Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

by
Larry Seward worked for Illinois Central Railroad Company from 1961 to 2004. In 2005, Seward settled an asbestosis claim with Illinois Central. He subsequently developed and passed away from anaplastic oligodendroglioma, a type of brain cancer. In 2012, Andrew L. Ward sued Illinois Central on behalf of Seward. Ward alleged that Illinois Central breached its duty of care and failed to provide Seward with a safe place to work. The complaint detailed specific issues with the work environment, including Seward’s exposure to chemicals and hazardous conditions. The complaint alleged that the working environment “caused, in whole or in part,” Seward’s brain cancer. Illinois Central filed a motion for summary judgment based on a previous settlement and release that Seward had entered into with Illinois Central before his death. The trial court granted Illinois Central’s motion for summary judgment. Ward appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined there were no remaining issues of material fact, therefore, affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Ward v. Illinois Central Railroad Company" on Justia Law

by
This case involved three consolidated interlocutory appeals; each arose from litigation filed by Franklin Collection Service, Inc. (Franklin), against BancorpSouth Bank. Franklin and BancorpSouth had been in litigation for approximately forty months. After Franklin determined that BancorpSouth had failed to file a responsive pleading to the second amended complaint, Franklin applied for and obtained an entry of default by the clerk. Franklin also filed a motion to deem admitted the allegations of the second amended complaint. BancorpSouth filed a motion to set aside the entry of default and a motion for leave to file a responsive pleading to the second amended complaint. The trial court heard each motion and decided to deny Franklin’s motion to deem admitted the allegations of the second amended complaint; to grant BancorpSouth’s motion for leave to file a responsive pleading to the second amended complaint; and to deny BancorpSouth’s motion to set aside the entry of default. Franklin appealed and BancorpSouth cross-appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that in light of the colorable defenses presented by BancorpSouth and the lack of prejudice to Franklin, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing BancorpSouth to file an answer to Franklin’s second amended complaint. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court properly denied Franklin's motion to deem admitted the allegations in the second amended complaint. The Court affirmed two interlocutory orders at issue in Franklin's appeal reversed the order at issue in BancorpSouth's cross-appeal, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Franklin Collection Service, Inc. v. BancorpSouth Bank" on Justia Law

by
Sonya Chaffee, on behalf of her minor child, Fredrick Latham, Jr., sued the Jackson Public School District; Lonnie J. Edwards, the School District superintendent in his official capacity; and Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees (collectively, “the School District”) alleging negligence and res ipsa loquitur. Fredrick was a student in Tracy Scott’s first grade class at Woodville Heights Elementary School. While Scott was standing at the front of the classroom readying the students for lunch, Fredrick and another boy got out of line and ran to the back of the classroom to use the single restroom. Bernice Anderson, Scott’s teaching assistant, was present at her desk in the back of the classroom nearer the restroom. Fredrick was injured when his hand slipped off the door and his finger got caught in the crack of the door as the other boy was closing it. After hearing a student scream that Fredrick had smashed his finger, Scott went to the back of the classroom, wrapped Fredrick’s finger in papers towels, and took him to the principal’s office. Fredrick’s mother was called, and he was taken by ambulance to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Surgery was performed to reattach Fredrick’s fingertip using a skin graft. The School District defended on sovereign immunity grounds pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). After engaging in discovery, the School District moved for summary judgment which was granted. Aggrieved, Chaffee appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Chaffee v. Jackson Public School District" on Justia Law

by
Marquan Stover moved to contest the second codicil to his great aunt Tamora Robinson’s last will and testament, alleging that the second codicil was the product of undue influence by Robinson’s sister Elaine Davis. After a hearing, the Chancery Court found no undue influence and dismissed Stover’s motion to contest. Stover appealed, arguing that the chancellor had erred by not requiring Davis to rebut the presumption of undue influence and that the decision was not supported by substantial, credible evidence. The Court of Appeals issued a plurality decision, affirming the ruling of the chancellor. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Stover’s petition for a writ of certiorari, and held that the court must find by clear and convincing evidence that a presumption of undue influence, which arises when a confidential relationship is coupled with suspicious circumstances, is rebutted. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and of the chancery court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stover v. Davis" on Justia Law

by
Former Court of Appeals Judge Ceola James lost the 2016 election for the Court of Appeals by nearly twenty-two thousand votes. James filed an election contest against the winner, Judge Latrice Westbrooks, alleging Westbrooks improperly affiliated with the Democratic Party and improperly aligned herself with a political candidate, Representative Bennie Thompson of Mississippi’s Second United States Congressional District. James argued that she received all of the “legal” votes due to Westbrooks’s alleged violations of election law and pleaded that she is entitled to hold the judicial post won by Westbrooks. Westbrooks moved for summary judgment, and at the hearing on the motion, the trial court found James failed to submit proof that Westbrooks had improperly aligned her campaign with a political candidate or political party and granted summary judgment in favor of Westbrooks. View "James v. Westbrooks" on Justia Law

