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After Natchez Regional Medical Center (“NRMC”) filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, H. Kenneth Lefoldt, who had been appointed trustee for the NRMC Liquidation Trust, sued NRMC’s former directors and officers in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging breach of fiduciary duties of care, good faith, and loyalty. The directors and officers sought dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and argued that they were immune under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). The district court agreed and granted dismissal to the directors and officers. Lefoldt appealed, and the Fifth Circuit certified questions of Mississippi Law to the Mississippi Supreme Court pertaining to the MTCA as the exclusive remedy for a bankruptcy trustee standing in the shoes of a public hospital corporation against the employees or directors of that public corporation. If indeed the MTCA was the exclusive remedy, then did the MTCA permit the trustee to pursue any claims against the officers and directors in their personal capacity? The Mississippi Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative: the MTCA did not furnish the exclusive remedy for the bankruptcy trustee. View "Lefoldt v. Rentfro" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a Chancery Court judgment setting aside inter vivos gifts made by Sheila West. Acting through a durable power of attorney granted by her mother, Dorothy Johnson, Sheila West removed her brother’s, niece’s, and nephew’s names from certificates of deposit originally created by Dorothy Johnson, and replaced them with her own name and the names of her two daughters. Sheila’s brother, Ron Johnson, petitioned the chancery court to set aside these amendments as an improper transfer of an inter vivos gift. Following a trial on the matter, the chancellor found that Sheila did not overcome a presumption of undue influence in making what amounted to inter vivos gifts and thereby reverted ownership of the CDs to their original form. THe Mississippi Supreme Court found that because Dorothy Johnson retained an ownership interest in all of the CDs at issue, neither the original conveyance nor Sheila’s subsequent transfers could be considered inter vivos gifts. Therefore, the chancellor erred in his analysis of the issue. Also at issue in this matter was whether Sheila West engaged in self-dealing under the durable power of attorney granted to her by Dorothy Johnson. Finding that Sheila failed to overcome the burden of undue influence created by the confidential relationship between herself and Dorothy, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s decision to revert the CDs to their status prior to Sheila’s 2010 amendments. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Dorothy Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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The Board of Supervisors of Tunica County, Mississippi (the Board), ordered an ad valorem tax levy for fiscal year 2014-15 and increased the millage rate from the previous year. After entering the order, the Board advertised a public hearing of the proposed ad valorem tax levy in the Tunica Times. The hearing took place and various taxpayers appeared to voice objections and concerns. Aggrieved by the actions of the Board, one taxpayer, HWCC-Tunica, LLC (HWCC), which owned and operates Hollywood Casino-Tunica, filed a bill of exceptions with the Circuit Court of Tunica County and paid the taxes under protest. The trial court, finding that the failure of the Board to comply with statutory notice and public hearing requirements rendered the tax levy unlawful, ordered a refund. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Tunica County Board of Supervisors v. HWCC-Tunica, LLC" on Justia Law

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A jury sentenced Willie Russell to death for murdering a correctional officer. Russell later claimed he was intellectually disabled and thus could not be executed under Atkins v.Virginia, 536 U.S. 304 (2002). In 2014, the trial court set an Atkins hearing to determine if Russell was intellectually disabled. Prior to the hearing, the State moved to assess Russell based on his claimed intellectual disability. But Russell was opposed to the State’s expert conducting an Atkins evaluation. Years earlier, in 2006, Russell had undergone psychological testing ordered in a separate aggravated-assault case. But that testing was for his competency to stand trial - not assessing intellectual disability. Although the State had initially proposed that the 2006 assessment cover both issues, Russell’s attorney also objected back then to the State evaluating Russell’s Atkins claim in that proceeding. So Russell was never evaluated on the specific criteria for intellectual disability under Atkins. At the end of the hearing, at which Russell’s expert testified - the trial court ruled that Russell was intellectually disabled under Atkins and vacated his death sentence. The State appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court: "While Atkins determinations are legal decisions, they are decisions that must be informed by medical experts. And here, we find the trial judge abused her discretion by denying the State’s well-supported motion to evaluate Russell prior to the Atkins hearing." View "Mississippi v. Russell" on Justia Law

