Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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After an automobile accident in 2015, Reericka Belk and Tracey Crayton filed suit against Victoria Morton in the Lee County Court. The case was tried by jury in September 2017, and the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Morton. Belk and Crayton filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that the jury disregarded the instructions of the court and rendered a verdict contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The court granted the motion for a new trial. Morton petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for an interlocutory appeal. After review, the Supreme Court determined the jury was properly instructed on the law and was informed of all the relevant facts. The verdict returned by the jury was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The Court found the trial judge abused his discretion by granting the motion for a new trial. Therefore, the Cout reversed the trial court’s order granting a new trial, and reinstated the trial court’s judgment entered on the jury’s verdict. View "Morton v. Belk" on Justia Law

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Vernon Walters was injured in a work-related incident in October 2006; the vehicle he was driving was struck by an oncoming train. After receiving workers’ compensation benefits, he and his wife, Donyell Walters, filed a third-party claim against the company operating the train involved in the collision, Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR). The Walterses hired the Parsons Law Firm to represent them in their suit, and Tadd Parsons took the case. The Walterses’ lawsuit against KCSR was ultimately dismissed with prejudice in September 2010 for, among other reasons, failure to prosecute, failure to comply with discovery obligations and fraud upon the court. Tadd never told the Walterses that their case had been dismissed and led them to believe their case was ongoing. Three years after the case had been dismissed, Tadd admitted he fabricated a settlement offer from KCSR in the amount of $104,000 and advised the Walterses to accept the offer, which they did. When eight months passed after Tadd informed the Walterses about the fabricated settlement, the Walterses demanded to meet with Jack Parsons, the other general partner at the Parsons Law Firm. Jack offered the Walterses $50,000 to settle any claims they may have had against Tadd based on his conduct in representing them in the KCSR lawsuit. The Walterses refused Jack’s offer and then filed a claim against Tadd, Jack and the Parsons Law Firm, alleging claims of fraud, defamation, negligent representation, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for the Walterses on the matter of liability, finding that Tadd and the Parsons Law Firm were liable for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court then held a jury trial on damages. The jury verdict awarded the Walterses $2,850,002 in compensatory damages, which exceeded what the Walterses had demanded in compensatory damages in their complaint and in their motion to set damages. Finding the jury’s verdict shocked the conscience, the court remitted the damages to $1,034,666.67 in a second amended final judgment. Parsons appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the Walterses cross-appealed. The Supreme Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding irrelevant evidence about the underlying KCSR lawsuit because the value of the lawsuit had no bearing on the damages the Walterses sustained due to Tadd Parsons’s and the Parsons Law Firm’s fraud and IIED. Further, the Court determined the remitted verdict’s award of damages was excessive and not supported by substantial evidence. The trial court was therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded for a new trial on damages. View "Parsons v. Walters" on Justia Law

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HWCC-Tunica, LLC, and BSLO, LLC, had casino members’ rewards programs that allowed members to earn entries into random computerized drawings to win prizes. In 2014, after recalculating their gross revenue and deducting the costs of prizes from their rewards programs’ drawings, HWCC and BSLO filed individual refund claims for the tax period of October 1, 2011, through August 31, 2014. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) denied the refund claims in 2015. HWCC and BSLO appealed, and MDOR and the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) filed a joint motion for summary judgment, arguing the plain language of Mississippi Code Section 75-76-193 (Rev. 2016) does not allow a casino to deduct the cost of prizes purchased for a rewards program’s drawings because “these promotional giveaways are not the result of ‘a legitimate wager’ as used in [Mississippi Code Section] 75-76-193.” After a hearing on the motion, the chancellor determined that Section 75-76-193 does not allow HWCC and BSLO to deduct the cost of the prizes and that there were no genuine issues of material fact. