Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Business 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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Louisiana Hospice Corporation, otherwise known as LHC, sought to acquire Gulf Coast Hospice LLC in D’Iberville, Mississippi. LHC and Gulf Coast Hospice executed a letter of intent outlining the basic terms of the proposed acquisition. Ultimately, the parties failed to consummate the transaction. Gulf Coast Hospice LLC and its members, Jyoti Desai, Krupa Desai, and Iqbal Savani sued LHC Group Inc., LHCG XXVI LLC, and Mississippi Health Care Group LLC, raising several theories of liability stemming from the failed acquisition. The trial court granted LHC’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed Gulf Coast Hospice’s claims. Gulf Coast Hospice appealed, arguing that genuine issues of material fact should have prevented summary judgment. Gulf Coast Hospice’s chief argument was that LHC entered into an enforceable contract to acquire its hospice operations. Alternatively, Gulf Coast Hospice argued that if no enforceable contract to purchase existed, its claims for breach of contract and duty of good faith with respect to the letter of intent and tortious interference should have survived summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court held there was no enforceable contract, that the doctrine of estoppel was inapplicable, and that no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding Gulf Coast Hospice’s misrepresentation claims. The Court also held no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding Gulf Coast Hospice’s alternative claims. As such, the Court affirmed View "Gulf Coast Hospice LLC v. LHC Group Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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At issue in this case before the Mississippi Supreme Court was a dispute between an automobile manufacturer and one of its dealerships. Specifically, the issue reduced to whether the dealer filed a timely complaint under Mississippi Code section 63-17-73(1)(d)(iii) after the dealer received the manufacturer’s notice it would terminate the applicable dealership agreement. The Court determined the statute was unambiguous, and its plain meaning provided a dealer may file its verified complaint within the sixty day notice period, i.e., the sixty days preceding the effective date of termination. Because the statute was unambiguous and conveyed a clear and definite meaning, the Court did not resort to the rules of statutory construction. The Court found the dealer’s complaint was timely filed within the sixty days immediately preceding the effective date of termination. View "Nissan North America, Inc. v. Great River Nissan, LLC d/b/a Great River Nissan" on Justia Law

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Rex Distributing Company was a wholesaler of Anheuser-Busch’s beer. When Rex sought to sell its business, Anheuser-Busch asserted a contractual right to “redirect” the sale to its preferred buyer, Mitchell Distributing Company. Rex alleged the redirect provision was void under Mississippi’s Beer Industry Fair Dealing Act (BIFDA) and that Anheuser-Busch’s interference with the sale caused it damages actionable under the same statute. The trial court dismissed Rex’s claims against Anheuser-Busch and Mitchell for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed, however, concluding Rex alleged a valid cause of action. The dismissal of Rex’s BIFDA claim against Anheuser-Busch and the derivative claims against Mitchell were reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment dismissing Rex’s other claims. View "Rex Distributing Company, Inc. v. Anheuser-Busch, LLC" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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This case involved three consolidated interlocutory appeals; each arose from litigation filed by Franklin Collection Service, Inc. (Franklin), against BancorpSouth Bank. Franklin and BancorpSouth had been in litigation for approximately forty months. After Franklin determined that BancorpSouth had failed to file a responsive pleading to the second amended complaint, Franklin applied for and obtained an entry of default by the clerk. Franklin also filed a motion to deem admitted the allegations of the second amended complaint. BancorpSouth filed a motion to set aside the entry of default and a motion for leave to file a responsive pleading to the second amended complaint. The trial court heard each motion and decided to deny Franklin’s motion to deem admitted the allegations of the second amended complaint; to grant BancorpSouth’s motion for leave to file a responsive pleading to the second amended complaint; and to deny BancorpSouth’s motion to set aside the entry of default. Franklin appealed and BancorpSouth cross-appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded that in light of the colorable defenses presented by BancorpSouth and the lack of prejudice to Franklin, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in allowing BancorpSouth to file an answer to Franklin’s second amended complaint. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court properly denied Franklin's motion to deem admitted the allegations in the second amended complaint. The Court affirmed two interlocutory orders at issue in Franklin's appeal reversed the order at issue in BancorpSouth's cross-appeal, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Franklin Collection Service, Inc. v. BancorpSouth Bank" on Justia Law

