Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries
Mississippi Baptist Foundation v. Fitch, et al.
The Mississippi Baptist Foundation and various heirs of the decedent’s wife both claimed ownership over certain mineral interests devised in the decedent’s will at the time of the decedent’s death in 1969. The will left most of the estate, including the mineral interests, to the Mississippi Baptist Foundation as trustee, with income from the trust going to the decedent’s wife for life, then to his sister for life, and then to benefit the Mississippi Baptist Foundation’s foreign missions. In 1969, Mississippi had mortmain laws (repealed in 1992 and 1993), the relevant portion of which provided that after ten years in the possession of certain proscribed institutions, including religious institutions, real property reverted to the decedent’s heirs if the institution failed to sell the property within that ten-year time period. The Mississippi Baptist Foundation and the heirs disagreed as to when the ten-year period began in this case, and, if it applied, whether the mortmain laws were unconstitutional. The trial court found that the mortmain laws were triggered on the date of the decedent’s death in 1969 and that the mortmain laws were constitutional. Because the Mississippi Baptist Foundation had a possessory interest in the mineral interests in 1969, and because it failed to timely assert any claims regarding the property after it gained possession in 1969, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "Mississippi Baptist Foundation v. Fitch, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Trusts & Estates
Davis, et al. v. Davis
John and Sandra Davis, then-married, had two children in the 1980s. In 2018, John discovered the possibility that the children were not biologically his, but that they may have been the biological result of Sandra’s extramarital relations with Porter Horgan. Almost immediately after discovering this possibility, John sued Sandra and Horgan for fraud, alienation of affection, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury ultimately awarded John $700,000 in damages. Because some of the claims were barred by the statute of limitations, and because John completely failed to request proper jury instructions on damages, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the jury verdict and rendered judgment in favor of Sandra and Horgan on John’s claims against them. View "Davis, et al. v. Davis" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Family Law, Personal Injury
White v. Targa Downstream, LLC
Andy White, an independent contractor, worked for Ergon Trucking, Inc. (Ergon), loading and hauling chemicals. Another Ergon, Inc., subsidiary, Lampton-Love, Inc., contracted with Targa Downstream, LLC to store Lampton-Love’s propane at Targa’s facility in Petal, Mississippi. Targa owned and operated the facility in Petal, which consisted of propane storage as well as equipment to load and unload the propane. Prior to operating the propane loading equipment at the Targa facility and hauling the propane, White was required to load and unload the trailer with propane during several supervised training sessions. White testified he operated the Targa loading equipment exactly as he had done on all previous occasions but that when he was returning the Targa hose to its resting tray, the valve on the Targa hose opened, and liquified propane began spilling out of the hose. White testified that he tackled the hose, grabbed the detachable handle, placed it back on the Targa hose valve and, eventually, closed the valve, stopping the flow of propane. Following the incident, White stated he left the Targa facility with no feeling or indication that he had been injured by coming in contact with the liquified propane. White went to the Ergon yard, removed his “propane soaked clothes,” took a shower and put on fresh clothes. White then proceeded to his trailer to complete the propane delivery. White did not seek medical attention until the following day, January 15, 2017. By the time White did seek medical treatment, he stated that blisters had formed on his legs and that he was in excruciating pain. This case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review an issue of the scope of the intimately connected doctrine, which immunizes a premises owner against claims of an independent contractor for injuries that arise out of or are intimately connected with the work that the independent contractor was hired to perform. The circuit court granted Targa's second summary judgment motion based on this doctrine. The circuit court initially denied Targa’s first motion, holding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Targa modified its equipment in a manner that constituted a dangerous condition and whether White knew or should have known of the alleged dangerous condition. After a careful review of the law, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Targa and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "White v. Targa Downstream, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury
City of Jackson v. Cities of Pearl & Flowood, & Rankin County, Mississippi
Pursuant to Mississippi Code Sections 61-9-1 to -9 (Rev. 2022) the City of Jackson passed an ordinance on August 6, 2019, to incorporate land in Rankin County that surrounded what was known as the Jackson-Medgar Wiley Evers International Airport. Rankin County, the City of Pearl and the City of Flowood appealed the ordinance; the trial court declared the ordinance void because Jackson had failed to obtain the consent and approval of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors before passing the ordinance. Jackson appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court claiming that the trial court erred by finding that approval of the Rankin County Board of Supervisors was required. The Supreme Court found the ordinance void and affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "City of Jackson v. Cities of Pearl & Flowood, & Rankin County, Mississippi" on Justia Law
City of Canton Board of Aldermen v. Slaughter, et al.
