Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Maria Thompson filed sued Dennis Holliman and Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Allstate”) alleging that Holliman had negligently operated his motor vehicle while pulling a trailer in a gas-station parking lot, resulting in a collision in which she was injured. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Holliman, and the circuit court entered a judgment consistent with the jury verdict. Aggrieved, Thompson appealed, alleging that the trial court had abused its discretion by excluding her expert witness. Finding no abuse of the trial court's discretion, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed judgment in Holliman's favor. View "Thompson v. Holliman" on Justia Law

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Katherine Grace Short appeals the circuit court’s change of venue in her defamation case from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, Mississippi, to the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi. On the evening of August 1, 1975, Short’s husband, Tye Breland, died from a gunshot wound to the chest at their home in Pascagoula, in Jackson County, Mississippi. Short was not charged with Breland’s death. Forty-two years later, "Cold Justice: Beyond the Grave," a true-crime documentary (the episode), premiered on the Oxygen Network. The episode aired nationally, focused on Breland’s death, and considered whether Short murdered her late husband. During the episode, crime experts Kelly Siegler (identified as a prosecutor) and John Bonds (identified as a homicide investigator) investigated Breland’s death. Darren Versiga, a law-enforcement officer with the Pascagoula Police Department, assisted the investigation. The investigation team exhumed Breland’s body, prepared a mockup of the crime scene, conducted ballistics testing, and interviewed numerous witnesses to determine whether Breland’s death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide. The team concluded that Breland did not commit suicide. They identified Short as a suspect in Breland’s death and turned over their investigation to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office. According to the team, they put together enough information for a circumstantial case of murder. Short sued Siegler, Bonds and Versiga and various media entities, alleging defamation and tortious invasion of privacy. Versiga then filed a motion to transfer venue to the Circuit Court of Jackson County. In his motion, Versiga argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue under Mississippi law because it was where a substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred. Versiga further argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue “as it is the county in which [he] resides.” The Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed, determining the injury at issue occurred in Harrison county, and venue was proper there. Accordingly, the circuit court's judgment was reversed and remanded. View "Short v. Versiga" on Justia Law

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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

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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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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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Defendants in this case were, inter alia, former officers, directors, employees, and investors of KiOR Inc., a startup biofuels company. The State of Mississippi lent KiOR $75 million to construct its first commercial-scale production facility in Columbus, Mississippi. The facility was completed in 2012. Operations were suspended in early 2014, however, and KiOR filed for bankruptcy later that year. In January 2015, the State sued Defendants, alleging fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent and negligent omission, civil conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and respondeat superior. The case was assigned randomly to Judge Gowan. In late 2017, three weeks after briefing had ended on the last motion to dismiss, Judge Gowan sua sponte reassigned the case to Judge Green. In response to the order, Defendants petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, which was treated as a petition for interlocutory appeal. The Supreme Court granted review and a stay of the trial court proceedings and deconsolidated three cases, with a separate decision handed down for each. The “Cannon” defendants argued Judge Gowan did not have the authority to transfer or reassign Cannon to Judge Green. The Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion and affirmed the transfer from Judge Gowan to Judge Green. View "Khosla v. Mississippi ex rel. Hood" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure
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This case arose from Hurricane Katrina insurance litigation. After the hurricane had destroyed many homes, policyholders and insurance companies began litigating whether the hurricane losses were caused by flood damage or wind damage. The distinction determined whether the insurance companies would pay claims on those polices that did not cover flood damage. This case is before the Court on interlocutory appeal. Safeco Insurance Company (Safeco) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Company individually challenged the circuit court’s reassignment of their respective cases and the appointment of a special master. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion in reassigning judges, but vacated the order appointing the special master, finding an abuse of the trial court’s discretion. “The order itself acknowledged a blind-billing provision was “unusual.” But the Supreme Court found it was more than that: requiring both parties, one of which is the State of Mississippi, to pay an attorney in Louisiana to act as a judge, allowing either side to meet with him ex parte, and not requiring this special master to mention these meetings or even justify or detail his bill far exceeded the discretionary authority to appoint special masters.” View "Safeco Insurance Company of America v. Mississippi, ex rel. Hood" on Justia Law