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancellor erred by giving deference to the MDOR’s and the MGC’s interpretations of Code Section 75-76-193. That error notwithstanding, the Supreme Court found the chancellor reached the right conclusion: that no genuine issues of material fact existed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s grant of summary judgment. View "HWCC-Tunica, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Methodist Specialty Care Center was the only nursing facility for the severely disabled (NFSD) in Mississippi. NFSDs generally incur higher costs than other nursing facilities, and because of this, Methodist received a percentage adjustment to its new-bed-value (NBV) calculation when the Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) determined how much it should reimburse Methodist for its property costs through the DOM’s fair-rental system. A NBV was intended to reflect what it would cost to put a new bed into service in a nursing facility today. Methodist had received a NBV adjustment of 328.178 percent added to the standard NBV every year since it opened in 2004 until State Plan Amendment (SPA) 15-004 was enacted. During the 2014 Regular Session, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 1275, which authorized the DOM to update and revise several provisions within the State Plan; one such amendment changed Methodist's adjustment rate, and made the facility experience a substantial decrease in its NBV, while all other nursing facilities in the state received increases. Methodist appealed the DOM’s changes to its NBV that were enacted in SPA 15-004. After a hearing, an Administrative Hearing Officer (AHO) upheld the decreased percentage adjustment to Methodist’s NBV, but also determined the DOM had miscalculated Methodist’s NBV adjustment. The DOM had planned to calculate Methodist’s adjustment as 175 percent of the base NBV, but the AHO found that Methodist’s adjusted NBV should be calculated in the same manner as it was calculated preamendment - by taking 175 percent of the standard NBV and adding that value to the standard NBV. Methodist still felt aggrieved because its NBV adjustment rate had not been restored to the preamendment rate. Methodist appealed the DOM’s final decision to the Chancery Court. When the chancellor affirmed the DOM’s final decision, Methodist appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court found the DOM’s final decision was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, did not violate Methodist’s constitutional or statutory rights and that the DOM was acting within its power in reaching and adopting its final decision. View "Methodist Specialty Care Center v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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Will Realty, LLC appealed the grant of a motion for relief from judgment in favor of Mark and Sally Isaacs. In 2009, Mainsource Bank, Inc., obtained a judgment against the Isaacses for the sum of $3,911,681.92 and interest in Kentucky. This judgment was assigned to Will on January 6, 2010. In 2019, Will enrolled the judgment in the judgment rolls of Hancock County, Mississippi. Will then filed writs of garnishment directed to multiple banks and the employer of Sally Isaacs. After the writs were issued, the Isaacses sought relief under our Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b), claiming the judgment was void. Will responded, arguing that the judgments had been renewed and that the statute of limitations had reset. After receiving argument, the court granted the Isaacses’ requested relief. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that a plain reading of the applicable statute, Mississippi Code Section 15-1-45 (Rev. 2019) regarding the statute of limitations for judgments from foreign jurisdictions, the trial court correctly granted judgment in favor of the Isaacs because the statute of limitations extinguished Will’s right. View "Will Realty, LLC v. Isaacs" on Justia Law

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In 2007, the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the Department) notified Caesars Entertainment, Inc. (Caesars), that an examination concerning its past tax returns, including its 2005 tax return, had been initiated and that the statutes of limitation in Mississippi Code Sections 27-7-49 and 27-13-49 were arrested. The Department concluded its examination on in early 2013, finding no overpayment or underpayment by Caesars. In February 2014, the Mississippi Supreme Court issued a decision that concerned a casino’s ability to use gaming license credits to offset its income tax liability. In response, Caesars filed an amended tax return seeking a refund for the period January 1 to June 13, 2005. The Department denied Caesars’ refund claim on the basis that the time to ask for a refund had expired. Both the Board of Review and Board of Tax Appeals affirmed the Department’s denial. Under Mississippi Code Section 27-77-7 (Rev. 2017), Caesars appealed the Department’s denial to the Chancery Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County. Both parties moved for summary judgment. The chancellor granted the Department’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Caesars’ refund claim was untimely. On appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Caesars argued Section 27-7-49(2) (Rev. 2017) extended the statute of limitations found in Section 27-7-313 (Rev. 2017), which gave a taxpayer additional time to file a refund claim after an audit and gave the Department additional time to determine a taxpayer’s correct tax liability and to issue a refund regardless of when a refund claim was submitted. The Department argued Section 27-7-49(2) applied only to the Department and its time frame to examine and issue an assessment. After review, the Supreme Court found Caesars' time to file an amended tax refund claim was not tolled or extended, and that the Department had three years to examine a taxpayer's tax liability, absent exceptions under Section 27-7-49. Therefore, the Court affirmed the chancellor's grant of summary judgment to the Department. View "Caesars Entertainment, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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After a mother requested life-insurance proceeds for the benefit of her two minor children after the death of the children’s father, the insurance company requested that she provide the appropriate guardianship documentation. The insurance company received the order appointing the mother guardian and providing directions for the issuance of funds. But the insurance company did not issue the funds as instructed by the order, and the mother misappropriated the funds. A guardian ad litem was then appointed by the chancery court for the minor children and eventually sued the insurance company in the Mississippi Circuit Court for negligence and breach of contract. The circuit court granted the insurance company’s motion for summary judgment, holding that because the insurance company was not a party to the guardianship proceeding in chancery court, the insurance company was not subject to liability for an alleged violation of the guardianship order. The Mississippi Supreme Court found, however, that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to the insurance company’s liability and that summary judgment should not have been granted. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for a trial on the merits. View "Samson v. Unum Life Insurance Company of America" on Justia Law

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Daniel Tewksbury and Bobbie Young were previously married and were the parents of two minor children, Lane and Emma. They divorced in May 2006, and Daniel was ordered to pay child support. Daniel stopped making child-support payments in 2008. Bobbie later married Gerald Young, Jr. Gerald filed a petition to adopt Lane and Emma. In the adoption, Daniel’s parental rights were terminated. As of the termination of his parental rights, Daniel owed Bobbie $34,759 for child support. On April 5, 2015, Daniel died in an automobile accident. The accident occurred while Daniel was in the course and scope of his employment with Air Masters Mechanical, Inc. Bobbie then filed a petition with the Workers’ Compensation Commission on behalf of Lane and Emma, claiming that the children were entitled to Daniel’s workers’ compensation death-benefit proceeds and sought the payment of the $34,759 in outstanding child support. The Workers’ Compensation Commission Administrative Judge (AJ) determined that the child-support lien of $34,759 was valid and payable under Section 71-3-129. Air Masters and Associated General Contractors filed a petition for review with the Commission. The Commission concluded that Lane and Emma were not entitled to Daniel’s death benefits because they were not his statutory dependents under Mississippi Code Section 71-3-25 (Supp. 2019). The Commission reversed the AJ’s order and dismissed Bobbie’s petition. On appeal, a divided Court of Appeals reversed the Commission’s decision, concluding the child-support lien was valid. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed, finding Section 71-3-129 did not authorize a lien on death benefits payable directly to the deceased employee’s statutory dependents. Accordingly, the child-support lien did not apply to Daniel’s death benefits. Further, because Daniel had no statutory dependents, there were simply no benefits to which the lien can attach in this case. As a result, the Commission properly dismissed the claim. The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed. The judgment of the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission was reinstated and affirmed. View "Young v. Air Masters Mechanical Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2012, the executives of several Japanese auto-parts manufacturers pled guilty to federal crimes based on an international scheme to fix the price of Automotive Wire Harness Systems (AWHS). Three years later, the State of Mississippi sued the American subsidiaries of these federally prosecuted companies, alleging violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act (MCPA) and the Mississippi Antitrust Act (MAA), as well as a civil conspiracy to violate the MCPA and MAA. The trial court dismissed the State’s complaint for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. The State appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed: the alleged unfair trade practices were too remote in time to support the State’s claim for injunctive relief under the MCPA; the complaint alleged no “wholly intrastate” transactions that would make the alleged illegal cartel punishable under the MAA; and because the State alleged no viable claim for a statutory violation, its civil-conspiracy claim, based solely on the alleged statutory violations, also failed. View "Mississippi ex rel. Fitch v. Yazaki North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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Theresa Driskell, with the help of an insurance agent, submitted applications for a life insurance policy and a disability income rider. When reviewing the application, the insurance company discovered Driskell was ineligible for the disability income rider. So it issued her a life insurance policy that varied from her application: a policy that did not provide disability income. Driskell received this policy and reviewed it. She did not reject or return it. Instead, she accepted the policy and began making premium payments. Nearly three years later, Driskell made a claim with the insurer for disability income. Because the policy did not include a disability income rider, the insurer denied her claim. Driskell sued the insurer, citing her expectation of disability income coverage. The insurer moved for summary judgment, which the trial judge denied. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted the insurer’s interlocutory appeal to decide if summary judgment was wrongly denied. After review, the Court determined it was clear the policy issued to Driskell and accepted by her did not include a disability income rider. Therefore, it reversed the denial of summary judgment and rendered a judgment in the insurer’s favor. View "Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co. v. Driskell" on Justia Law