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In a preceding case involving these parties, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the special court of eminent domain, specifically finding plaintiffs Todd and Angela Kuhn were not entitled to condemn Cheryl High’s property for a private road. The statutory procedures governing eminent-domain actions permit a defendant like High to recover expenses, including attorney’s fees, when “the judgment be that the plaintiff is not entitled to a judgment condemning property[.]” Following the Court's mandate, High moved the special court for attorney's fees and expenses under Miss. Code Ann. 11-27-37 (Rev. 2004). The special court held Section 11-27-37 did not apply and denied High’s request. High again appealed to the Supreme Court. And once again, the Court reversed and remanded: the Kuhns clearly invoked the statutory procedures of the special court of eminent domain when they petitioned that court for the statutory right to condemn High’s property for a private road. Thus, Section 11-27-37 applied. Because the award of fees and expenses under Section 11-27-37 is discretionary, not mandatory, the case was remanded back to the special court of eminent domain to consider the merits of High’s motion and the reasonableness of her request for $25,990.58 in attorney’s fees and expenses, plus interest. View "High v. Kuhn" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a trip-and-fall at a McDonald's in Winona, Mississippi: seventy-six-year-old John Renner, his wife, and two other family members stopped at a McDonald’s in Winona around 9:30 a.m. After he received his order, Renner set his food down at a table and walked to the condiment station. Before returning to his table, he thought one of the McDonald’s employees spoke to him. Renner turned and faced the counter before realizing the employee was speaking to another customer. As Renner turned back around to return to his table, his left foot struck a protruding leg of a highchair, causing him to fall and suffer injury to his face and left shoulder. After the fall, Renner heard one of the McDonald’s employees ask another what the highchair was doing there, and to move it. Two and a half years later, Renner filed suit against McDonald’s; Retzer Resources, Inc., the owner and operator of the Winona McDonald’s; and Velencia Hubbard, the manager of the Winona McDonald’s. During discovery, the defendants claimed that video footage of the fall no longer existed. The defendants, Hubbard and Retzer, moved for summary judgment, arguing that Renner could not demonstrate the existence of any genuine issue of material fact that: (1) the highchair was a dangerous condition; (2) any alleged danger was hidden; or (3) defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. Renner appealed, arguing summary judgment was not proper because: (1) he established each element of a premises-liability claim; and (2) the defendants lost or destroyed key video evidence, which he argued foreclosed the grant of summary judgment. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded plaintiff established several triable issues of fact, and as a result, summary judgment was inappropriate. View "Renner v. Retzer Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Maurice Brown entered the home of Mattie Moore, the neighborhood “candy lady,” who sold candy, chips, soda, cigarettes, and other knick-knacks. Mattie Moore’s granddaughter, Cheramie Moore, lived with her grandmother, and was startled from her sleep when her grandmother loudly called her name. The granddaughter later identified Brown from a photographic lineup as the man who appeared in the doorway to her bedroom with a shotgun in hand. The man demanded that Cheramie Moore “give me the stuff” and she produced about a hundred dollars from a nearby drawer. Brown handed the cash to his brother, Jonathan Brown, who had come up behind him holding a cigar box which belonged to Mattie Moore. With Brown still pointing his gun in Cheramie Moore’s direction, the pair backed down the hall toward a door to the outside. Brown was indicted for two counts of armed robbery. After trial, Brown was convicted of the first count, the armed robbery of Cheramie Moore, and was acquitted of the second count, the armed robbery of Mattie Moore. He was sentenced to a prison term of twenty-seven years. On appeal, Brown argued the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for armed robbery. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no merit to this contention and affirmed his conviction and sentence. View "Brown v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Christopher Pollan filed a medical negligence action against Dr. Andrew Wartak, North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point; Angie Turnage, LPN; Chase Larmour, RN; and Ashley Thomas, LPN, claiming that the defendants’ medical negligence caused the death of his mother, Shirley Pollan. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendants, finding that Pollan’s survival claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Pollan v. Wartak" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Xavier Collins Johnson of: (1) burglary of a dwelling; (2) aggravated assault; and (3) conspiracy to commit credit-card fraud. The trial judge sentenced Johnson as a habitual offender under Mississippi Code Section 99-19-81 (Rev. 2015), and Johnson’s sentences for the burglary and assault counts were enhanced because the victim was over the age of sixty-five. Johnson appealed, raising seven issues. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Johnson’s convictions. View "Johnson v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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L.B.C. appeals the Forrest County Youth Court’s requirement that he register as a sex offender. In 2015, L.B.C. sexually battered two six-year-old girls. L.B.C. admitted to sexually penetrating the two victims with his fingers. At the time, L.B.C. was fourteen years old. Each of the four issues appealed by L.B.C. arose from the registration requirement: (1) his delinquency adjudication of sexual battery did not involve the use of force and was not an offense that required him to register as a sex offender; (2) requiring registration without an individual determination that he was a threat to the public violated his constitutional rights; (3) he should not be required to register as a sex offender since he had a mental age of nine and had been fourteen years old for only three months at the time of the incidents; and (4) requiring him to register as a sex offender violated the confidentiality requirements of youth-court proceedings. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the disposition of the youth court. View "In the Interest of L.B.C. v. Forrest County Youth Court" on Justia Law