Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Laterrence Lenoir was claimed to be one of the armed robbers captured on surveillance video. Under Rule 701, the trial judge was within his discretion to admit testimony from witnesses familiar with Lenoir that, in their opinion, Lenoir was one of the robbers in the video. The Mississippi Supreme Court found find no error in the trial judge’s admission of this testimony, nor did the Court find error in the judge’s denial of Lenoir’s motion for new trial. View "Lenoir v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Victoria Swanagan was convicted by a jury of the depraved-heart murder of Vincent Hill and was sentenced to twenty-five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), with ten years suspended, fifteen years to serve, and five years of supervised probation. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the evidence was sufficient to support the verdict, the verdict was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, the trial court did not err in instructing the jury, and defendant did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel. View "Swanagan v.Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Former construction worker, Robert Lee Rankin Sr., sued American Optical Corporation (AO) alleging an injury of “lung disease and silica related conditions caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica” while using defective respirators manufactured by AO. A jury returned a total verdict of $14 million in favor of Rankin. AO filed a motion to amend the judgment and a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, alternatively, for a new trial. The trial court granted AO’s motion to amend the judgment in part and amended the noneconomic damages award from $1.8 million to $1 million to comply with the statutory cap on noneconomic damages. However, the trial court denied AO’s motion for a JNOV or, alternatively, for a new trial. AO argued the trial court erred by failing to grant its motion for a directed verdict because Rankin’s claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitations. AO contended Rankin’s claims accrued when he was diagnosed with COPD in November 2007 or, at the latest, in January 2010 when his x-ray revealed “pulmonary fibrotic pathology.” The special verdict form posed the question, “Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that [Rankin] knew or should have known before May 13, 2010, that he had the lung injury alleged in this lawsuit?” To this, the jury answered “No.” Rankin argued that “under the unique facts of this case, [he] invoked his right to file suit even though he had not yet received a full diagnosis - only a strong suspicion he was exhibiting signs of silicosis.” The Mississippi Supreme Court found that reasonable minds could not have differed in answering the question on the special verdict form: it was undisputed that Rankin was aware of and sought treatment for lung disease, COPD, in 2007. Rankin’s experts opined that Rankin’s myriad of remaining medical conditions, of which he was aware and for which he sought treatment before May 13, 2010, were related “in part” or “exacerbated” by silica exposure. Accordingly, the Court held the trial court erred by failing to grant AO’s motion for a directed verdict because Rankin’s claims were time barred. View "American Optical Corp. v. Estate of Robert Rankin, Sr." on Justia Law

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There was no abuse of the trial court’s discretion in denying a mistrial, no was there an abuse of discretion in handling the discovery of a prosecution’s expert’s testimony. A grand jury indicted Jesse Mouton on four counts of sexually assaulting N.B. Counts one and two charged Mouton with sexual battery. Counts three and four charged him with touching a child for lustful purposes. In this case, an expert witness testified that injuries to a child were consistent with sexual abuse. Her reports, photographs of the injured body area, and expert opinion were previously disclosed to the defense. Yet, at trial, the defense took issue with the expert’s testimony about the relevance of the shape of some of the injuries. After assessing the defendant’s request to exclude the expert’s testimony, the trial judge denied it. Though the court found no discovery violation, the judge recessed trial for the day so defense counsel could further interview the expert, and restricted the expert’s testimony to external injuries but allowed the expert to give an opinion that the child’s injuries resulted from sexual assault. The defendant appealed the outcome, arguing that the trial court’s actions in handling the expert’s testimony and report denied him a fair trial. Finding no reversible error in the trial court record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed defendant’s convictions. View "Mouton v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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After review of the facts of this case, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that Dillon Williams waived his right to sentencing by jury when he pled guilty to burglary and aggravated assault. For those crimes, a circuit court sentenced him to twenty years for the assault, and twenty-five years for the burglary. The trial court added a twenty-year enhancement to the assault charge because Williams’ victim was an elderly woman. The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court that denied Williams’s request for post-conviction relief, and affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeals that affirmed the trial court. View "Williams v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court