Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Dr. Sandra Leal appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). Leal brought suit against USM and the IHL for breach of contract and disability discrimination. Dr. Sandra Leal was a junior faculty member at USM. After spending several years at USM, Leal applied for tenure and promotion in 2012, but, at the recommendation of faculty members, she deferred her application for one year. In September of 2013, she resubmitted her application and materials. On October 4, 2013, her department voted not to recommend her application. Leal was notified of this on October 7, 2013. Each review of her application cited an insufficient number of publications as the primary reason for not recommending Leal’s application. Following these reviews, in March of 2014, Leal wrote to USM’s then-provost. Leal had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout her time at USM, but, for the first time, she claimed it as a disability. She requested an additional year to remedy her insufficient number of publications. Both the provost and USM’s president recommended that Leal’s application be denied. Leal was notified of these determinations on March 24, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively. Leal sought review of her application by the IHL, and the IHL considered her request and ultimately rejected her application too. Because Leal has failed to demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact and failed to demonstrate that USM and the IHL were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Leal v. University of So. Miss." on Justia Law

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Theresa Driskell, with the help of an insurance agent, submitted applications for a life insurance policy and a disability income rider. When reviewing the application, the insurance company discovered Driskell was ineligible for the disability income rider. So it issued her a life insurance policy that varied from her application: a policy that did not provide disability income. Driskell received this policy and reviewed it. She did not reject or return it. Instead, she accepted the policy and began making premium payments. Nearly three years later, Driskell made a claim with the insurer for disability income. Because the policy did not include a disability income rider, the insurer denied her claim. Driskell sued the insurer, citing her expectation of disability income coverage. The insurer moved for summary judgment, which the trial judge denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the insurer’s interlocutory appeal to decide if summary judgment was wrongly denied. After review, the Court determined it was clear the policy issued to Driskell and accepted by her did not include a disability income rider. Therefore, it reversed the denial of summary judgment and rendered a judgment in the insurer’s favor. View "Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. v. Driskell" on Justia Law

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Kendrick Shelvy appealed his burglary conviction, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence presented against him at trial. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found sufficient evidence to support the verdict and because the verdict was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence, it affirmed conviction. View "Shelvy v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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An unsuccessful bidder on managed-care contracts for MississippiCAN, the state’s managed-care program, argued that the Division of Medicaid and its executive director violated multiple statutes and regulations in procuring the contracts. Mississippi True appealed the decision of the chancery court affirming the Division of Medicaid’s award of the contracts to three other companies and the chancery court’s order denying its motion to sever and transfer its damages claims to circuit court. The Mississippi Supreme Court "thoroughly reviewed the voluminous record" and concluded that Mississippi True has failed to prove any basis for reversal. "The decision of the DOM was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, was not beyond the DOM’s power to make, and did not violate Mississippi True’s statutory or constitutional rights." View "Mississippi True v. Dzielak et al." on Justia Law

