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AquaSeal Resurfacing LLC v. Jefcoat Recreation and Construction Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 26, 2019

AQUASEAL RESURFACING LLC APPELLANT
v.
JEFCOAT RECREATION AND CONSTRUCTION INC. AND DOYLE JEFCOAT APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/12/2017

          RANKIN COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. STEVE S. RATCLIFF III

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: SCOTT WELLS

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: CATOUCHE JUDGE BODY GLENN S. SWARTZFAGER

         EN BANC.

          McDONALD, J.

         ¶1. AquaSeal Resurfacing LLC appeals the Rankin County Circuit Court's judgment affirming the County Court of Rankin County's dismissal of the enrollment and enforcement of an Ohio judgment rendered against a Mississippi corporation, Jefcoat Recreation and Construction Inc., and resident, Doyle Jefcoat. Finding no error in the circuit court's ruling, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. Jefcoat Recreation and Construction is a Mississippi corporation domiciled in Pearl, Mississippi. Its Director and Vice President, Doyle Jefcoat, is a Mississippi resident.[1]AquaSeal is an Ohio limited liability company, domiciled in Louisville, Ohio. AquaSeal is one of only a few authorized distributers and installers of PolySoft water safety surfacing material in the United States.

         ¶3. PolySoft introduced the parties to one another in May of 2012. However, they had no business dealings with each other until October 17, 2012. At that time, AquaSeal received an email from Jefcoat asking for price quotes for PolySoft that Jefcoat planned to use in the construction of a splash pad.[2] After several email exchanges, Jefcoat decided to purchase the product directly from the manufacturer and contracted with AquaSeal only to train Jefcoat employees in the installation of material. The negotiations and ultimate contract were accomplished through phone, email, and facsimile.

         ¶4. The scant one-page contract contains the fees per trainer and states that payment is due upon receipt of the invoice. It contains no choice of forum for resolution of disputes nor does it identify what state's law would apply. Doyle signed the contract in Mississippi; AquaSeal signed in Ohio.

         ¶5. Neither Doyle nor Jefcoat owns any property in Ohio. None of Jefcoat's employees, representatives, or directors live there. Jefcoat had no office in Ohio and it was not registered to do business there. Jefcoat had no prior or subsequent business dealings with AquaSeal or any other Ohio entity.

         ¶6. AquaSeal's trainers made three trips to Biloxi to train Jefcoat employees. It sent three invoices for these sessions but Jefcoat paid only one. AquaSeal sued Jefcoat in Ohio for the unpaid invoices. Although served, Jefcoat did not answer, so AquaSeal obtained a default judgment for $34, 017.43.[3]

         ¶7. AquaSeal subsequently enrolled its judgment in the Rankin County court. Jefcoat responded and argued that the judgment was void for lack of personal jurisdiction. The parties briefed the issues and submitted affidavits of Doyle Jefcoat and George Coon, the owner and managing member of AquaSeal.

         ¶8. The county court ultimately held that Jefcoat did not have sufficient contacts with AquaSeal to be haled into an Ohio court. It set the default judgment aside and struck it from the circuit clerk's records.

         ¶9. AquaSeal appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the county court's judgment. AquaSeal now appeals to this Court.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶10. The standard of review for questions of law, such as questions concerning personal jurisdiction of courts, is de novo. Patriot Commercial Leasing Co. v. Jerry Enis ...


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