Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Business Law
Hinton v. Sportsman’s Guide, Inc.
In 2012, Timothy Hinton was deer hunting when he fell from his tree stand. He was using a fall-arrest system (FAS), but the tree strap snapped, and Timothy plunged eighteen feet, eventually dying from his injuries. In 2013, Timothy’s parents, Marsha and Thomas Hinton, filed a wrongful-death suit based on Mississippi products-liability law. The defendant manufacturer, C&S Global Imports, Inc., defaulted and was not a source of recovery. So the litigation turned its focus to the manufacturer’s insurer, Pekin Insurance Company. After the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Mississippi had personal jurisdiction over the Illinois-based insurer, Pekin successfully moved for summary judgment based on the clear tree-stand exclusion in C&S Global’s policy. Retailer Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Timothy the tree stand and FAS in 2009, also moved for and was granted summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal. As grounds for its decision, the trial court relied on the innocent-seller provision in the Mississippi Products Liability Act (MPLA), and found no evidence of active negligence by Sportsman's Guide. The Hintons argued in response: (1) Sportsman’s Guide waived its innocent-seller immunity affirmative defense; (2) a dispute of material fact existed over whether Sportsman's Guide was an innocent seller; or (3) alternatively, Mississippi’s innocent-seller provision should not control: instead the trial court should have followed Minnesota’s approach - the state where Sportsman’s Guide is located (under Minnesota’s law, innocent sellers may be liable when manufacturers are judgment proof, like C&S Global was here). Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinton v. Sportsman's Guide, Inc." on Justia Law
LAGB, LLC v. Total Merchant Services, Inc.
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
Jourdan River Estates, LLC v. Favre
From 2007 to 2014, the parties employed significant resources in litigating “the rights of the various parties as to Nicola Road, a [Mississippi] county road that allowed the various property owners access to Highway 603.” Jourdan River Estates (JRE) prevailed in that litigation, securing much-needed access to Nicola Road for the purpose of developing its 269-acre tract of land and constructing hundreds of condominiums. “[T]he seven year delay has been costly for” JRE and Jourdan River Resort and Yacht Club, LLC (Yacht Club). In December 2011, JRE and Yacht Club sued Scott Favre, Cindy Favre, and Jefferson Parker - neighboring property owners who opposed development - for damages, asserting fifteen different causes of action. All of the causes of action were based on the allegations that defendants delayed development of the condominium complex. After years of protracted proceedings, the circuit court granted partial summary judgment in favor of defendants. In its order, the circuit court divided its analysis between JRE and Yacht Club, disposing of each cause of action by: (1) applying the statute of limitations bar; (2) finding that plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claim; or (3) utilizing the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, which immunized defendants from tort-based liability for having petitioned the government. The trial court denied defendants’ request to apply judicial estoppel to all of the remaining claims. JRE and Yacht Club appealed the order granting summary judgment, and defendants cross-appealed regarding the court’s application of judicial estoppel. During pendency of the appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court sua sponte requested the parties address the issue that JRE, a foreign limited liability company, was not in good standing with the Mississippi Secretary of State prior to filing its complaint. The Court found that the parties waived the issue. Thereafter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s grant of partial summary judgment in favor of defendants, but reversed and remanded the court’s application of judicial estoppel. View "Jourdan River Estates, LLC v. Favre" on Justia Law
Okoloise v. Yost
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
Gulfport OB-GYN, P.A. v. Dukes, Dukes, Keating & Faneca, P.A.
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
Posted in: Business Law, Civil Procedure, Labor & Employment Law, Legal Ethics, Professional Malpractice & Ethics
Gulf Coast Hospice LLC v. LHC Group Inc.
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
Nissan North America, Inc. v. Great River Nissan, LLC d/b/a Great River Nissan
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
Rex Distributing Company, Inc. v. Anheuser-Busch, LLC
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
Franklin Collection Service, Inc. v. BancorpSouth Bank
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
Malouf v. Evans
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