Appeals court affirms Itawamba County decision

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – A $40,000 chancery court award over Itawamba County property was upheld Tuesday by the Mississippi Court of Appeals.
In a 9-0 vote, the court said Varnell Lewis’ half interest to the property was valid despite Howard Hall’s will change to leave it to his children.
After a 2011 trial, Chancellor Jacqueline Mask ruled that Hall’s contract with Lewis for property interests entitled her to half its value, when he decided to terminate their 1999 agreement six years after it was made.
Lewis sued Hall in 2007 after he stopped her from moving a mobile home onto the property.
Writing for the court, Judge David Ishee said Mask’s decision was correct and cited the final sentence of their agreement, which stated “a suit for damages for the value of the property” could ensue if the agreement were violated.
Hall claimed he didn’t sign the contract, but Ishee noted it and their wills – bequeathing the property to each other upon the other party’s death – were prepared by an attorney, and witnessed and notarized by a paralegal.
Court of Appeals decisions still may be appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Also Tuesday, the court ruled on two other regional cases:
• Affirmed the Lowndes Circuit Court decision for Dr. Gregory Nunez, who was sued on behalf of Curtis Boyd for medical malpractice.
After Judge James T. Kitchens Jr. excluded a Boyd expert, Nunez contended Boyd could not prove his malpractice claims. The judge agreed, granted Boyd’s motion for final judgment, then denied Boyd’s request for reconsideration.
Boyd appealed to the Court of Appeals, which discounted all his issues for the appeal with a 4-3 vote. The minority said it would reverse and send the lawsuit back for more proceedings.
• Reversed and decided part, and reversed and returned part to Oktibbeha County Chancery Court for the domestic relations lawsuit of Steve E. Hollis versus Myra Hollis Baker.
The issue addressed was whether a provision in a property settlement is alimony subject to end if one party remarries. The couple divorced in 2003 and Baker was granted child support and alimony. In 2010, Hollis asked to end payments when Baker remarried and their child reached age 24. Chancellor Kenneth Burns denied the end of alimony without a provision in their divorce agreement, then he denied reconsideration.
Later, Hollis was found to be in arrears for various provisions of their agreement and found in contempt of court. He filed bankruptcy in 2006. Issues of back payments and fees continued. The court denied their motions to reconsider their financial arrangements.
In 2011, Hollis appealed and Baker cross-appealed.
Judge Larry Roberts, writing for the 4-3 majority, said when the chancery court modified Baker’s alimony, it became subject to modification. The court agreed Hollis could stop paying her because their agreement does not state it continues beyond remarriage. His contempt status for missed payments was voided.
The court also sent back to Burns the issue of how much Hollis owes Baker for back child support or other obligations.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com