HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Hattiesburg will not receive any of an insurance settlement following February 2013's EF-4 tornado that damaged buildings on the property.
A federal judge ruled Monday the State Bank of Texas, the mortgage lender for the church, will receive the full $1,693,035.31 settlement from GuideOne Elite Insurance Company.
The suit states three parties claimed an interest in the proceeds: Mount Carmel, the policyholder and mortagagor; State Bank of Texas, successor-in-interest to Seaway and mortgagee; and Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC, and The May Law Firm, PLLC, counsel for Mount Carmel in the insurance dispute.
"In summary, Mount Carmel agreed both in its contract of insurance and in the deed of trust securing its mortgage that Seaway - or its assigns or successors - would receive any insurance proceeds," U.S District Court Mississippi Southern District Judge Keith Starrett wrote in the opinion and order filed on January 22, 2018.
The City of Hattiesburg closed three roads surrounding Mount Carmel Baptist Church in July after code enforcement said the building was in danger of collapse. The State Bank of Texas said the bank would not allocate any additional resources to make the property no longer a threat to public safety.
In a public hearing prior to demolition of the building, Pastor Gabriel Bobbett apologized to the city and the community that repairs had not been made to the church and said the legal battles had kept those repairs, and funding for them, from happening. "It didn't get to the point because Mount Carmel wanted it to get to this point, it got to this point because the legal systems that didn't work in favor of Mount Carmel for whatever reasons," Bobbett said.
The city began demolition on one of the church's buildings in October. It cost the city over close to $340,000.
"The record evidence indicates that the FDIC transferred the mortgage to State Bank on January 27, 2017, and neither Mount Carmel nor Jernigan Copeland have offered any evidence to the contrary," wrote Judge Starrett.