Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
by
The Mississippi Supreme Court accepted this case on certiorari review from the Court of Appeals. Shaun Seals worked for the Pearl River Resort; he alleged he was terminated for reasons relating to a work-related injury. Donna Brolick, Pearl River Resort’s director of employment compliance, was called as a witness at the hearing before an administrative judge (AJ). Brolick testified that she was previously vice president of human resources at Pearl River Resort at the time Seals’s position was phased out and he was let go in January of 2013. Brolick further testified that in 2012 the resort changed its management. Multiple upper-level positions were eliminated or consolidated. Seals’s position as director of transportation was one of several positions that were eliminated. The Workers' Compensation Commission reversed the AJ’s order. The Commission found that Seals had reached maximum medical improvement on November 13, 2015, but failed to prove any permanent disability or loss of wage-earning capacity for two reasons. The Commission found that Seals was let go for unrelated economic reasons, noting his receipt of severance pay and other benefits as well as the testimony and evidence adduced by the Resort. Seals appealed the Commission's decision to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court held the Commission was correct in its assessment of the date of maximum medical improvement but that the Commission erred by finding Seals failed to prove any loss of wage-earning capacity. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the decision of the Commission and directed the Commission to calculate Seals’s loss of wage-earning capacity and to award corresponding compensation. The Resort petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted. The Supreme Court adopted "the well-reasoned analysis of the opinion concerning maximum medical improvement," but was "constrained to reverse the Court of Appeals’ majority regarding loss of wage-earning capacity. Sufficient evidence supported the Commission’s decision that Seals had not suffered loss of wage-earning capacity." The Commission's decision was reinstated in toto. View "Seals v. Pearl River Resort & Casino" on Justia Law

by
Adara Networks Inc. (Networks Inc.) appeals the denial of a Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. At the time the complaint was filed, Networks Inc. was incorporated in Florida with its principal place of business in San Jose, California. Shane Langston was a member of the Mississippi Bar since 1984 and until 2016, was a resident of Mississippi. At the time of filing, he was a resident of Texas. Years before Langston moved to Texas, Langston purchased one million shares of preferred stock in Networks Inc. for $500,000. This purchase was made at the urging of his then-Madison County, Mississippi, neighbor, Ken Primos. Unknown to Langston, Primos was a paid shill for Networks Inc., acting to entice Langston and other Mississippians to invest in Networks Inc. In an affidavit filed in this proceeding, Primos swore that since at least 2002 he was paid monthly by Networks Inc. to solicit and influence investors for Networks Inc. including residents of Mississippi. Networks Inc. held one shareholder meeting over the twenty-year period that Langston was a shareholder. That shareholder meeting was held in Jackson, Mississippi, with roughly one hundred Mississippi shareholders in attendance. Langston sought multiple times to examine various corporate documents. Each time, Primos was dispatched by Networks Inc. to discourage Langston. Primos told Langston to withdraw his requests because a merger or buyout was imminent and disclosures would adversely impact Networks Inc. Networks Inc. countered the shareholders request by producing only selected documents. However, before allowing the investors to review any documents, Networks Inc. required execution of a confidentiality agreement. That agreement contained a clause requiring that any dispute arising under that agreement would be governed and interpreted by the laws of Mississippi and, further, that any disputes that arose were subject to the jurisdiction of Mississippi courts. Langston alleged that the selective production failed to encompass the documents requested and required by either Florida or Mississippi law. Langston filed a complaint for accounting; Networks Inc. responded with a Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Networks Inc. also claimed that it had not subjected itself to the benefits and protections of Mississippi law, despite evidence to the contrary in the confidentiality agreement. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the Mississippi Chancery Court properly denied Networks Inc.’s motion. "The chancery court can assert personal jurisdiction over Networks Inc. under either the doing-business prong of our long-arm statute or the tort prong. Langston pled sufficient facts to establish Networks Inc. did or does business in Mississippi and to plead the tort of breach of fiduciary duty. Therefore, we affirm the judgment of the chancery court." View "Adara Networks, Inc. v. Langston" on Justia Law

by
In 2019, Margaret Parks and Veda Horton were candidates in the Democratic Primary runoff election for Humphreys County, Mississippi Tax Assessor and Collector. Horton received the most votes, and Parks contested the election. The circuit judge ruled that the primary should have been nullified and ordered a special election (a ruling not contested in this appeal). The circuit judge’s order was entered seven days after Horton was sworn. Parks moved the circuit court to declare her, the incumbent, the holdover officeholder, or, in the alternative, to declare the office vacant pending a special election. The circuit judge ruled that Horton was the lawful officeholder and denied the motion. This appeal challenged the circuit judge’s ruling, and the Mississippi Supreme Court had to consider whether the office should have been declared vacant or, if it was not, who the proper officeholder should have been until the new election is completed. The Supreme Court held that because Horton entered the term of office before the final adjudication of the election contest, under Mississippi Code Section 23-15-937, Horton was the lawful holder of the office until the special election. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the circuit judge’s decision to deny Parks’s motion to declare her the holdover officeholder or to declare the office vacant. View "In Re: Democratic Primary for Humphreys County Tax Assessor and Collector: Parks v. Horton" on Justia Law

