Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arbitration & Mediation
by
Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association (Southwest) was a nonprofit, member-owned electric cooperative corporation created by statute to provide electricity to rural Mississippians. Plaintiffs Ray Virgil, Barbara Lloyd, and Cassandra Johnson were are members of Southwest who filed a lawsuit alleging Southwest failed to return excess revenues and receipts to its members. Southwest moved to compel arbitration. The trial court granted Southwest’s motion to compel arbitration. Plaintiffs appealed. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Virgil v. Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association" on Justia Law

by
Mac Haik appeals the circuit court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration. In 2016, plaintiff Brenda Hester purchased a used 2014 Dodge Ram from Jackson Mac Haik CDJR, Ltd. (Mac Haik). Hester executed a retail-installment sale contract with Mac Haik for the purchase of the vehicle. The contract contained an arbitration provision. In 2017, Hester sued Mac Haik, American Financial Warranty Corporation (American Warranty), Randy Miggins d/b/a M&S Towing, and Randy Miggins, alleging that the vehicle she bought from Mac Haik “was defective in materials and workmanship from and after the date of purchase” and “that said defects have existed since the Plaintiff started using said vehicle.” She alleged further that American Warranty issued her a warranty but failed to repair her truck. Hester never served American Warranty with a summons and copy of her complaint. Hester alleged that Mac Haik took possession of her vehicle to make warranted repairs and later allowed it to be towed. Mac Haik, finding that all of Hester’s claims, which sounded in tort or contract and related to her purchase or condition of the vehicle at issue, argued that the claims were subject to arbitration. Mac Haik appealed the circuit court’s denial of its motion to compel arbitration. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the claims fell within the scope of the valid arbitration provision, and that no defenses existed to bar arbitration, it reversed reverse the circuit court’s order denying Mac Haik’s motion to compel arbitration and ordered the claims to arbitration. View "Jackson Mac Haik CDJR, Ltd. v. Hester" on Justia Law

by
Federico Garcia, president of Mama Kio’s, entered into an agreement with Total Merchant Services (TMS) for credit-card financial services for the restaurant. Two months after opening Mama Kio’s, Garcia noticed that the bank deposits through TMS were considerably less than expected. TMS later discovered the cause was an improper code in its software that had failed to collect the tips authorized by the customers. The missing tips totaled approximately $14,000. TMS attempted to remedy the error by running the credit cards again for the uncharged tip amounts. However, the customers were charged not only for the uncollected tips but also for the entire charged amounts. More than three thousand customers’ transactions were double and/or triple billed, resulting in more than $400,000 taken from Mama Kio’s customers’ accounts. Mama Kio’s worked with the credit-card companies for more than a month to repair and mitigate the damages. Mama Kio’s was forced to close its restaurant for lack of customers. LAGB, LLC, a commercial landlord, filed suit against Mama Kio’s for breach of its lease contract and sought damages for rent, insurance, taxes, and capital improvements. LAGB also sued the companies that provided credit-card processing services to Mama Kio’s, alleging that the negligence of the credit-card processing companies caused Mama Kio’s to breach its lease with LAGB. Mama Kio’s filed a cross-claim against the credit-card processing companies, alleging misrepresentations and tortious interference with its business. The credit-card processing companies filed motions compelling LAGB and Mama Kio’s to arbitrate. The trial court granted the motions. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that while the trial court did not err by compelling Mama Kio’s to arbitrate its cross-claims, it did err by compelling LAGB to arbitrate its claims. View "LAGB, LLC v. Total Merchant Services, Inc." on Justia Law

by
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

by
The Mississippi Supreme Court previously unanimously held that KPMG, LLP could not enforce arbitration agreements attached to five annual engagement letters with Singing River Health System (Singing River), a community hospital, because the terms and condition of the letters were not sufficiently spread upon the hospital board’s minutes to create an enforceable contract. In this appeal, KPMG sought to enforce the very same arbitration agreements attached to the very same engagement letters with Singing River - this time against Jackson County, Mississippi, which acted as Singing River’s bond guarantor. For the same reason the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s denial of KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration in KPMG, LLP v. Singing River Health System, the Court reversed and remanded the trial court’s grant of KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration in this case. View "Jackson County, Mississippi v. KPMG, LLP" on Justia Law

by
Gregory Nethery appealed a Circuit Court’s decision to grant a motion to compel arbitration filed by Defendants CapitalSouth Partners, Harbert Mezzanine Partners, and On-Site Fuel Services (collectively, “Defendants”). Nethery retained a minority thirty-percent ownership interest in OSFS through his stock interest in OSFH. CapitalSouth and Harbert each held the remaining interest. In October 2016, Nethery filed suit in circuit court against CapitalSouth and Harbert, claiming breach of fiduciary duty, corporate freeze out, unjust enrichment, constructive trust, civil conspiracy, and negligence and mismanagement. As he claimed in the circuit court, Nethery argued on appeal that, based upon a choice-of-law provision contained in the Stockholders Agreement, Delaware law governed interpretation of the agreement. Nethery contended that under Delaware law, the arbitration clause did not apply because Nethery’s complaint did not allege breach of the Stockholders Agreement, nor did Nethery seek legal relief under the agreement. Rather, Nethery asserted only noncontractual state-law claims and his legal claims existed independently from the contract. Unpersuaded, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the circuit court correctly found Nethery’s claims were subject to the agreement’s arbitration provision. View "Nethery v. CapitalSouth Partners Fund II, L.P." on Justia Law

