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Dedeaux v. Coastal Developments Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 3, 2019

RUTH DEDEAUX APPELLANT
v.
COASTAL DEVELOPMENTS INC. APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/10/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. CARTER O. BISE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: MICHAEL JOSEPH YENTZEN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: WILLIAM W. DREHER JR.

          BEFORE BARNES, C.J., TINDELL AND McCARTY, JJ.

          TINDELL, J.

         ¶1. The Harrison County Circuit Court, First Judicial District, awarded Ruth Dedeaux a judgment against Coastal Developments Inc. (Coastal) for $33, 419.76 plus 8% annual interest and costs. After almost four years of accrued interest, Dedeaux's judgment against Coastal amounted to $44, 113.84. To satisfy the judgment, Dedeaux obtained a writ of execution directing the sheriff to conduct a sale of four parcels of Coastal's land. Dedeaux purchased the four parcels at the sheriff's sale for $20, 000. She later sold three of the parcels to third parties for $76, 500.

         ¶2. Coastal filed a complaint to set aside the conveyances. The Harrison County Chancery Court, First Judicial District, found that Dedeaux's winning bid of $20, 000 was unconscionably low compared to the parcels' fair market value. The chancellor therefore ordered Dedeaux to pay Coastal $32, 386.16 as reimbursement for the overage amount she received in selling the three parcels for $76, 500 and to convey the fourth unsold parcel back to Coastal. Dedeaux appeals the chancellor's judgment on the grounds that (1) Coastal came before the chancellor with unclean hands; (2) the judgment was unsupported by Mississippi caselaw; (3) the judgment improperly awarded Coastal multiple inconsistent remedies; and (4) the judgment improperly punished Dedeaux.

         ¶3. Upon review, we affirm the portion of the chancellor's judgment ordering Dedeaux to convey the unsold parcel to Coastal and to reimburse Coastal for any surplus resulting from the sales contracts. We find, however, that the chancellor erred in calculating the reimbursement amount that Dedeaux owed Coastal. In determining the parcels' fair market value, the chancellor relied only on the total sales price of $76, 500 for the three parcels that Dedeaux sold to third parties. The chancellor's valuation failed to take into account, however, the $9, 458.63 in expenses that Dedeaux paid during the real-estate closings. After subtracting from $76, 500 both Dedeaux's $9, 458.63 in real-estate expenses and her $44, 113.84 prior judgment against Coastal, we find that her surplus only amounted to $22, 927.53. We therefore reverse the portion of the chancellor's judgment determining the reimbursement amount that Dedeaux owed Coastal and render a new monetary judgment in Coastal's favor for $22, 927.53.

         FACTS

         ¶4. On December 15, 2011, the circuit court awarded Dedeaux a judgment against Coastal for $33, 419.76 plus 8% annual interest and costs. To satisfy the judgment, Dedeaux sought a sheriff's sale of four parcels of real property owned by Coastal. As the highest bidder at the October 9, 2015 sheriff's sale, Dedeaux obtained the four parcels for $20, 000. Coastal claimed, however, that Dedeaux's winning bid amount "was less than the fair market value of even any one of the four parcels sold, and by caselaw was so inadequate so as to shock the conscience of the court."

         ¶5. On October 23, 2015, Dedeaux conveyed one of the parcels to Lester Ray and Danielle Mae McKelvin (the McKelvins) by warranty deed. On the same day, the McKelvins entered into a purchase-money mortgage with Dedeaux for $55, 196.03, as evidenced by a deed of trust executed to Dedeaux. Dedeaux conveyed a second parcel of land to Austin Alexander by warranty deed dated January 22, 2016, and a third parcel to John Neideffer by warranty deed dated March 16, 2016. The parties presented no evidence to show that Dedeaux ever sold the fourth parcel.

         ¶6. Coastal filed a complaint against Dedeaux, the McKelvins, Alexander, and Neideffer to set aside the warranty deeds. According to Coastal's complaint, the fact that the McKelvins entered into a purchase-money mortgage for more than twice the winning bid amount for all four of the parcels "clearly show[ed] the inadequacy of the original bid price and that . . . Dedeaux knew it was inadequate . . . ." Coastal also took issue with Dedeaux's failure to seek judicial confirmation of the sheriff's sale before she conveyed three of the parcels to third parties. Coastal therefore asked the chancellor to perform an audit of the sale and to (1) set aside some or all of the deeds; (2) award Coastal any sales proceeds over and above Dedeaux's judgment amount; or (3) declare that the judgment against Coastal had been satisfied.

         ¶7. Dedeaux moved for summary judgment. The McKelvins, Alexander, and Neideffer also collectively filed a motion for summary judgment. Coastal responded and filed its own summary-judgment motion. Following a hearing, the chancellor determined that $10, 694.08 (or about four years of interest) should be added to the prior judgment the circuit court had awarded Dedeaux. With the accrued interest factored in, Dedeaux's total judgment against Coastal now amounted to $44, 113.84. The chancellor denied the parties' various summary-judgment motions after finding that genuine issues of material fact remained due to the following: (1) no party had offered any coherent itemization of undisputed facts or time line of events; (2) the court had to engage in its own calculation as to the total amount Coastal owed Dedeaux; (3) the parties had failed to provide sales prices on the parcels conveyed to Alexander and Neideffer, which prevented a determination of the reasonableness of those sales; (4) a substantial dispute existed as to the fair market value of the properties at issue; (5) allegations existed as to whether the McKelvins, Alexander, and Neideffer were bona fide purchasers of the land for value without notice; and (6) no evidence had been provided as to Coastal's location on the date of the sheriff's sale.

         ¶8. On March 2, 2017, the chancellor entered a final judgment to dismiss the McKelvins, Alexander, and Neideffer from the litigation. The chancellor noted that Coastal had moved for the dismissal and that the parties had advised the court of their agreement to the dismissal. As a result, the chancellor dismissed with prejudice Coastal's claims against the McKelvins, Alexander, and Neideffer, which included any claims related to the ...


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