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Carmody v. Garnett

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

April 2, 2019

VICTOR W. CARMODY JR. AND VICTOR W. CARMODY III APPELLANTS
v.
ERIN CHRISTA GARNETT APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/05/2018

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

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: KEVIN THOMAS STEWART

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: P. SHAWN HARRIS

         EN BANC.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. Victor Carmody Jr. and Victor Carmody III (Tripp) (collectively, the Carmodys) filed a complaint against Erin Christa Garnett (Christa) in the Madison County County Court for replevin of personal property. Through court-ordered mediation, the parties reached a settlement agreement and signed a "Mutual Release" setting forth the terms of their agreement. In a subsequent bench ruling, the county court granted the Carmodys' motion to enforce the settlement agreement. However, the county court then denied the Carmodys' motion to hold Christa in contempt. The Carmodys filed an unsuccessful motion to reconsider. On appeal, the Madison County Circuit Court upheld the denial of the Carmodys' motion for contempt. Finding no error in the circuit court's judgment, we affirm.

         FACTS

         ¶2. The Carmodys filed a complaint for replevin of certain personal property they claimed was in Christa's possession. The Carmodys' complaint also sought a judgment of conversion and monetary damages against Christa for any of the personal property not recoverable through replevin. In "Exhibit A" attached to their complaint, the Carmodys provided a spreadsheet with a description of each item at issue as well as the item's purported value, owner, and last known location. Christa answered the Carmodys' complaint and filed a counterclaim for replevin, conversion, quantum meruit, and unjust enrichment. In response to the Carmodys' motion under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) to partially dismiss her counterclaims for replevin and conversion, Christa filed an amended answer and counterclaim.

         ¶3. After a September 28, 2016 hearing on the parties' respective replevin claims, the county court ordered the parties to attempt a resolution through mediation. During mediation the parties settled all their claims and entered into a mutual release that set forth the terms of their agreed settlement. After being advised of the parties' settlement, the county court entered an agreed order on October 31, 2016, to dismiss all claims with prejudice. On December 2, 2016, the Carmodys filed a motion seeking enforcement of the settlement, attorney's fees, sanctions, and an expedited hearing. In the motion, the Carmodys asserted that they had returned all of Christa's personal property to her but that she had refused to return their personal property. The Carmodys included an itemized list of the property they contended Christa had refused to return.

         ¶4. On December 14, 2016, the county court heard argument on the Carmodys' motion, and, from the bench, the court ordered Christa to return the remaining items to the Carmodys within forty-eight hours. In a subsequent motion for contempt filed on January 3, 2017, the Carmodys alleged that Christa only returned some of the items identified in their December 2, 2016 motion. The Carmodys provided a new list that purportedly identified twenty-four items or categories of items not yet returned. The Carmodys estimated the value of the outstanding items to be $11, 028. They asked the court to hold Christa in contempt until she either returned the remaining items or paid them the items' value. In addition, the Carmodys asked that the court award them attorney's fees.

         ¶5. Following a hearing, the county court entered an April 11, 2017 judgment on the Carmodys' contempt motion. With regard to the items the Carmodys asserted Christa still had not returned, the county court referenced the parties' mutual release. The mutual release included a column entitled "Christa." The county court found the column reflected Christa's apparent position as to each item's location prior to the mediation. The court further found the information provided in the mutual release supported Christa's testimony that she was unfamiliar with some of the listed items, had returned all the items in her possession of which she had any knowledge, and did not have any of the items at issue. The court further concluded "there were a few items listed in the [m]otion for [c]ontempt that were not specifically identified on Exhibit 'A' to the [m]utual [r]elease." Based on its findings, the court denied the contempt motion.

         ¶6. Following the denial of their motion to reconsider, the Carmodys appealed to the circuit court. The circuit court upheld the county court's denial of the motion for contempt. Aggrieved, the Carmodys appeal to this Court.

         STANDARD ...


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