This case concerned the removal of two commissioners of the Canton Municipal Utilities Commission (CMU Commission) by the City of Canton Board of Aldermen (the Board). The Mayor of Canton vetoed a resolution of the Board issuing notice and an opportunity to be heard to the commissioners. The Board claimed to override the veto by a vote of two-thirds of the majority of members, although in actuality it failed for lack of the requisite majority. It then proceeded with a hearing and ultimately removed the commissioners from their appointed positions. The decision of the Board was appealed. The circuit court reversed the decision to remove the commissioners, finding that the Board failed to override the Mayor’s veto and that the actions taken to remove the commissioners following the failure to override the veto were void as a matter of law. The Board appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, claiming the commissioners’ notice of appeal contained fatal jurisdictional errors, notice and an opportunity to be heard were not required for the removal to be effective and the Board properly overrode the Mayor’s veto. After a careful review of the law, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "City of Canton Board of Aldermen v. Slaughter, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Constitutional Law, Government & Administrative Law
University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Kelly
In an interlocutory appeal, the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) appeals the denial of its motion for summary judgment. Vincent Kelly was injured in a forklift accident at his workplace on August 14, 2019. His left foot was crushed. Kelly was taken to Mississippi Baptist Medical Center and then was transferred to UMMC. Kelly was then evaluated and treated by an orthopedic surgeon. Upon return to UMMC, he complained of uncontrolled pain and discoloration of his third and fourth toes, which he said had turned black the previous day. UMMC orthopedic surgeon Patrick Bergin, M.D., took over Kelly’s care. The next day, Dr. Bergin performed a surgical evaluation of Kelly’s left foot and toes. Dr. Bergin determined that Kelly’s third and fourth toes were dysvascular and in need of amputation. Dr. Bergin then proceeded to amputate the two toes and obtained wound cultures, which confirmed infection. After the procedure, Dr. Bergin continued to provide care to Kelly for his wounds and infection. Kelly filed this lawsuit and a claim for medical malpractice, alleging UMMC’s physicians failed to properly treat the injury during his first visit and surgery. UMMC argued upon denial of summary judgment that Kelly’s expert witness lacked qualifications, rendering him unable to prove the required elements of medical malpractice. To this, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and reversed the denial of summary judgment. View "University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Kelly" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Medical Malpractice
In Re: Ali M. Shamsiddeen
Attorney Ali Muhammad Shamsiddeen appealed a trial court’s Order of Contempt and Order Denying Motion for Recusal. Michael Sorrell was convicted of one count of first degree murder and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. The Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed Sorrell’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. After numerous continuances, Sorrell’s new trial was scheduled for April 5, 2021. On the morning of trial, Sorrell’s then-counsel, Kevin Camp, failed to appear. Camp was terminated as defense counsel. On April 13, Shamsiddeen entered an appearance as counsel for Sorrell. By agreement of all parties, the trial was rescheduled for September 27. The trial court advised that no further continuances would be granted and that the case would proceed to trial on the 27th. On August 18, Shamsiddeen moved ore tenus for a continuance, which was denied. On August 31, Shamsiddeen filed a motion to continue trial. At the pretrial motion hearing on September 1, Shamsiddeen reasserted his motion to continue. The trial court denied the motion. On September 21, Shamsiddeen contacted the court administrator and advised that he had the coronavirus and would not be able to appear at the pretrial conference scheduled for September 22. Shamsiddeen was instructed to provide to the trial court documentation “from a healthcare provider that counsel [wa]s infected with the coronavirus and that he [wa]s symptomatic not asymptomatic.” On the morning of September 22, Shamsiddeen did not appear in person or