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Donald Keith Smith appealed the circuit court’s decision to summarily affirm his Petition Seeking Judicial Review of an Adverse Administrative Remedy Decision. In 2009, Smith pled guilty to one count of kidnapping, armed carjacking, and felony fleeing. Approximately two years later, Smith filed a pro se motion for post-conviction relief, attacking his armed-carjacking conviction. The Mississippi Supreme Court remanded his case for the trial court to conduct an evidentiary hearing. After that hearing, the trial court determined that Smith had not received the competency evaluation the trial court had ordered. So the trial court reversed Smith's conviction. Smith was later evaluated and found to be competent. In late 2016, Smith pled guilty to attempted kidnapping, armed carjacking, and felony fleeing. The trial court sentenced Smith to thirty years, with eighteen years to serve, for attempted kidnapping, thirty years, with eighteen years to serve, for armed carjacking, and five years for felony fleeing. In July 2017, the trial court amended Smith’s sentencing order to reflect that he should be sentenced to serve ten years for attempted kidnapping. The remainder of Smith’s sentencing order stayed the same. Smith filed an initial grievance through the Administrative Remedy Program (ARP) at the MDOC. In his grievance, Smith asserted that his time computation was incorrect. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the Mississippi Department of Corrections, and therefore vacated and remanded. View "Smith v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Johnathan Nickson was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon. The jury acquitted him on the two counts of first-degree murder but deadlocked as to second-degree murder and the felon-in-possession charge. The trial court declared a mistrial. Because the jury’s verdict acquitted Nickson of first-degree murder, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by declaring a mistrial on those charges. As a result, the trial court’s order declaring a mistrial as to the two counts of first-degree murder was reversed, and a judgment of acquittal was rendered on those charges. The trial court’s order was affirmed as to the remaining offense of second-degree murder and the charge of possession of a firearm as a convicted felon because no final resolution was reached by the jury. View "Nickson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Orlando Newell shot and killed Michael Woods. At trial, he argued self-defense, and the jury convicted him of murder. The trial court gave a pre-arming jury instruction, which precluded Newell’s self-defense theory. Because this instruction was not supported by the evidence and improperly impaired Newell’s self-defense claim, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court’s grant of the pre-arming instruction was made in error. Consequently, Newell's conviction was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Newell v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Rhonda Smith appeals the Smith County Circuit Court’s grant of summary judgment to the Mississippi Transportation Commission (MTC). In 2010, Smith collided with a loaded logging truck. The truck was driven by Shelby Colson on Highway 28 in Smith County, Mississippi. Colson testified that he began slowing his vehicle because Joe Blackwell, an MTC employee, approached the truck from the side of the highway. He said Blackwell approached from under a tree canopy carrying a stop sign. Colson further said he had not seen any warning signs indicating that road work was occurring ahead or that he needed to slow his vehicle down before spotting Blackwell. Colson said Blackwell made no effort to wave the sign or to get his attention. He stopped because he was unsure what Blackwell was doing. Regardless of what prompted Colson to stop, Smith’s car rear ended Colson’s truck. Smith had no recollection of most of the events that occurred that morning. In June 2011, she brought suit against the MTC. The suit alleged that both Blackwell and the MTC were negligent in Blackwell’s posting, the sign placement, as well as Blackwell’s signaling. The MTC argued that Smith’s claims were preempted by the MTC’s discretionary-function immunity under Mississippi Code Section 11–46–9(1)(d) (Rev. 2015). As the Court of Appeals noted, “the precedent governing that question has evolved even during the pendency of this case . . . .” In Bailey v. City of Pearl, 282 So. 3d 669, 671(Miss. Ct. App. 2019), the Mississippi Court of Appeals correctly applied the public-policy function test articulated in the recent decision Wilcher v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors, 243 So. 3d 177 (Miss. 2018). Similar to Bailey, not all of Smith’s theories of recovery were disposed of by summary judgment. As in Wilcher and Bailey, issues of material fact remainrf regarding the MTC’s liability. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the Smith County Circuit Court’s grant of summary judgment to the extent Smith’s claims were grounded in the MTC’s decision-making processes, but it was reversed concerning Smith’s claims unrelated to the MTC’s decision-making processes. View "Smith v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law

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After Kendal Woodson’s wife said she was going to leave him, he beat her severely and poured hot cooking oil on her. Woodson was convicted of domestic aggravated assault. Woodson’s trial counsel filed no posttrial motions, but Woodson later obtained an out-of-time appeal. His appointed counsel filed "Lindsey" brief, certifying she found no arguable issues supporting an appeal. Woodson did not file a pro se brief. After reviewing the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court concurred there were no appealable issues, accepted counsel's Lindsey certification, and affirmed Woodson's conviction and sentence. View "Woodson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi State Department of Health entered a final order approving a Certificate of Need for Wound Care Management, LLC, d/b/a MedCentris for the “[p]rovision of [d]igital [s]ubtraction [a]ngiography (DSA) services (Limb Salvage Program).” Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC, d/b/a Merit Health River Region, a hospital in Vicksburg that opposed the certificate of need, appealed the Department’s statutorily affirmed decision pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 41-7-201(2) (Rev. 2018). After considering the record and issues presented, the Mississippi Supreme Court entered an order on its own motion requiring supplemental briefing regarding whether Section 41-7-201(2), as amended, governed the appeal process pertaining to facilities established for the private practice, either independently or by incorporated medical groups of physicians. The Supreme Court held that River Region lacked the right to petition the chancery court for review of the certificate of need under Section 41-7-201(2). Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the case and remanded it to the Hinds County Chancery Court for further proceedings. View "Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC v. Mississippi Dept. of Health & Wound Care Management, LLC" on Justia Law