Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Gerome Moore was indicted by grand jury of capital murder for the death of Carolyn Temple during the commission of a robbery. A jury convicted him of capital murder, and the trial court sentenced Moore to life without parole. Upon appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, but foundMoore had a statutory right to be sentenced by a jury. Thus, the Court vacated Moore's sentence and remanded for resentencing by a jury. View "Moore v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The DeSoto County Board of Supervisors denied Standard Construction Company’s application for a condition use permit to mine sand and gravel. In September 2017, the circuit court, sitting as an appellate court, reversed the Board's decision. Eleven days later, DeSoto County filed a motion seeking rehearing under Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 40. On December 22, 2017, the circuit court denied the motion. On January 3, 2018, DeSoto County filed a notice of appeal “from the final judgment entered in this case on September 29, 2017 and the denial of the Motion for Rehearing by order entered on December 22, 2017.” The Mississippi Court of Appeals dismissed DeSoto County’s entire appeal as untimely because the motion for rehearing did not toll the thirty-day time period for filing a notice of appeal under Mississippi Rule of Appellate Procedure 4(a). While the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the appeal of the September 29, 2017 order was untimely and should have been dismissed, DeSoto County timely appealed the circuit court’s order of December 22, 2017. Even though the appeal of the December order denying the motion for rehearing was timely, the Supreme Court held DeSoto County waived any argument that the circuit court abused its discretion in denying the motion. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. View "DeSoto County, Mississippi v. Standard Construction Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Daniel Shope filed suit against Dr. Timothy Chen, alleging Chen “medically aided and contributed” to Shope’s opioid drug dependency by prescribing Shope Hydrocodone-Acetaminophen and Tramadol after he was hospitalized for an opioid overdose. In his complaint, Shope admitted that a separate doctor was the “initial tort feasor [sic]” and that Chen had exacerbated Shope’s injuries. Chen was the only defendant in the original complaint. Chen immediately moved to transfer venue to Madison County because Chen only practiced in Madison County, where he saw Shope. On the same day Chen filed his motion to transfer venue, Shope filed an amended complaint adding Mississippi Baptist Hospital (Baptist). Baptist moved for dismissal based on Shope’s failure to provide presuit notice. In response, Shope argued that notice was provided to Baptist when he provided notice to one of its doctors, Chen. Alternatively, Shope moved to stay the case for thirty days in an attempt to cure his failure to give presuit notice. Later, Shope filed a motion for leave to amend his complaint “to resolve excusable neglect [Miss. R. Civ. P.] 6(b) defects” that would “dispose of all of Defendants’ motions. After hearing all pending motions, the trial judge denied Chen’s motion to transfer venue and motion to strike Shope’s affidavit, granted Baptist Hospital’s motion to dismiss, and dismissed without prejudice Shope’s amended complaint. Chen petitioned this Court for interlocutory review of the trial judge’s denial of his motion to transfer and motion to strike Shope’s affidavit. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court abused its discretion in denying both motions, that the trial court’s order should have been reversed, and that this case should have been remanded with instructions to transfer venue to the County Court of Madison County. View "Chen v. Shope" on Justia Law

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Carol Dalon died in the care of Ocean Springs Health and Rehabilitation Center (OSHRC). As administrator of her estate, Carol’s son Emile Dalon, sued the center for wrongful death, alleging OSHRC and its employees negligently caused Carol’s death. The circuit court granted the defendants’ motion to compel arbitration, and Emile appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court found Emile presented no evidence he lacked the opportunity to study the arbitration agreement and to inquire about its terms. Emile did not argue he was time pressured when signing the agreement. Additionally, the arbitration agreement explained that Emile had the right to seek legal counsel concerning the arbitration agreement. If Emile had concerns or questions about the arbitration agreement, he could have asked the facility, researched the question on his own, or hired an attorney to assist him. Emile argues he was forced to sign the arbitration agreement in order to get his mother the care she needed. The Court found this claim meritless, concluding Emile entered into the arbitration agreement knowingly and voluntarily. Therefore, the trial court made no reversible error in granting a motion to compel arbitration. View "Dalon v. MS HUD Ocean Springs LLC" on Justia Law

