Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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Dr. Roger Weiner brought a malicious-prosecution claim against Health Management Associates Inc. and Teena Rowe. Weiner was prosecuted in federal district court for violating the Mann Act; he sought dismissal of the charges, alleging that the interstate-commerce element was not met. The district court dismissed the charges for lack of federal jurisdiction, stating that “the federal nexus to interstate commerce necessary to create federal jurisdiction simply is not present in the case at bar.” The order stated that dismissal was jurisdictional and that “[i]n this case the court is not ruling on whether prostitution was never discussed and would never have been engaged in. If state or local prosecutorial authorities want to pursue a state law prosecution of solicitation of prostitution, that is their prerogative.” Weiner based his malicious-prosecution claim on the federal district court’s dismissal of his criminal prosecution. Health Management Associates Inc. and Teena Rowe filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the malicious-prosecution claim, arguing that a jurisdictional dismissal is not a favorable termination for the purposes of a malicious-prosecution claim. The trial court agreed. Later, with a new trial judge on the bench, Weiner asked for reconsideration. The trial court reconsidered and reversed the former judge’s order. Health Management Associates Inc. and Rowe appealed. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded the judgment of the trial court, holding that it erred in denying the partial summary-judgment motion. View "Health Management Associates, Inc. v. Weiner" on Justia Law

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Timothy Hinton died from injuries sustained in a fall from a tree stand. At the time of his fall, Timothy was wearing a fall-arrest system which included a full-body harness, tether and tree strap. Timothy had purchased the tree stand and fall-arrest system from The Sportsman’s Guide, Inc. (“TSG”), in 2009. C&S Global Imports, Inc. (“C&S”) had manufactured the items and marketed them to TSG. Pekin Insurance Company insured C&S at the time of Timothy’s injury and death. After filing their third amended complaint, the Hintons filed a motion for partial summary judgment against Pekin, claiming Pekin waived its defenses to coverage or should have been estopped from asserting any coverage defenses. Among other arguments, the Hintons maintained that Pekin failed to defend C&S, did not file a declaratory-judgment action and allowed a default judgment against C&S. The circuit court denied the Hintons’ motion. Pekin then moved for summary judgment, arguing the insurance policy excluded coverage for tree or deer stands and related equipment. The circuit court granted Pekin’s motion and entered a final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. The Hintons appealed both of the circuit court’s rulings. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the order denying partial summary judgment to the Hintons, the order granting summary judgment to Pekin and the final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. View "Hinton v. Pekin Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of state law to the Mississippi Supreme Court pertaining to an incident at Omega Protein Corporation’s (Omega) facility that resulted in the death of an employee of Accu-Fab & Construction, Inc. (Accu-Fab). Although Colony Insurance Company (Colony) continually maintained that it did not insure Omega, Colony negotiated and paid a settlement claim under a reservation of rights on Omega’s behalf. Because Colony took the position that it had no duty to defend Omega at all, the district court concluded that Mississippi’s voluntary-payment doctrine precluded Colony’s claims for equitable subrogation and implied indemnity. Pursuant to Mississippi case-law, an insurer is barred from seeking indemnity for a voluntary payment. In order to recover, the indemnitee must prove that it both paid under compulsion and that it was legally liable to the person injured. The question certified from the federal court posited whether an insurer acts under “compulsion” if it takes the legal position that an entity purporting to be its insured is not covered by its policy, but nonetheless pays the settlement demand in good faith to avoid potentially greater liability that could arise from a future coverage determination, and whether the insurer satisfies the “legal duty” standard if it makes such a payment. The Supreme Court found an insurer does not act under compulsion if it takes the legal position that an entity purporting to be its insured is not covered by its policy but nonetheless pays a settlement demand in good faith to avoid potentially greater liability that could arise from a future coverage determination. Because the first certified question is dispositive, the Court declined to address the second certified question. View "Colony Insurance Company v. First Specialty Insurance Corporation" on Justia Law

