforceable contracts between Frisby and Ferrell Warden for the sale of a home to Warden. The documents provided for credit toward the purchase price of the property in exchange for work performed by Warden. The chancellor ordered specific performance by Frisby and that Warden pay the remaining amount owed. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Oasis Real Estate Investment, Inc. is a Mississippi Corporation. Frisby is its president and owner.[1] In June 2010, Frisby acquired the property through a quitclaim deed from Michael Neill. In 2011, Frisby allowed Warden to move into this property. On February 9, 2015, Frisby filed an eviction action against Warden in justice court. On March 19, 2015, in response to the eviction action, Warden filed a "Petition To Enforce Purchase Contract and Stay Proceedings" against Frisby and Oasis in chancery court. Warden sought enforcement of three handwritten contracts between himself and Frisby for purchase of the property. In support of his petition, Warden attached three handwritten documents that were apparently signed by both parties. The documents detailed work that Warden performed for Frisby, and indicated that Warden's work would count toward the $24, 000 purchase price of the property.[2] Warden also sought a stay of the justice court eviction proceedings during the pendency of the chancery court proceedings.

         ¶3. On May 12, 2015, Frisby answered Warden's petition with a motion to dismiss, a motion to deny stay of eviction, and a counterclaim for fraud alleging that his signatures on the agreements were forgeries. He further requested monetary damages for fraud, slander of title, and attorney's fees. On July 15, 2015, the chancellor heard Frisby's motion to dismiss and motion to deny stay of eviction, ultimately denying both of Frisby's motions. The chancellor also transferred the justice court eviction action and consolidated it with Warden's enforcement-of-contract action in the chancery court.

         ¶4. On August 2, 2016, and September 8, 2016, the chancellor held a hearing on the consolidated matter. Warden introduced duplicates of the three alleged contracts and called four witnesses, including Frisby as an adverse witness. Frisby called six witnesses, including an expert in forensic document examination. At the close of the testimony, the chancellor verbally ordered Frisby to specifically perform on the three contracts and ordered Warden, based on the amounts previously paid pursuant to the contracts, to pay $11, 300 as full and final payment toward the purchase price of the property. A final judgment reflecting her verbal order was entered on October 4, 2016. Aggrieved, Frisby filed an unsuccessful motion for reconsideration and to set aside the judgment.

         ¶5. Frisby timely appeals from the final judgment and denial of his motion for reconsideration. Frisby raises five issues: (1) whether the chancellor erred in allowing duplicates of the handwritten documents into evidence; (2) whether the chancellor erred in placing the burden of proof on Frisby to prove his fraud allegation; (3) whether Warden carried his burden of proof; (4) whether the chancellor erred in finding that Warden detrimentally relied on Frisby's promise; and (5) whether Frisby presented sufficient evidence to prevail on his fraud claim.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6. This Court employs a limited standard of review in reviewing a chancellor's decision. Reddell v. Reddell, 696 So.2d 287, 288 (Miss. 1997). Thus, the chancellor's findings of fact will not be disturbed upon review unless they were manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, or the chancellor applied the wrong legal standard. Powell v. Meyer, 203 So.3d 648, 652 (¶16) (Miss. Ct. App. 2016). Further, the "standard of review for the trial court's admission or suppression of evidence, including expert testimony, is abuse of discretion." Tunica Cty. v. Matthews, 926 So.2d 209, ...


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