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A county court judge granted Lisa Evans’s motion for a directed verdict in Michael Malouf’s tort-based lawsuit over boat repairs promised and paid for but allegedly never made. The judge dismissed the case after finding Malouf failed to prove Lisa and her deceased husband, a boat mechanic, had been in a partnership when doing business as Lake Harbour Marine. But in granting Lisa a directed verdict, the court wrongly gave Lisa, not Malouf, favorable evidentiary inferences drawn from Malouf’s testimony and did not take Malouf’s testimony as true, as was required before a trial judge can take a case away from a jury. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial judge also incorrectly found that insufficient proof of a partnership between Lisa and her husband was dispositive of all of Malouf’s tort claims - even those that did not hinge on the existence of a partnership. The Court found that when Malouf’s testimony and evidence was taken as true and he was given all reasonable inferences, the evidence at least created a jury issue on whether Lisa, as her husband’s partner, was liable for his actions in the boat-repair shop. It was also error for the county court and appellate court to cite the supposed lack of a partnership as reason to dismiss Malouf’s claims against Lisa individually for her own alleged fraudulent or negligent misrepresentations. The Court therefore reversed the trial court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Malouf v. Evans" on Justia Law

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Johnson Electric sued Robinson Electric Supply for numerous claims, including breach of contract, fraud, and a variety of other torts. Johnson asserted that Robinson Electric Supply carried out a fraudulent scheme to overcharge Johnson. Robinson Electric Supply counterclaimed for balances due on Johnson’s accounts. Both parties requested an accounting. The chancellor appointed a special master to hear the case due to its complexity and size of the amount in controversy. The chancellor stayed discovery until the special master could release her findings; however, the chancellor also ordered Robinson to release numerous business records sought by Johnson. Before the accounting was concluded by the special master, Johnson Electric was administratively dissolved, and as a result, the chancellor dismissed the claims brought on behalf of the corporation. After the special master released her recommendations and a supplemental report, the chancellor agreed with the special master’s findings and adopted the report. On appeal, Johnson challenged the chancellor’s decision to dismiss Johnson Electric from the lawsuit, the chancellor’s adoption of the special master’s report, and the chancellor’s decision to stay discovery until an accounting could be conducted by the special master. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that because Johnson Electric was administratively dissolved, it could not "maintain" a claim as a corporation under Mississippi law. Furthermore, the Court determined neither the chancellor's acceptance of the special master's report nor the chancellor's discovery rulings were an abuse of discretion. View "Wayne Johnson Electric Inc. v. Robinson Electric Supply Company, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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An interlocutory appeal went before the Mississippi Supreme Court after a circuit court denied Defendants’ motions for transfer of venue and summary judgment in a silica case. On appeal, F&S Sand, Inc.; F&S Sand Abrasive Company, Inc.; Dependable Abrasives, Inc. (Dissolved); Mississippi Valley Silica Company, Inc.; Empire Abrasive Equipment Corporation; Dravo Basic Materials Company, Inc.; and American Optical Corporation (collectively, “Defendants”) asked the Supreme Court to review whether venue was proper in Jefferson County and whether the claim was time-barred by the statute of limitations. The Court reversed the Circuit Court’s denial of summary judgment and rendered judgment in favor of Defendants: the venue issue was moot because the claim was time-barred. View "F & S Sand, Inc. v. Stringfellow" on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of state law to the Mississippi Supreme Court pertaining to an incident at Omega Protein Corporation’s (Omega) facility that resulted in the death of an employee of Accu-Fab & Construction, Inc. (Accu-Fab). Although Colony Insurance Company (Colony) continually maintained that it did not insure Omega, Colony negotiated and paid a settlement claim under a reservation of rights on Omega’s behalf. Because Colony took the position that it had no duty to defend Omega at all, the district court concluded that Mississippi’s voluntary-payment doctrine precluded Colony’s claims for equitable subrogation and implied indemnity. Pursuant to Mississippi case-law, an insurer is barred from seeking indemnity for a voluntary payment. In order to recover, the indemnitee must prove that it both paid under compulsion and that it was legally liable to the person injured. The question certified from the federal court posited whether an insurer acts under “compulsion” if it takes the legal position that an entity purporting to be its insured is not covered by its policy, but nonetheless pays the settlement demand in good faith to avoid potentially greater liability that could arise from a future coverage determination, and whether the insurer satisfies the “legal duty” standard if it makes such a payment. The Supreme Court found an insurer does not act under compulsion if it takes the legal position that an entity purporting to be its insured is not covered by its policy but nonetheless pays a settlement demand in good faith to avoid potentially greater liability that could arise from a future coverage determination. Because the first certified question is dispositive, the Court declined to address the second certified question. View "Colony Insurance Company v. First Specialty Insurance Corporation" on Justia Law