by
Michael Montgomery, an employee of Taylor Construction working as a truck dispatcher, called Superior Mat Company, Inc. to rent mats for Taylor Construction’s use. From June 9, 2017, to June 27, 2017, Taylor employees drove to Superior’s location in Covington County, Mississippi, and picked up several hundred mats. Taylor Construction trucks returned the mats to Covington County on July 17, 2017. Superior alleged the mats came back in varying degrees of dirtiness or, in some cases, damaged beyond repair. Taylor Construction paid Superior for the mats until Superior additionally billed Taylor Construction for the mats it alleged Taylor Construction did not return. Taylor Construction later stopped payment on all invoices from Superior. Superior filed suit against Taylor Construction at the Covington County Circuit Court, alleging breach of contract, open account, quantum meruit, and bad-faith breach of contract. Taylor Construction filed its answer along with a motion to transfer venue under Rule 82(d). After hearing arguments, the circuit court denied Taylor Construction’s motion. Taylor Construction appealed, but finding the record demonstrated credible evidence that substantial events or acts occurred in Covington County, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Taylor Construction Company, Inc. v. Superior Mat Company, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Former Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company employees Regina Thomas and Pam Pilgrim filed suit against the company claiming they were wrongfully discharged. While recognizing Mississippi is an at-will-employment state, the former employees alleged Southern Farm Bureau’s employee handbook altered their at-will status. They insisted the handbook conferred certain substantive and procedural rights, including the right not to be discriminated against based on gender and age, which they suggest they were denied. But upon review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the employee handbook expressly disclaimed the formation of any employment contract. "So under Mississippi law, Thomas and Pilgrim remained at-will employees. This meant they could be fired for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all, except for reasons independently declared legally impermissible." Rather than having exhausted their administrative remedies, as was required when bringing a gender-discrimination claim, they asked the Supreme Court to create an exception to an already existing exception to the at-will doctrine, which would have allowed them to avoid the express procedural requirements for federal discrimination claims. But the Mississippi Supreme Court has recognized that creating exceptions to the at-will doctrine was a legislative concern, not a judicial task. "Because Congress has already created a discrimination-based exception to the at-will doctrine—which Thomas and Pilgrim failed to pursue - we reject their request." View "Southern Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co. v. Thomas" on Justia Law

by
Robert Stratton, Sr. owned an antique truck and, in 2006, delivered it to John Shivers’s vehicle repair and restoration business in Liberty, Mississippi. Stratton and Shivers contemplated that Shivers would restore the truck at some point in the future, but they made no firm plans for the restoration, and they never agreed that Shivers would charge a storage fee. Stratton’s truck remained at Shivers’s shop until Jerry McKey bought the business from Shivers in May 2009. Shivers told McKey that Stratton owned the truck, but neither Shivers nor McKey notified Stratton of the change in the business’ ownership. When Stratton learned that the business had changed hands, he contacted McKey and requested possession of the truck. But McKey refused to let Stratton have his truck unless he paid storage fees. Stratton sued McKey for replevin, and the circuit court ruled that Stratton was entitled to possession of the truck conditioned upon his paying McKey $880 for storage fees within thirty days. Stratton appealed; the Court of Appeals affirmed. But the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed both the trial and appellate courts, rendering judgment for Stratton. When McKey failed to relinquish possession of the truck, Stratton filed another complaint against him, and McKey filed a counterclaim for fees for storing the truck. McKey conceded that because he had sold the truck during the pendency of Stratton’s appeal, he owed Stratton the truck’s value. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court of awarded Stratton $350, which represented the value of the truck after the deduction of $1,000 in storage fees owed to McKey. Stratton appealed, challenging the amount of damages and challenging the circuit court’s award of storage fees to McKey. McKey did not file an appellee’s brief. In this case's second trip before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court found McKey's counterclaim for storage fees was untimely, and the circuit court erred in awarding storage fees. View "Stratton v. McKey" on Justia Law

