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City of Horn Lake v. Sass Muni-V, LLC

Supreme Court of Mississippi

June 7, 2018

CITY OF HORN LAKE, MISSISSIPPI, JOEY TREADWAY, TAX COLLECTOR OF DeSOTO COUNTY; PARKER PICKLE, TAX ASSESSOR OF DeSOTO COUNTY; W.E. DAVIS, DeSOTO COUNTY CHANCERY CLERK; AND DeSOTO COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI
v.
SASS MUNI-V, LLC

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/02/2016

          DeSOTO COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. MITCHELL M. LUNDY, JR.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: JOSEPH DAVID NEYMAN, JR. RAYMOND SPENCER CLIFT, III SHANNON LORENE WILEY

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: BILLY C. CAMPBELL, JR. ROBERT E. QUIMBY

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: LEWIE G. “SKIP” NEGROTTO, IV

          BEFORE KITCHENS, P.J., KING AND COLEMAN, JJ.

          COLEMAN, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. The City of Horn Lake and DeSoto County filed the present appeal after the DeSoto County Chancery Court granted Sass Muni-V, LLC's (Sass Muni's) motion for summary judgment. The result of the chancery court's decision voided a 2008 tax sale at which Sass Muni purchased some property in DeSoto County and also refunded Sass Muni the purchase price of $530, 508. Due to the clear and unambiguous language of Mississippi Code Section 27-43-3, the chancery clerk's failure to give proper notice of the tax sale renders the sale void. Therefore, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. For the year 2007, the City and County levied taxes on a piece of property located in DeSoto County in the amount of $520, 508. When the property owners did not pay the taxes, the property was offered for a tax sale by public auction on August 25, 2008. Sass Muni was the successful bidder for the property with a bid of $530, 508. The two-year redemption period expired without the prior owners redeeming the property. However, a year after the redemption period expired, Sass Muni filed its complaint in the DeSoto County Chancery Court, asking for the tax sale to be declared void and for the purchase price to be refunded.

         ¶3. The City and the County filed motions to dismiss, and the chancery court granted the motions because Sass Muni lacked standing to challenge the tax sale and on the principle of caveat emptor. Sass Muni appealed the chancery court's judgment; we subsequently issued a unanimous opinion reversing the chancery court's judgment. SASS Muni-V, LLC v. DeSoto Cty., 170 So.3d 441, 449 (¶ 24) (Miss. 2015). The Court wrote that "[t]his Court has never addressed whether a party who is not entitled to notice- SASS, in this case-may nevertheless challenge the validity of the tax sale based on lack of notice to another party." Id. at 446 (¶ 15). The Court went on to say that "SASS simply challenges the chancery clerk's actual compliance with the notice procedure required by law. The chancery clerk's failure to comply with the notice requirements renders the sale void, not simply voidable by the property owner, and the commencement of a cause of action is not even necessary to set aside the sale." Id. at 448 (¶ 18). The Court held that Sass Muni did have standing because "SASS's interest in the validity of its title to the property gives it standing to challenge the chancery clerk's compliance with the notice statutes." Id. at 449 (¶ 21). Finally, the Court held:

SASS, as the purchaser of the property in question at a tax sale, has standing to bring a suit to set aside the sale due to the chancery clerk's failure to comply with the tax-sale notice statutes. In addition, the doctrine of caveat emptor does not bar SASS's suit, as the tax-sale statutes specifically provide for the remedy SASS seeks.

Id. at 449 (¶ 24).

         ¶4. On remand, the parties filed dueling motions for summary judgment, and the chancery court heard oral arguments on the motions. In its written opinion, the chancery court quoted our opinion, in which we stated that "[t]he chancery clerk's failure to comply with those requirements renders the sale void, not simply voidable by the property owner, and the commencement of a cause of action is not even necessary to set aside the sale." SASS Muni-V, LLC v. DeSoto Cty., 170 So.3d at 448 (ΒΆ 18). The chancery court explained that Sass Muni was entitled to receive the same strict construction of the statutes related to tax-sale notice ...


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