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In chancery court, Plaintiffs challenged the two sources of funding for charter schools provided for under the Mississippi Charter Schools Act of 2013. Plaintiffs contended the Act was unconstitutional under Article 8, Sections 206 and 208, of the Mississippi Constitution. Also, one of the charter-school intervenors maintained that Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the suit. The chancellor held that the Plaintiffs did have standing to sue and that they did not prove that either source of funding was unconstitutional. Before the Mississippi Supreme Court, Plaintiffs concentrated their argument under Article 8, Section 206, of the Mississippi Constitution, alleging that a charter school’s ad valorem funding was unconstitutional. They did not appeal the chancellor’s ruling concerning per-pupil funds. The Jackson Public School District (JPS) maintained that the chancellor erred in denying its motion to be dismissed from the suit. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court, agreeing Plaintiffs had standing to sue, and that they did not meet their burden to demonstrate that Section 37-28-55 was unconstitutional. The Court found JPS’s arguments concerning its motion to dismiss were waived on appeal for failure to raise the issue in a cross-appeal. View "Araujo v. Bryant" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Jikiel Jones of armed robbery, armed carjacking and kidnapping. On direct appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Jones argued: (1) the trial court erred by excluding his alibi witness; (2) the trial court erred by granting a deficient accomplice jury instruction; and (3) the State failed to disclose exculpatory evidence before trial. With respect to the first issue, the Supreme Court found the trial court abused its discretion by excluding the testimony of Jones’s alibi witness. "While a per se violation of Mississippi Rule of Criminal Procedure 17.4(a) did occur, this violation cannot be held against Jones in light of his original counsel’s conflict of interest. Further, there is no indication in the record that Jones’s failure to notice the prosecution of his alibi witness was willful or motivated by a desire to obtain a tactical advantage." With respect to Jones' second issue: the Court found the accomplice instruction was deficient. Jones waived his right to appeal the exculpatory evidence issue. The Court reversed Jones’s conviction and remanded the case for a new trial. View "Jones v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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This appeal involved a business dispute between two physicians. William Yost, M.D., owned and operated a pain-management clinic, Doctors Medical Center, LLC (DMC-Slidell). Within six months of opening DMC-Sidell, the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners (LSBME) began an investigation of Dr. Yost for illegally operating a pain-management clinic. Yost surrendered his Louisiana license, and closed DMC-Slidell. Yost then opened a new clinic, Doctors Medical Center of Picayune, LLC (DMC-Picayune), and began seeing patients, including his former patients from DMC-Slidell. The Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure (MSBML) required that all pain-management clinics be registered and issued a certificate; Yost submitted an application for registration to the MSBML, but the certificate was not immediately issued. Mayor Okoloise, M.D. met with Yost to discuss affiliating. As a result of these discussions, Okoloise began practicing medicine with Yost at DMC-Picayune. They formalized their relationship and signed a “Personal Services Contract” in August 2012. At trial, Okoloise testified that, at the time he signed the agreement, he was unaware of the LSBME’s investigation of Yost,and he was unaware that Yost was not properly credentialed in Mississippi. The MSBML was not aware of the Louisiana investigation either and approved Yost’s application practice in pain management, issuing the required certificate. Dr. Okoloise resigned from DMC-Picayune; when he learned of the investigations, Okoloise testified the clinic was being operated illegally, and, thus he believed his contract to have been void at its inception. After Okoloise resigned, several other DMC-Picayune employees unexpectedly resigned. Testimony was presented that Okoloise made plans to open another clinic before he submitted his resignation, Hope Medical Services, LLC. Okoloise offered