OF JUDGMENT: 05/26/2017
PRENTISS COUNTY CHANCERY COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JACQUELINE
COURT ATTORNEYS: JOHN A. FERRELLWALTER ALAN DAVIS COURT
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: WALTER ALAN DAVIS
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JOHN A. FERRELL
Dr. Christopher Cummins-a married man who was separated but
not divorced from his wife-began a romantic relationship with
one of his employees, Leah Jordan Goolsby (Jordan). The two
began living together, had a child, and became engaged to one
another. But Dr. Cummins never divorced his wife. And he and
Jordan never married. Jordan eventually ended their
relationship and kept the engagement ring and wedding ring he
gave her. When Jordan filed a paternity suit for
child-support payments for their child, Dr. Cummins
counterclaimed for the rings, which together were worth $11,
435. Alternatively, he argued that if Jordan was awarded the
rings, their value should be deducted from any child-support
The chancellor found Dr. Cummins had made a completed inter
vivos gift. So she awarded the rings to Jordan. The
chancellor found that the rings were not a conditional gift,
because the condition of marriage was not met, since Dr.
Cummins had remained married to his wife. The chancellor
certified the ruling on the ring issue as a final judgment,
and Dr. Cummins appealed.
After review, we agree the fatal fact to Dr. Cummins's
claim was his marriage to another woman. Because Dr. Cummins
could not legally marry at the time he gave the engagement
rings, he cannot argue to a court of equity that he is
entitled to get the rings back, since the condition of
marriage never took place. Because Dr. Cummins has no right
to recover the rings due to his unclean hands, we affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
Jordan started working at Dr. Cummins's medical practice
in July 2013. In August, although he was married but
separated from his wife, he and Jordan became romantically
involved and moved in together. The couple then had a child
on June 29, 2015. All during this time, Dr. Cummins's
divorce was supposedly pending but never was finalized.
Still, he had given Jordan an engagement ring and a wedding
ring allegedly worth $11, 435. ¶5. But Dr. Cummins
remained married to his wife and failed to get a divorce. So
Jordan broke off the engagement in September 2016. Jordan
also claimed that she no longer wished to marry Dr. Cummins
"based upon his erratic and abusive conduct and the
decision to break off the engagement was mutual."
On March 1, 2017, Jordan filed a petition to establish
paternity, among other relief, for her and Dr. Cummins's
child. On April 21, 2017, Dr. Cummins responded and filed a
counterclaim for return of the rings. Alternatively, he
asserted he was entitled to a credit for the rings' value
against any financial obligation he might be ordered to pay.
The Prentiss County Chancery Court heard arguments on Dr.
Cummins's counterclaim on May 15, 2017. Dr. Cummins
argued that, under Cooley v. Tucker, the rings were
a conditional gift, and the condition-marriage-was never met.
See Cooley v. Tucker, 200 So.3d 474 (Miss. Ct. App.
2016). Thus, Dr. Cummins argued the gift was incomplete and
the rings should be returned to him. Jordan countered that
when Dr. Cummins gave her the rings, the condition could not
be met because he was still married to his wife. In fact, he
was still married at the May 15, 2017 hearing.
The chancellor ruled that when Dr. Cummins gave the rings to
Jordan, the condition to marry could not be completed because
he remained married to his wife. Therefore, Jordan was
awarded the rings as a completed inter vivos gift. The trial
court entered its Rule 54(b) Final Judgment on Limited Issue
the next day. Dr. Cummins filed his Notice of Appeal on June