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Helen Schroeder appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the Estate of Harry Schroeder, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that the Estate was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the grounds of release, res judicata, and accord and satisfaction. A log truck driven by Royce Sullivan collided with the rear of an automobile being driven by Harry Schroeder, who had just pulled his car onto a highway. Harry died as a result of the accident; his wife, Helen (a passenger in her husband’s car) suffered severe injuries, permanent disability, and diminished mental capacity. Helen, both individually, and as one of Harry’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, sued Sullivan in federal court, alleging that Sullivan’s negligence had caused Harry’s death and her permanent disability. Sullivan moved for summary judgment at the close of discovery, arguing that the uncontradicted evidence established Harry’s negligence as the sole cause of the accident. In denying summary judgment, the federal judge stated that the evidence created a jury question as to Sullivan’s fault, and that “plaintiffs do not appear to dispute Harry Schroeder’s potential contributory negligence.” The parties settled and agreed to a release of claims, and the district court dismissed the case. Following the settlement agreement, release, and subsequent dismissal of the action against Sullivan, Helen filed suit against Harry in Mississippi circuit court, alleging Harry negligently had failed to yield the right of way and pulled in front of Sullivan’s log truck at an extremely slow rate of speed, causing the accident which resulted in Helen’s permanent disability. Harry moved for summary judgment, arguing Helen pleaded facts in her complaint that were materially different from the facts she alleged in the federal court case, and that the state trial court should grant summary judgment based on the doctrines of judicial and equitable estoppel. Harry also argued the settlement and release of claims against Sullivan in federal court barred the circuit-court action under the doctrines of contractual release, accord and satisfaction, and res judicata. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Harry and found that Helen was judicially estopped from bringing a claim against Harry. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Harry again moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted it based on res judicata, accord and satisfaction and contractual release. Finding the trial court erred a second time in granting Harry's motion as to all three issues, the Supreme Court again reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Clark v. Neese" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose after Matthew DeForest petitioned for a Determination of Heirs-At-Law and Wrongful Death Beneficiaries following the death of his natural father, Jeff Underhill. Joe Alexander, Underhill’s brother, filed a responsive pleading to DeForest’s petition raising numerous affirmative defenses; however, the Chancery Court held in favor of DeForest. The Chancery Court entered a judgment declaring DeForest to be sole heir at law for the purpose of the pending wrongful death action. Finding no reversible error in the Chancery Court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Alexander v. DeForest" on Justia Law

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Tommie James Ivy Sr. filed an election contest against William Randle Jr. and the Democratic Executive Committee of the City of Okolona, Mississippi following the primary election of the Democratic nominee for the office of city marshall. A special tribunal rendered judgment in favor of Ivy, ordered a special election and excluded Randle from the special election. Randle appealed, and Ivy cross-appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the special tribunal properly determined that a special election was required but improperly held that Randle was excluded from being a candidate. View "Randle v. Ivy" on Justia Law

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The estate and beneficiaries of Charles Norman, Sr., appeal the trial court’s exclusion of Norman’s medical experts and grant of summary judgment in favor of Anderson Regional Medical Center. In 2011, Charles Norman, Sr., was admitted to Anderson Regional and underwent a cardiac catheterization with stent placement, which was performed by his cardiologist, Dr. Michael Purvis. Dr. Purvis performed the procedure without significant complication, and he expected to discharge Norman two days later. At some point during the overnight hours of December 13 to 14, 2011, Norman suffered an ischemic stroke. Norman’s wife complained to nursing staff that she observed symptoms of a stroke as early as 7:00 a.m. the next morning, which the nurses documented in Norman’s chart at 8:00 a.m. Neither Dr. Purvis nor any other medical doctor was notified of the stroke until much later in the day. By the time the doctors became aware of the stroke, the time frame within which a “clot-buster” drug used to restore blood flow to a stroke victim’s brain was to be effectively administered had passed. Norman remained at Anderson Regional two to three days after he had his stroke. He was then transferred to a step-down unit for rehabilitation before finally being transferred to Bedford Nursing Home at Marion, Mississippi, where he remained for the rest of his life. Norman sued Anderson Regional a little more than a year before his death. Because the trial court properly found that Norman’s experts’ testimony lacked sufficient foundation in the medical literature and because no genuine issue of material fact remained, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed exclusion of the experts' testimony. View "Norman v. Anderson Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association (Association) petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for interlocutory review of a circuit court judgment denying its motions to participate as a respondent-appellee in the appeals filed by RW Development, LLC (RW), and Diamondhead Real Estate, LLC (Diamondhead) after the Mississippi Gaming Commission denied their applications for gaming site approval. The circuit court instead allowed the Association to participate as “friend[] of the court” under the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. Finding nothing improper with the circuit court's decision to allow the Association to participate as amicus curiae, the Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision. View "Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association v. Diamondhead Real Estate, LLC" on Justia Law