several members of the DMC-Picayune staff jobs at Hope Medical. The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) investigated Yost and DMC-Picayune, the result of which did not end in charges filed. But, on February 13, 2013, the DEA closed DMC-Picayune. That same day, Yost voluntarily surrendered his Mississippi medical license. Notwithstanding these investigations and the closure of his clinics, Yost sued Okoloise and Hope Medical and the DMC-Picayune employees that worked for Hope Medical. The chancellor determined there was sufficient evidence to sustain several claims against Okoloise and Hope Medical: trover/conversion, defamation, breach of contract, breach of duty of good faith, and misappropriation of trade secrets. The chancellor found “[Dr. Yost and DMC-Picayune] should be equitably compensated for the damages they incurred for these claims and losses.” He awarded a judgment against Okoloise and Hope Medical in the amount of $188,622. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the chancellor’s findings were based on equitable measures, with no legal basis, and were therefore manifestly wrong. "The record evidence was insufficient to show losses attributable to Dr. Okoloise or Hope Medical. The judgment is manifestly wrong, clearly erroneous, and not supported by credible evidence. We reverse and render." View "Okoloise v. Yost" on Justia Law

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Gulfport OB-GYN was a professional association of physicians specializing in obstetrical and gynecological care. In 2008, it hired the law firm Dukes, Dukes, Keating & Faneca, P.A., to assist in negotiating the hiring of Dr. Donielle Daigle and to prepare an employment agreement for her. Five years later, Dr. Daigle and another physician left Gulfport OB-GYN to establish their own practice. They sued Gulfport OB-GYN for unpaid compensation and sought a declaratory judgment that the noncompetition covenant was unenforceable. The departing physicians ultimately prevailed, with the chancery court holding the noncompetition covenant not applicable to Dr. Daigle because she left voluntarily and was not “terminated by the Employer.” The chancery court decision was initially appealed, but the dispute was later settled through mediation when Gulfport OB-GYN agreed to pay Dr. Daigle $425,000. Gulfport OB-GYN then filed this legal-malpractice suit against the attorney who drafted the employment agreement and her firm. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the defendants after finding Gulfport OB-GYN had failed to produce sufficient evidence that it would have received a better deal but for the attorneys’ alleged negligence, i.e., Gulfport OB-GYN failed to prove that the alleged negligence caused it damages. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and affirmed. View "Gulfport OB-GYN, P.A. v. Dukes, Dukes, Keating & Faneca, P.A." on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court remanded this case for further proceedings to determine child custody. On remand, the chancery court awarded custody of the children to the father. Aggrieved, the mother appealed, arguing that the instructions given by the Mississippi Supreme Court were simply to review the determination of the mother's fitness without the hearsay evidence, not to conduct a new trial on custody. Finding that the chancellor was not manifestly wrong or clearly erroneous in granting custody of the three minor children to the father, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ballard v. Ballard" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Jeremy Fogelman was convicted by jury of felony failure to stop his motor vehicle for police. Because Fogleman fled at a high rate of speed, showing an indifference to the consequences and to causing injury, the trial judge designated Fogleman’s offense a crime of violence under Mississippi Code Section 97-3-2(2) (Rev. 2014). This finding resulted in Fogleman’s parole-ineligibility period increasing from one-fourth to one-half of his five-year sentence—a sentence allowed by statute and authorized by the jury’s verdict. The appellate court held that the resulting parole-ineligibility increase violated the Sixth Amendment because it was based on facts found by a judge, not a jury. The United States Supreme Court has held that the Sixth Amendment required factual determinations that increase maximum or minimum sentences be submitted to a jury and found beyond a reasonable doubt. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the judge’s crime-of-violence designation merely impacted the minimum time Fogleman had to serve before becoming parole eligible. It did nothing to affect Fogleman’s sentence. Thus, no Sixth Amendment violation occurred. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the trial court's judgment. View "Fogleman v. Mississippi" on Justia Law