found that Tunica County failed to meet its burden of proof that Chapter Number 920, Local and Private Laws of 2004 (“House Bill 1002”) unconstitutional or otherwise unlawful. Tunica County sought review of a Circuit Court’s summary-judgment ruling that the law, which required the County to distribute portions of a revenue based gaming fee to the Town of Tunica and the Tunica County School District, was constitutional. Specifically, the County argued: House Bill 1002 deprived it of its property interest in the casino fees without due process of law; the distributions required by House Bill 1002 constituted an unlawful donation of public funds; House Bill 1002 impermissibly suspended certain general statutes and provided improper support for a common school; alternatively, the County alleged that House Bill 1002 violated Mississippi common law and that the current Board of Supervisors could not be bound by the decisions of prior Boards to comply with the law. The County asked the circuit court to declare House Bill 1002 unconstitutional and issue an injunction against the continued enforcement of the statute. The Supreme Court concluded the County lacked standing to challenge House Bill 1002 on due process grounds; notwithstanding, the County’s argument was without merit because its authority to impose the 3.2 percent gaming fee came from the Legislature, not the constitution. The Court concluded the arguments made with respect to the other issues the County raised on appeal were without merit. The Court affirmed the grant of summary judgment, but vacated on the award of attorney’s fees. The case was remanded for a determination of whether there was a legal basis for the award of fees, and if so, whether the requested amounts were reasonable. View "Tunica County v. Town of Tunica" on Justia Law

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Once removed from office, a justice court judge may not return to it by reelection or otherwise Former Justice Court Judge Rickey Thompson challenged the Lee County Democratic Executive Committee’s decision to withhold his name from the general-election ballot for a new term as a justice court judge, based on the Court’s order removing him from the office of justice court judge prior to the election. The circuit court dismissed Thompson’s case, finding him ineligible for judicial office. The Mississippi Supreme Court concurred with the circuit court and affirmed. Thompson also claimed that the proper procedures for removing him from the ballot were not followed, as neither the Mississippi Commission on Judicial Performance nor the Lee County Election Commission had authority to disqualify him. Because the Supreme Court held that Thompson’s removal was permanent, it did not address whether the proper procedures for removing him from the ballot were followed. View "Thompson v. Mississippi Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Arbitration is a contractual agreement between parties. And only agreed-upon arbitrable disputes are subject to arbitration. On de novo review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found in this case a valid arbitration agreement, but the subject of the lessee’s premises-liability claim (a dispute that stemmed from a physical and sexual assault on the apartment complex premises) was not within the arbitration agreement’s scope, as it did not arise under or relate to her “occupancy and leasing of the [apartment].” Because the dispute was outside the agreement’s scope, the trial court erred by staying proceedings and ordering arbitration. View "Jane Doe v. Hallmark Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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The issue this medical-malpractice suit presented for the Supreme Court's review of Dr. Fawaz Abdraddo’s and Hinds Behavioral Health Services’ interlocutory appeal was whether the trial court erred in denying defendants' motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff Audray Johnson, acting pro se, filed suit against the defendants claiming he suffered permanent damage to his kidneys due to lithium treatment he received while under the psychiatric care of Dr. Abdraddo, who was working under contract for Hinds Behavioral Health Services. Finding that Plaintiff failed to support his medical-malpractice claims with expert testimony on whether the defendants breached any applicable standard of care owed to Johnson, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment and rendered judgment in favor of defendants. View "Abdrabbo v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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A jury found Alvin Brown guilty of manslaughter and four counts of aggravated assault. The circuit court sentenced Brown to twenty years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for manslaughter and ten years for each aggravated assault conviction, with the aggravated assault sentences to run concurrently with each other and consecutively to the manslaughter sentence. Brown appealed and the Court of Appeal reversed and remanded for a new trial as to only the aggravated assault convictions due to a variance between the indictment and the jury instructions. Finding no merit as to Brown's appeal of the self-defense instruction, the appellate court affirmed. Because the Court of Appeals’ affirmed the trial court’s decision to give the State’s imperfect self-defense instruction, which conflicted with controlling caselaw affirming the refusal of imperfect self-defense instructions when requested by defendants, the Supreme Court also reversed Brown’s manslaughter conviction. View "Brown v. Mississippi" on Justia Law