Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Judy Johnson appealed the circuit court's affirmance of a county court judgment granting Ronnie Goodson’s motion for summary judgment. Johnson claimed she was injured while she was an invited guest on Goodson’s property and a passenger in his golf cart. Johnson sued Goodson, alleging Goodson had operated the golf cart carelessly, recklessly, and negligently, causing Johnson to be thrown about in the vehicle and to suffer injuries. Johnson filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that, at the time of the accident, Goodson was the operator of a motor vehicle, and, as such, the applicable standard of care was that of a reasonable person. Johnson argued Goodson breached his duty of care by operating a vehicle on his property in an unsafe manner, proximately causing Johnson’s injuries. Goodson responded that Johnson was a licensee, that he did not breach any duties owed to her as a licensee, and the standard Johnson sought was not applicable. In Goodson’s motion for summary judgment, he sought to be shielded from ordinary negligence by alleging that Johnson’s cause of action was one of premises liability, and that he, as a landowner, only owed Johnson, a licensee, a duty to refrain from wilfully, wantonly, knowingly, or intentionally injuring her. Were premises liability the only law applicable, the Mississippi Supreme Court opined the trial and appellate courts would be affirmed. But given the facts presented, the Supreme Court concluded both erred: that the circumstances surrounding a moving golf cart, which the property owner was driving, raise an issue of negligence proper for resolution by the trier of fact. View "Johnson v. Goodson" 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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Families filed suit at the Circuit Court seeking, inter alia, a declaratory judgment that they owned lignite under a Mississippi Power Company (“MPC”) plant built on land MPC had purchased, a fact not disputed by any party. One month later, MPC filed suit to confirm and quiet title to its property and further asserted that lignite could only be removed economically by surface mining, a fact not disputed by any party. MPC asked to enjoin all defendants from asserting any right, title, or interest to the lignite. Alternatively, MPC asked for a declaratory judgment that lignite removal would deplete and destroy the surface of its land, rendering it unusable, a fact not disputed by any party. Two orders at issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court were "authored by two learned trial judges—one chancery, one circuit." Although the Supreme Court's review was de novo, the applicable law was neither new nor novel. Because neither trial court failed to follow controlling law, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Barham v. Mississippi Power Company" on Justia Law

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Elijah Arrington, III appealed the Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners’ decision to revoke his dental license. The Mississippi State Board of Dental Examiners (Board) held a disciplinary hearing on June 15, 16, and 17, 2017, to litigate four complaints (involving seventeen violations) against Dr. Arrington; the Board revoked Arrington’s dental license and his Limited Enteral Conscious Sedation Permit. The Board served Arrington and his counsel with its order on July 24, 2017. Arrington filed a notice of appeal with the Chancery Court on August 24, 2017. On August 29, 2017, the Board filed a motion to dismiss the appeal, alleging that Arrington failed to file a cost bond within thirty days. Arrington filed a response in opposition and also requested more time to deposit the bond. He then deposited the bond with the chancery court on August 31, 2017. The chancery court dismissed the appeal, finding that Arrington’s failure to file the cost bond within thirty days deprived it of appellate jurisdiction. Arrington appeals to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which declined to address the cost-bond issue, finding the chancery court lacked appellate jurisdiction based on Arrington’s failure to file his notice of appeal within thirty days. View "Arrington v. Mississippi State Board Of Dental Examiners" on Justia Law

