Meridian Star

May 3, 2013

Miss. high court upholds award in civil case

The Associated Press
Associated Press

JACKSON — The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled that Mona Cates must pay $41,495 to Elizabeth Swain for using her former companion's money to invest in property.

The justices upheld a DeSoto County judge's decision that Cates had been unjustly enriched by Swain's contributions.

Cates and Swain split in March 2006 after nearly six years together. Swain sued Cates seeking reimbursement for investments made in property during their partnership, according to court documents.

The DeSoto Chancery Court ruled in 2010 that Swain should be able to recoup the equity from her Florida home, the closing costs from a Tate County home and the cost of carpeting the same house. That ruling was overturned by the state Court of Appeals in 2012.

The Supreme Court on Thursday restored the chancery court's decision.

According to court documents, Cates used $34,000 of Swain's money to purchase a home, which she later sold at a $109,000 profit. Rather than dividing the money with Swain, Cates took all the profits — plus another $9,495 from Swain — to purchase and carpet another home in Tate County, which she titled exclusively in her name.

The Supreme Court said the chancellor "sought, as much as the evidence would allow, to restore the status quo and return the parties to the positions they had occupied before the transactions."

"This court has held that an unjust-enrichment award may consist of a refund, if that is equitable. We conclude that the chancellor did not abuse his discretion in awarding Swain a refund, a form of restitution," Justice David Anthony Chandler wrote for the court.