CHRISTIANA TRUST AS CUSTODIAN GSRANZ LLC DEPOSIT ACCOUNT APPELLANT
MEGAN A. CIOTA APPELLEE
OF JUDGMENT: 05/24/2018
FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CHANCERY COURT, FIRST
JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JENNIFER T. SCHLOEGEL
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM ALEX BRADY II MICHELLE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: LEWIE G. "SKIP" NEGROTTO IV
CARLTON, P.J., GREENLEE AND TINDELL, JJ.
Christiana Trust as Custodian GSRAN-Z LLC Deposit Account
(Christiana Trust) appeals the Harrison County Chancery
Court's order voiding its tax-sale purchase of real
property. On appeal, Christiana Trust argues that the
chancery clerk's notice by publication met the statutory
requirements of Mississippi Code Annotated section 27-43-3
(Rev. 2017). Christiana Trust asserts that the chancellor
therefore erred in voiding the tax sale and setting aside the
chancery clerk's conveyance to Christiana Trust.
After our review, we find that the chancery clerk's
notice by publication failed to strictly comply with the
statutory requirements of section 27-43-3. We therefore
affirm the chancellor's judgment voiding the tax sale and
setting aside the chancery clerk's conveyance to
Christiana Trust, and we remand the issue of statutory
damages for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
DDD Properties LLC executed a warranty deed conveying the
real property located at 116 Poplar Point, Pass Christian,
Mississippi, to Christopher B. Schultz and his wife, Megan A.
Ciota. The warranty deed lists Schultz and Ciota
as "Christopher B. Schultz and wife, Megan A.
Ciota." However, the Real Property Tax Rolls for
Harrison County lists Schultz and Ciota as "Schultz
Christopher B & Megan A C."
Schultz and Ciota failed to pay ad valorem taxes on the
property for the 2013 tax year. As a result, Christiana Trust
acquired the property at a tax sale held on August 25, 2014.
After a landowner's property is sold at a tax sale,
section 27-43-3 requires the chancery clerk to notify the
landowner that her property will be forfeited unless
redeemed. Section 27-43-3 sets forth that such redemption
notice must be provided by the following methods: (1)
personal service, (2) certified or registered mail,
and (3) appropriate newspaper publication.
Campbell Props. Inc. v. Cook, 258 So.3d 273, 277
(¶11) (Miss. 2018).
The record reflects that Ciota is a Louisiana resident. On
March 31, 2016, the chancery clerk sent Ciota a notice of
forfeiture via certified mail to her New Orleans
address. The notice was addressed to "Schultz
Megan A C." The record shows that Ciota received and
signed for this notice on April 2, 2016. The chancery clerk
also published notice of forfeiture in the Sun Herald
newspaper in the name of "Schultz Christopher B &
Megan A C." Per the requirements set forth in section
27-43-3, the notice mailed to Ciota and the notice by
publication contained a legal description of the land.
Ciota failed to redeem the property within the statutory
period. See Miss. Code Ann. § 27-45-3 (Rev.
2017) (owner may redeem land sold for taxes at any time
within two years after the day of sale by paying the chancery
clerk the amount of the taxes for which the land was sold).
On October 21, 2016, after the redemption period expired, the
chancery clerk executed an instrument conveying the subject
property to Christiana Trust.
On November 18, 2016, Christiana Trust filed a complaint to
quiet and confirm title to the property. Ciota was served
with process by certified mail at her residence in Louisiana
on December 12, 2016. After Ciota failed to file a timely
answer or appear, Christiana Trust obtained a clerk's
entry of default against Ciota pursuant to Mississippi Rule
of Civil Procedure 55(a). On January 16, 2017, Christiana
Trust filed a motion for a default judgment against Ciota.
On April 21, 2017, Ciota filed her answer and counterclaim
seeking to set aside the tax sale. Christiana Trust moved to
strike Ciota's responsive pleadings as untimely. Ciota
then filed a motion to set aside the clerk's entry of
In her motion to set aside the entry of default, Ciota
asserted that on June 9, 2016, she mailed a check in the
amount of $10, 400 to the Harrison County Tax Collector in an
attempt to redeem her 2013 and 2014 taxes. Ciota stated that
the tax collector returned her check rather than forwarding
it to the chancery clerk. Ciota attached to her motion the
check for $10, 400 and a letter from the tax collector
explaining that he was returning her check because she owed
money for her 2013 taxes. The letter stated that the tax
collector could not accept payment for the 2014 taxes until
Ciota paid her 2013 taxes in the chancery clerk's office.
The letter also directed Ciota to contact the chancery
On July 11, 2017, Ciota filed a motion for a declaratory
judgment and a motion for summary judgment. In her motion for
a declaratory judgment, Ciota sought a declaration from the
chancery court stating that no statutory interest would
accrue after June 9, 2016 (the date that Ciota mailed a check
to the tax collector "to redeem her property").
Alternatively, Ciota sought a declaration that no statutory
interest would accrue after June 12, 2017 (the date that
Ciota's attorney "sent a letter to [Christiana
Trust's] counsel providing payment in an amount
sufficient to pay for statutory interest accrued as of June
2017"). In her motion for summary judgment, Ciota argued
that the ...