virtually at the pretrial conference. Later that morning, Shamsiddeen emailed the court administrator a statement from a medical provider dated September 21. The statement not include a diagnosis or confirm any medical condition, only that the nature of the illness or injury was “medical” and that Shamsiddeen would “be able to return to work/school on 10-11-21.” On the day before trial, Shamsiddeen sent an email to the trial court noting that he was quarantining; he did not appear in court for trial. Before the jury panels were released, Shamsiddeen had someone from the City of Jackson’s legal department hand deliver a medical statement, dated September 27, identical to the September 21 medical statement with the exception of the word “quarantine” added to the nature of the illness or injury. The trial court thereafter entered the orders of contempt at issue here. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no reversible error in the orders and affirmed them. View "In Re: Ali M. Shamsiddeen" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Lumumba v. City Council of Jackson, Mississippi
Jackson, Mississippi Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba attempted to veto the Jackson City Council’s refusal to approve the Mayor’s preferred garbage collection contract. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review was whether a mayor, in his restricted executive power, could override by veto a negative action of a city council. The Supreme Court found he could not, and upheld the trial court's judgment. View "Lumumba v. City Council of Jackson, Mississippi" on Justia Law
Posted in: Government & Administrative Law, Government Contracts
Scruggs, et al. v. Farmland Mutual Insurance Co.
Almost two decades prior to this decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court handed down Farmland Mutual Insurance Co. v. Scruggs, 886 So. 2d 714 (Miss. 2004). In that opinion, the Court held that Farmland Mutual Insurance Co., the liability insurer for Mitchell Scruggs, Eddie Scruggs, Scruggs Farms & Supplies LLC, and Scruggs Farm Joint Venture (collectively, Scruggs), had no duty to defend Scruggs in a federal lawsuit by Monsanto Company. The reason no coverage applied was because Monsanto had alleged that Scruggs committed the intentional act of conversion by saving and using unlicensed seeds. Eight years later, a district court judge overturned a jury’s verdict that Scruggs had willfully violated Monsanto’s patents. Consequently, Scruggs was not liable for treble damages and attorney’s fees. Scruggs returned to state court in 2013. Citing Rule 60(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, Scruggs asked the Lee County Circuit Court to reopen and vacate the final judgment entered in 2004 in favor of Farmland on the coverage issue. Scruggs asserted the Mississippi Supreme Court’s opinion had been erroneously decided based on facts that came to light in the federal case. The state court rejected the motion as untimely under Rule 60(b). Scruggs appealed. While Scruggs asserted the motion was timely, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the motion’s timing is irrelevant: Rule 60(b) was not a procedural vehicle for a trial court to overturn a mandate issued from the Mississippi Supreme Court. Because the trial court lacked jurisdiction to grant Scruggs’s request, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s denial of the motion. View "Scruggs, et al. v. Farmland Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law
Posted in: Agriculture Law, Civil Procedure, Insurance Law
Mississippi v. RW Development, LLC, et al.
The City of Biloxi and Harrison County, Mississippi adopted a joint resolution that authorized the lease of a piece of property to RW Development, LLC, for the development of a joint public/private pier seaward of Veterans Avenue. As a result, the State initiated this case seeking a declaratory judgment that the State was the sole and exclusive authority to lease Public Trust Tidelands, that the City had no authority to lease the subject property to RW, and that preliminary and permanent injunctive relief should issue against the actions of the City and RW. The Chancery Court of Harrison County denied the State’s requested relief and ultimately determined that the City and County had statutory authority to lease the property to RW for public use. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed that Mississippi statutory law granted the City authority to build the pier, the court granted the chancery court's judgment. View "Mississippi v. RW Development, LLC, et al." on Justia Law