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Mary Mac Atkinson alleged she was injured after slipping on a liquid substance at Clinton Healthcare. After the parties conducted significant amounts of discovery, Atkinson moved for a spoliation determination, requesting a spoliation jury instruction regarding a missing video, and moved for partial summary judgment as to liability. Clinton Healthcare moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion for spoliation, granted Atkinson’s motion for partial summary judgment, and denied Clinton Healthcare’s motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined genuine issues of material fact remained, and the trial court erred by granting Atkinson’s motion for partial summary judgment, but correctly denied Clinton Healthcare’s motion for summary judgment. Additionally, the Supreme Court found the trial court’s order regarding spoliation and the entitlement to a spoliation jury instruction was premature. Therefore, the trial court was affirmed in part, reversed in part, the spoliation order was vacated, and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Clinton Healthcare, LLC v. Atkinson" on Justia Law

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In September 2013, the Gertys filed a joint complaint for an irreconcilable-differences divorce. The joint complaint sat with the Chancery Court for almost two years, during which the parties cooperated with each other and faithfully abided by the Property Settlement Agreement (“PSA”), which was filed contemporaneously with the joint complaint. The PSA provided that Michael would have physical custody of the couple’s minor child. Michael was required to move to the Great Lakes area to fulfill a three-year military commitment when Joesie agreed that their son would move with Michael. Joesie made the decision not to move to the Great Lakes area, instead, moving into her paramour's mother's house. For approximately two years, Michael and their son lived apart from Joesie. In January of 2015, Michael informed Joesie that reconciliation was impossible and that he wanted her to sign and finalize the divorce papers. Joesie, upon the advice of her attorney, surreptitiously told Michael that she also was ready to complete the irreconcilable-differences divorce. Based on the advice of her counsel, Joesie waited until her summer visitation had begun pursuant to the PSA and until her son was physically in Mississippi before withdrawing her consent to an irreconcilable-differences divorce. Joesie and Michael then filed separate complaints for divorce on the ground of adultery, inter alia, and alternatively sought an irreconcilable-differences divorce. The chancellor entered a final judgment and decreed that a divorce should be granted, but that neither party was entitled to a fault-based divorce. She found that Joesie had failed to establish adultery. She found that Michael had proved adultery because Joesie had admitted it, but that Michael had condoned Joesie’s adulterous conduct. Then the chancellor sua sponte declared the statutory scheme under Mississippi Code Section 93-5-2 (Rev. 2013) unconstitutional and granted an irreconcilable-differences divorce. Joesie was granted custody of their child. After final judgment was entered, Michael, Joesie and the State asked for reconsideration because no party had asked for, pleaded, argued, or offered proof on the unconstitutionality of the statute. The chancellor significantly amended her earlier final judgment, increasing Joesie’s award to include a percent of Michael’s military-retirement benefit and reducing the noncustodial parent’s summer visitation from three months, as provided in the PSA, to one month, contrary to the PSA and the chancellor’s original final judgment. The State appealed the chancellor's adjudication of 93-5-2 as unconstitutional. Michael appealed the trial court's adjudication of 93-5-2 as unconstitutional; (2) failing to award Michael a divorce on the ground of adultery; (3) reducing Michael’s summer visitation; (4) awarding Joesie a portion of Michael’s retirement benefits; and (5) awarding custody to Joesie. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s finding regarding custody and child support, but reversed the remaining judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Gerty v. Gerty" on Justia Law