A decade-long court battle over an antique truck ended with a Mississippi Supreme Court’s decision on Thursday that the former owner shouldn’t have to pay a garage owner’s contested storage fees, but that the truck was worth a lot less than he claimed.
“This case involves the final months in the long life of a venerable antique truck,” justices wrote of the disputed ownership of the 1949 International KB 3/4-ton truck.
The saga began in 2006, when Robert Stratton delivered the truck to John Shivers’ shop in Liberty for restoration. Shivers told Stratton he wouldn’t charge him anything to store the vehicle.
Jerry McKey bought the business in 2009 without Stratton’s knowledge, and the truck stayed on the property for two years. When Stratton learned the business was sold, he called McKey and asked for his truck, but McKey insisted on an $880 storage fee and Stratton sued.
McKey eventually sold the truck and an Amite County circuit court judge ordered him to pay Stratton $350 — the value of the truck minus storage fees.
In December 2016, the Mississippi Court of Appeals patrially reversed the circuit court order, noting that Stratton was entitled to the truck and that the court erred by awarding storage fees to McKey.
In February 2017, Stratton filed a motion claiming that McKey was withholding the truck. In March of that year, Stratton filed suit for damages, and McKey counter-sued for the storage fees. The circuit court denied both claims.
Stratton appealed again, challenging the amount of damages the circuit court originally awarded McKey for storage. Stratton also said the circuit court’s valuation of the truck was wrong. He also claimed McKey should have been held in contempt for selling the vehicle, and he believed the circuit court erred in granting McKey’s counterclaim for storage fees.
Stratton said the vehicle was worth between $15,000 to $20,000 — if it were fully restored — but the justices felt the $1,350 assessment was fair.
The Supreme Court said Stratton’s argument for holding McKey in contempt did not hold water, noting that the law that Stratton invoked pertains to disposing of property before trial, not after.
Stratton also claimed the circuit court erred in granting McKey storage fees.
The supreme court sided with Stratton, noting that did apply to his counterclaim on the storage fees outside of the three-year statute of limitations, because McKey asked for the fees from the two years the truck was originally there before Stratton’s knew the business had been sold.
The supreme court reversed McKey’s award of $1,000 in storage fees, but did not agree that the truck was worth significantly more than $1,350. Justices also would not rule that McKey was in contempt for holding the vehicle or selling it.