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Dr. Roger Weiner brought a malicious-prosecution claim against Health Management Associates Inc. and Teena Rowe. Weiner was prosecuted in federal district court for violating the Mann Act; he sought dismissal of the charges, alleging that the interstate-commerce element was not met. The district court dismissed the charges for lack of federal jurisdiction, stating that “the federal nexus to interstate commerce necessary to create federal jurisdiction simply is not present in the case at bar.” The order stated that dismissal was jurisdictional and that “[i]n this case the court is not ruling on whether prostitution was never discussed and would never have been engaged in. If state or local prosecutorial authorities want to pursue a state law prosecution of solicitation of prostitution, that is their prerogative.” Weiner based his malicious-prosecution claim on the federal district court’s dismissal of his criminal prosecution. Health Management Associates Inc. and Teena Rowe filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the malicious-prosecution claim, arguing that a jurisdictional dismissal is not a favorable termination for the purposes of a malicious-prosecution claim. The trial court agreed. Later, with a new trial judge on the bench, Weiner asked for reconsideration. The trial court reconsidered and reversed the former judge’s order. Health Management Associates Inc. and Rowe appealed. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded the judgment of the trial court, holding that it erred in denying the partial summary-judgment motion. View "Health Management Associates, Inc. v. Weiner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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Timothy Hinton died from injuries sustained in a fall from a tree stand. At the time of his fall, Timothy was wearing a fall-arrest system which included a full-body harness, tether and tree strap. Timothy had purchased the tree stand and fall-arrest system from The Sportsman’s Guide, Inc. (“TSG”), in 2009. C&S Global Imports, Inc. (“C&S”) had manufactured the items and marketed them to TSG. Pekin Insurance Company insured C&S at the time of Timothy’s injury and death. After filing their third amended complaint, the Hintons filed a motion for partial summary judgment against Pekin, claiming Pekin waived its defenses to coverage or should have been estopped from asserting any coverage defenses. Among other arguments, the Hintons maintained that Pekin failed to defend C&S, did not file a declaratory-judgment action and allowed a default judgment against C&S. The circuit court denied the Hintons’ motion. Pekin then moved for summary judgment, arguing the insurance policy excluded coverage for tree or deer stands and related equipment. The circuit court granted Pekin’s motion and entered a final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. The Hintons appealed both of the circuit court’s rulings. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the order denying partial summary judgment to the Hintons, the order granting summary judgment to Pekin and the final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. View "Hinton v. Pekin Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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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

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Helen Schroeder appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the Estate of Harry Schroeder, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that the Estate was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the grounds of release, res judicata, and accord and satisfaction. A log truck driven by Royce Sullivan collided with the rear of an automobile being driven by Harry Schroeder, who had just pulled his car onto a highway. Harry died as a result of the accident; his wife, Helen (a passenger in her husband’s car) suffered severe injuries, permanent disability, and diminished mental capacity. Helen, both individually, and as one of Harry’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, sued Sullivan in federal court, alleging that Sullivan’s negligence had caused Harry’s death and her permanent disability. Sullivan moved for summary judgment at the close of discovery, arguing that the uncontradicted evidence established Harry’s negligence as the sole cause of the accident. In denying summary judgment, the federal judge stated that the evidence created a jury question as to Sullivan’s fault, and that “plaintiffs do not appear to dispute Harry Schroeder’s potential contributory negligence.” The parties settled and agreed to a release of claims, and the district court dismissed the case. Following the settlement agreement, release, and subsequent dismissal of the action against Sullivan, Helen filed suit against Harry in Mississippi circuit court, alleging Harry negligently had failed to yield the right of way and pulled in front of Sullivan’s log truck at an extremely slow rate of speed, causing the accident which resulted in Helen’s permanent disability. Harry moved for summary judgment, arguing Helen pleaded facts in her complaint that were materially different from the facts she alleged in the federal court case, and that the state trial court should grant summary judgment based on the doctrines of judicial and equitable estoppel. Harry also argued the settlement and release of claims against Sullivan in federal court barred the circuit-court action under the doctrines of contractual release, accord and satisfaction, and res judicata. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Harry and found that Helen was judicially estopped from bringing a claim against Harry. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. Harry again moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted it based on res judicata, accord and satisfaction and contractual release. Finding the trial court erred a second time in granting Harry's motion as to all three issues, the Supreme Court again reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Clark v. Neese" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose after Matthew DeForest petitioned for a Determination of Heirs-At-Law and Wrongful Death Beneficiaries following the death of his natural father, Jeff Underhill. Joe Alexander, Underhill’s brother, filed a responsive pleading to DeForest’s petition raising numerous affirmative defenses; however, the Chancery Court held in favor of DeForest. The Chancery Court entered a judgment declaring DeForest to be sole heir at law for the purpose of the pending wrongful death action. Finding no reversible error in the Chancery Court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Alexander v. DeForest" on Justia Law

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Tommie James Ivy Sr. filed an election contest against William Randle Jr. and the Democratic Executive Committee of the City of Okolona, Mississippi following the primary election of the Democratic nominee for the office of city marshall. A special tribunal rendered judgment in favor of Ivy, ordered a special election and excluded Randle from the special election. Randle appealed, and Ivy cross-appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the special tribunal properly determined that a special election was required but improperly held that Randle was excluded from being a candidate. View "Randle v. Ivy" on Justia Law