by
Singing River Health System a/k/a Singing River Hospital System (“Singing River”) sued KPMG, LLP, alleging separate counts of breach of contract and negligence and/or professional malpractice based on the audits KPMG performed for Singing River in fiscal years 2008 through 2012. Singing River alleged that KPMG failed to comply with the professional auditing and accounting standards expressed in GAAS (Generally Accepted Auditing Standards), GAGAS (Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards), and GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), which KPMG had agreed to follow. Singing River specifically alleged that KPMG’s audits were replete with computational errors and incorrect assumptions, and that KPMG had not performed basic tests to substantiate its opinions. Singing River separately alleged that KPMG was negligent and committed professional malpractice by failing to use the skill, prudence, and diligence other reasonable and prudent auditors would use in similar circumstances, as expressed in the GAAS, GAGAS and GAAP. Singing River alleged, inter alia, that, as a direct and proximate result of KPMG’s audits, Singing River was unaware that its employee-pension plan was underfunded by approximately one-hundred-fifty million dollars ($150,000,000.00). Further, Singing River alleged that it was unaware that it was not in compliance with certain bond covenants due to KPMG’s negligence. KPMG sought to compel arbitration of Singing River’s claims. The circuit court declined to order Singing River to arbitration. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined KPMG’s 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 letters were not spread across the Board’s minutes. The Court could not enforce these contracts or the dispute-resolution clauses attached to them. KPMG’s additional arguments concerning the delegation clause, collateral estoppel, and direct-benefit estoppel were without merit. The trial court’s order denying KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration was affirmed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "KPMG, LLP v. Singing River Health System" on Justia Law

by
Phillip Moore, Gloria Moore, and Katelyn Moore sued Olshan Foundation Repair of Jackson, LLC (Olshan), and Wayne Brown. Olshan and Brown sought to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration provision within a contract between Phillip Moore and Olshan for the repair of the foundation of the Moores’ home. The circuit court ordered Phillip and Gloria Moore to arbitrate their claims. But because the circuit court declined to order Katelyn Moore to the arbitral forum, Olshan and Brown appealed. Finding that Katelyn Moore was neither a third-party beneficiary to the foundation-repair contract nor was she bound by direct-benefit estoppel, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Katelyn Moore’s claims, including negligence and intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress, were wholly independent of the terms of the contract to which she was not a party. As such, Olshan was not allowed to enforce an arbitration clause respecting Katelyn Moore’s claims, which were unrelated to the contract. View "Olshan Foundation Repair Company of Jackson, LLC v. Moore" on Justia Law

by
Yates Construction, LLC, and D.W. Caldwell, Inc., entered into a construction subcontract for the roof installation on a residential dormitory at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. When Caldwell completed both the repairs and the roof installation, it had yet to receive total payment for the structural repairs. The companies disputed the scope and expense of these repairs and quickly negotiated to an impasse. Thereafter, Caldwell filed a claim against Yates for causing delay and increased costs by failing to pay for work performed, which was in breach of the agreements between the parties. The parties proceeded to arbitration. Although the arbitration record was neither recorded nor transcribed, the parties conceded that the arbitrator considered arguments, reviewed evidence, and heard witness testimony over the course of three days. He then reopened the proceedings for additional documentation, before issuing his thirteen-page award. Within two weeks of the arbitrator’s decision to deny Yates’s motion for reconsideration, Caldwell requested that the circuit court confirm the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-125. Yates moved the trial court to alter, amend, or vacate the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-25. With the understanding that Yates would provide oral argument on its motion at the award confirmation hearing, Caldwell filed a request to limit the presentation of proof before the circuit court. Ultimately, the trial court reviewed fourteen exhibits and the testimony of one witness in making its decision. Based on this evidence, the court issued its order modifying the arbitrator’s award. Finding that the arbitrator had duplicated the labor costs for shingle installation in its award–once under the original subcontract and once under the oral agreement to repair the structural damage (referred to as the Repair Agreement)–it amended the award, reducing the total by $104,507. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined: (1) the miscalculations alleged in this matter were not evident from the award itself, nor were they apparent from the agreed-upon record; and (2) the judge erred when he allowed the parties to present witness testimony regarding the extent of any alleged miscalculations, rather than relying on the award and the arbitration record as the relevant law suggested. Finding error, the Court therefore reversed the circuit court’s decision and remanded this case to the circuit court with directions to confirm the arbitration award. Furthermore, because the subcontract between the parties provided that each contractor would be responsible for his own fees and costs, the Court declined to assess costs to one party over the other, and instead, enforced their bargained-for agreement. View "D. W. Caldwell, Inc. v. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company" on Justia Law

by
Rebecca Keyes, a former employee of Dollar General, filed suit against Dollar General Corporation; DG Mize, LLC; Dolgencorp, LLC d/b/a Dollar General Store #11775 (collectively “Dollar General”), alleging counts of malicious prosecution, infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false imprisonment, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation, after Dollar General filed a criminal affidavit against Keyes in the Municipal Court of Mize, Mississippi, causing Keyes to be arrested for embezzlement. Keyes performed a "cash reload" to a money network card for $500.00, which did not go through properly. Rebecca Keyes informed her manager of the problem and placed the receipt on the office desk. Rebecca was told not to worry about the problem and that it would be fixed. On June 2, 2015, Rebecca Keyes was arrested for embezzlement. Thereafter, on July 16, 2015, Rebecca was found not guilty of the charges. Keyes moved to have the charges dismissed for failure of a Dollar General representative to appear and prosecute the claims. Her motion was granted. She then filed the instant lawsuit. Dollar General filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration, which was granted by the Circuit Court of Smith County. With the exception of the defamation claim, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in compelling arbitration, for Keyes’s remaining claims were not within the scope of the arbitration agreement. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order as to the defamation claim and reversed its judgment as to the remaining claims, remanding for further proceedings. View "Keyes v. Dollar General Corp." on Justia Law