by
Bettye Turner invested approximately $2 million into a securities brokerage account that was created and managed by David Carrick, an investment broker then employed with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (Morgan Stanley). Carrick later worked for Stern, Agee & Leach, Inc. (Stern Agee). Turner and Carrick signed an Account Application in order to transfer Turner’s funds to a Stern Agee account. The Account Application incorporated by reference a Client Account Agreement that contained an arbitration provision. Eventually, Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc. (Stifel), acquired and merged with Stern Agee. Turner filed a lawsuit against Carrick and Stifel alleging negligent management and supervision of her investment account. Carrick and Stifel moved to compel arbitration. The trial court denied their motion to compel arbitration, and Carrick and Stifel appealed. Because the trial court erred by failing to compel arbitration, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Carrick v. Turner" on Justia Law

by
After an automobile accident in 2015, Reericka Belk and Tracey Crayton filed suit against Victoria Morton in the Lee County Court. The case was tried by jury in September 2017, and the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Morton. Belk and Crayton filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that the jury disregarded the instructions of the court and rendered a verdict contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The court granted the motion for a new trial. Morton petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for an interlocutory appeal. After review, the Supreme Court determined the jury was properly instructed on the law and was informed of all the relevant facts. The verdict returned by the jury was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The Court found the trial judge abused his discretion by granting the motion for a new trial. Therefore, the Cout reversed the trial court’s order granting a new trial, and reinstated the trial court’s judgment entered on the jury’s verdict. View "Morton v. Belk" on Justia Law

by
Vernon Walters was injured in a work-related incident in October 2006; the vehicle he was driving was struck by an oncoming train. After receiving workers’ compensation benefits, he and his wife, Donyell Walters, filed a third-party claim against the company operating the train involved in the collision, Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR). The Walterses hired the Parsons Law Firm to represent them in their suit, and Tadd Parsons took the case. The Walterses’ lawsuit against KCSR was ultimately dismissed with prejudice in September 2010 for, among other reasons, failure to prosecute, failure to comply with discovery obligations and fraud upon the court. Tadd never told the Walterses that their case had been dismissed and led them to believe their case was ongoing. Three years after the case had been dismissed, Tadd admitted he fabricated a settlement offer from KCSR in the amount of $104,000 and advised the Walterses to accept the offer, which they did. When eight months passed after Tadd informed the Walterses about the fabricated settlement, the Walterses demanded to meet with Jack Parsons, the other general partner at the Parsons Law Firm. Jack offered the Walterses $50,000 to settle any claims they may have had against Tadd based on his conduct in representing them in the KCSR lawsuit. The Walterses refused Jack’s offer and then filed a claim against Tadd, Jack and the Parsons Law Firm, alleging claims of fraud, defamation, negligent representation, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for the Walterses on the matter of liability, finding that Tadd and the Parsons Law Firm were liable for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court then held a jury trial on damages. The jury verdict awarded the Walterses $2,850,002 in compensatory damages, which exceeded what the Walterses had demanded in compensatory damages in their complaint and in their motion to set damages. Finding the jury’s verdict shocked the conscience, the court remitted the damages to $1,034,666.67 in a second amended final judgment. Parsons appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the Walterses cross-appealed. The Supreme Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding irrelevant evidence about the underlying KCSR lawsuit because the value of the lawsuit had no bearing on the damages the Walterses sustained due to Tadd Parsons’s and the Parsons Law Firm’s fraud and IIED. Further, the Court determined the remitted verdict’s award of damages was excessive and not supported by substantial evidence. The trial court was therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded for a new trial on damages. View "Parsons v. Walters" on Justia Law

by
HWCC-Tunica, LLC, and BSLO, LLC, had casino members’ rewards programs that allowed members to earn entries into random computerized drawings to win prizes. In 2014, after recalculating their gross revenue and deducting the costs of prizes from their rewards programs’ drawings, HWCC and BSLO filed individual refund claims for the tax period of October 1, 2011, through August 31, 2014. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) denied the refund claims in 2015. HWCC and BSLO appealed, and MDOR and the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) filed a joint motion for summary judgment, arguing the plain language of Mississippi Code Section 75-76-193 (Rev. 2016) does not allow a casino to deduct the cost of prizes purchased for a rewards program’s drawings because “these promotional giveaways are not the result of ‘a legitimate wager’ as used in [Mississippi Code Section] 75-76-193.” After a hearing on the motion, the chancellor determined that Section 75-76-193 does not allow HWCC and BSLO to deduct the cost of the prizes and that there were no genuine issues of material fact. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancellor erred by giving deference to the MDOR’s and the MGC’s interpretations of Code Section 75-76-193. That error notwithstanding, the Supreme Court found the chancellor reached the right conclusion: that no genuine issues of material fact existed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s grant of summary judgment. View "HWCC-Tunica, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law