by
Judy Johnson appealed the circuit court's affirmance of a county court judgment granting Ronnie Goodson’s motion for summary judgment. Johnson claimed she was injured while she was an invited guest on Goodson’s property and a passenger in his golf cart. Johnson sued Goodson, alleging Goodson had operated the golf cart carelessly, recklessly, and negligently, causing Johnson to be thrown about in the vehicle and to suffer injuries. Johnson filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that, at the time of the accident, Goodson was the operator of a motor vehicle, and, as such, the applicable standard of care was that of a reasonable person. Johnson argued Goodson breached his duty of care by operating a vehicle on his property in an unsafe manner, proximately causing Johnson’s injuries. Goodson responded that Johnson was a licensee, that he did not breach any duties owed to her as a licensee, and the standard Johnson sought was not applicable. In Goodson’s motion for summary judgment, he sought to be shielded from ordinary negligence by alleging that Johnson’s cause of action was one of premises liability, and that he, as a landowner, only owed Johnson, a licensee, a duty to refrain from wilfully, wantonly, knowingly, or intentionally injuring her. Were premises liability the only law applicable, the Mississippi Supreme Court opined the trial and appellate courts would be affirmed. But given the facts presented, the Supreme Court concluded both erred: that the circumstances surrounding a moving golf cart, which the property owner was driving, raise an issue of negligence proper for resolution by the trier of fact. View "Johnson v. Goodson" on Justia Law

by
A county court judge granted Lisa Evans’s motion for a directed verdict in Michael Malouf’s tort-based lawsuit over boat repairs promised and paid for but allegedly never made. The judge dismissed the case after finding Malouf failed to prove Lisa and her deceased husband, a boat mechanic, had been in a partnership when doing business as Lake Harbour Marine. But in granting Lisa a directed verdict, the court wrongly gave Lisa, not Malouf, favorable evidentiary inferences drawn from Malouf’s testimony and did not take Malouf’s testimony as true, as was required before a trial judge can take a case away from a jury. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial judge also incorrectly found that insufficient proof of a partnership between Lisa and her husband was dispositive of all of Malouf’s tort claims - even those that did not hinge on the existence of a partnership. The Court found that when Malouf’s testimony and evidence was taken as true and he was given all reasonable inferences, the evidence at least created a jury issue on whether Lisa, as her husband’s partner, was liable for his actions in the boat-repair shop. It was also error for the county court and appellate court to cite the supposed lack of a partnership as reason to dismiss Malouf’s claims against Lisa individually for her own alleged fraudulent or negligent misrepresentations. The Court therefore reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Malouf v. Evans" on Justia Law

by
Families filed suit at the Circuit Court seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that they owned lignite under a Mississippi Power Company (“MPC”) plant built on land MPC had purchased, a fact not disputed by any party. One month later, MPC filed suit to confirm and quiet title to its property and further asserted that lignite could only be removed economically by surface mining, a fact not disputed by any party. MPC asked to enjoin all defendants from asserting any right, title, or interest to the lignite. Alternatively, MPC asked for a declaratory judgment that lignite removal would deplete and destroy the surface of its land, rendering it unusable, a fact not disputed by any party. Two orders at issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court were "authored by two learned trial judges—one chancery, one circuit." Although the Supreme Court's review was de novo, the applicable law was neither new nor novel. Because neither trial court failed to follow controlling law, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barham v. Mississippi Power Company" on Justia Law

by
Elijah Arrington, III appealed the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners’ decision to revoke his dental license. The Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners (Board) held a disciplinary hearing on June 15, 16, and 17, 2017, to litigate four complaints (involving seventeen violations) against Dr. Arrington; the Board revoked Arrington’s dental license and his Limited Enteral Conscious Sedation Permit. The Board served Arrington and his counsel with its order on July 24, 2017. Arrington filed a notice of appeal with the Chancery Court on August 24, 2017. On August 29, 2017, the Board filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, alleging that Arrington failed to file a cost bond within thirty days. Arrington filed a response in opposition and also requested more time to deposit the bond. He then deposited the bond with the chancery court on August 31, 2017. The chancery court dismissed the appeal, finding that Arrington’s failure to file the cost bond within thirty days deprived it of appellate jurisdiction. Arrington appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which declined to address the cost-bond issue, finding the chancery court lacked appellate jurisdiction based on Arrington’s failure to file his notice of appeal within thirty days. View "Arrington v. Mississippi State Board Of Dental Examiners" on Justia Law

by
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