Monday, March 25, 2013

Thomas v. Harrah’s Vicksburg Corp. case brief

Thomas v. Harrah’s Vicksburg Corp. case brief
734 So. 2d 312 (Miss. Ct. App. 1999)

Plaintiff property owner and plaintiff lessee corporation appealed from the Warren County Circuit Court (Mississippi) which awarded nominal damages to plaintiff lessee corporation, and found that only defendant construction company was liable for trespass. The trial court overruled plaintiffs' motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, in the alternative for additur or, in the alternative for a new trial, and plaintiffs appealed.

-In 1993, the City of Vicksburg entered into a land sale agreement with Harrah's regarding certain property then owned by the City and other privately owned property that would be acquired by the City and transferred to Harrah's.
-After unsuccessful purchase negotiations with Thomas, the City instituted eminent domain proceedings against Thomas for the property.
-Having previously begun construction of its gambling facility, Harrah's continued in this regard during the pendency of the eminent domain litigation.
-Thomas and Surplus repeatedly asked Harrah's and Yates to refrain from trespassing on the Thomas/Surplus property; however, these requests were ignored by Harrah's and Yates.
-After realizing that his attempts to protect his property from trespass clearly were futile, Thomas instituted this litigation in Warren County Chancery Court in September 1993, seeking to enjoin Harrah's and Yates from trespassing on the subject property.

OVERVIEW: Plaintiff landowner and plaintiff lessee corporation appealed from a determination that defendant construction company was liable only for nominal damages for trespass. The reviewing court affirmed in part, reversed in part, rendered, and remanded in part.

The court affirmed as to the issue of trespass against defendant construction company, reversed and rendered on the issue of trespass as to plaintiff lessee corporation by both defendants, and remanded for further proceedings on the issue of damages suffered by plaintiff lessee corporation.

The court found that plaintiff landowner was entitled to no damages because he was a lessor out of possession. The jury's award of nominal damages was reversed and remanded. The damage suffered by plaintiff lessee corporation was more than nominal in character and both defendants were responsible for the harm. The court remanded the award of nominal damages with instructions to enter a judgment of actual damages for plaintiff lessee corporation against both defendants, jointly and severally. The court directed the trial court to consider the possibility of punitive damages on remand.

OUTCOME: Judgment that defendant contractor was liable for trespass on plaintiff lessee corporation's leased land was affirmed. However, the court found that both defendants were liable and the award of merely nominal damages was reversed, and the trial court was directed on remand to award actual damages against both defendants, and to consider punitive damages.

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