Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Omar Humphrey’s petition for certiorari review of a Court of Appeals decision that dismissed his case. Humphrey’s complaint alleged that neither Steve Holts, police chief of Senatobia, nor John Champion, district attorney for the Seventeenth Circuit Court District, had responded to his letters requesting evidence and documents that related to his conviction made pursuant to the Public Records Act. Humphrey’s complaint alleged the same basis for his claims against both Holts and Champion and made very little, if any, distinction between the two other than referencing the individual letters sent to each defendant. The Court of Appeals dismissed the case for want of an appealable judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the was, in fact, a final, appealable judgment and that the Court of Appeals should have decided Humphrey’s case on the merits. View "Humphrey v. Holts, et al." on Justia Law

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Phillip and Anna Kennedy contracted with DIMA Homes, Inc., to build a house on property they owned in Marion County, Mississippi. The Kennedys failed to pay DIMA, and DIMA obtained a judgment, which it properly enrolled, creating a judgment lien on the property. The Kennedys then failed to pay property taxes, and in 2016, the land was sold at a tax sale to ACC Tax Sales Property, LLC. HL&C Marion, LCC, obtained the property from ACC. DIMA did not receive notice of the tax sale. In 2019, HL&C filed suit to quiet title. The chancery court ruled that the failure to give written notice of the sale to DIMA resulted in an extension of the two-year redemption period and set aside the tax sale. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed the judgments of the Court of Appeals and the chancellor, and holding that no legal authority required notice of the tax sale to have been given to DIMA. Accordingly, judgment is rendered in favor of HL&C Marion. View "HL&C Marion, LLC v. DIMA Homes, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved a medical-malpractice suit brought by Jalena and Brian Taylor against Jalena’s OB/GYN, Dr. Donielle Daigle, and her clinic, Premier Women’s Health, PLLC. In 2017, Jalena was admitted to Memorial Hospital of Gulfport in active labor preparing to give birth. After pushing for two and a half hours, the baby’s head became lodged in the mother’s pelvis, and it was determined that a caesarean section was necessary. Following delivery of the child, Jalena’s blood pressure dropped, and her pulse increased. The nurses worked to firm Jalena’s uterus post delivery, but she continued to have heavy clots and bleeding. Jalena was given a drug to tighten the uterus, and an OR team was called to be on standby in the event surgery became necessary. Dr. Daigle called the OR team off after Jalena’s bleeding was minimal, and her uterus remained completely firm. But Jalena’s heart rate remained extremely elevated. Dr. Daigle allowed Jalena to go back to her room, and she checked her again, and the uterus was firm. A minute or two later, Jalena sat up and felt a gush of blood. Dr. Daigle prepared to perform a hysterectomy, There was still bleeding from the cervical area, which doctors decided they needed to amputate. Even after doing so, there was still bleeding because of a laceration extending into the vagina. When the vagina was sutured and incorporated into the repair of the vaginal cuff, the bleeding finally stopped. The Taylors allege that Dr. Daigle failed to adequately treat Jalena and, as a result, she cannot have any more children. A five-day jury trial was held in January 2021, and the jury returned a twelve-to-zero verdict in favor of Dr. Daigle and Premier. On appeal, the Taylors argued the trial court committed reversible error by: (1) refusing to grant their cause challenges of patients of Dr. Daigle and Premier, thus failing to give them a right to a fair and impartial jury; and (2) failing to find a deviation from the standard of care for failing to perform a proper inspection of a genital tract laceration. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict because it was reached on factual evidence in favor of Dr. Daigle and Premier by an impartial jury. "All twelve of the jurors agreed on the verdict, and the verdict was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. It should not be disturbed." View "Taylor v. Premier Women's Health, PLLC, et al." on Justia Law

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In September 2016, Christopher Strickland, Jr., a sophomore at Northwest Rankin High School, was at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Mississippi, preparing to run a cross- country meet. Before the race, a wasp stung Christopher on the top of his head. According to Christopher, a lump began to form and his head felt tight, like it was swelling. Christopher told one of his coaches. According to affidavits submitted by the Rankin County School District (RCSD), two coaches and a registered nurse, who was there to watch her son race, examined Christopher’s head and found no evidence of a sting or adverse reaction. And Christopher assured them he was fine and wanted to run the race. But Christopher recalled only one coach examining him. And this coach told him to “man up” and run the race. Christopher ran the race. According to one of his coaches, she checked in on him at the mile marker. He responded that he was “okay, just hot.” According to Christopher, after the mile marker he began to feel dizzy. Then he fell, hitting his head. The same nurse attended to him. So did her husband, who was a neurologist. Christopher appeared to recover and rejoined his team after the race. But he later went to a doctor, who discovered injuries to his brain and spine. In January 2017, Christopher’s father, Christopher Strickland, Sr. (Strickland), sued RCSD on Christopher’s behalf. He alleged various breaches of duties in how RCSD employees acted both (1) after the wasp sting but before the race and (2) after Christopher’s fall. Specifically, Strickland alleged that, after the fall, RCSD employees failed to follow the district’s concussion protocol. The Mississippi Supreme Court surmised "much legal analysis has been aimed at whether the actions of two cross-country coaches were discretionary policy decisions entitled to immunity from suit under Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9(1)(d) (Rev. 2019)." But on certiorari review, the Court found this question to be moot: the alleged actions of the coaches do not establish any triable claim for negligence. For that reason, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Rankin County School District. View "Strickland v. Rankin County School District" on Justia Law

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While driving a forklift at work, Lori Chandler was hit by another forklift and injured. She retained Turner & Associates to file a workers’ compensation claim. But Turner & Associates failed to file her claim within the statute of limitations. Adding to that, the firm’s case manager engaged in a year-and-a-half-long cover-up, which included false assurances of settlement negotiations, fake settlement offers, and a forged settlement letter purporting to be from Chandler’s former employer. Because of this professional negligence, Chandler filed a legal malpractice action. The only issue at trial was damages. The trial judge, sitting as fact-finder, concluded that Chandler had suffered a compensable work-related injury—an injury that caused her to lose her job and left her unemployed for nearly two years. Based on her hourly wage, the trial judge determined, had Turner & Associates timely filed Chandler’s workers’ compensation claim, Chandler could have reasonably recovered $50,000 in disability benefits. So the trial judge awarded her $50,000 in compensatory damages. The trial judge also awarded Chandler $100,000 in punitive damages against the case manager due to her egregious conduct. The Court of Appeals affirmed the punitive-damages award. But the court reversed and remanded the compensatory-damages award. Essentially, the Court of Appeals held that Chandler had failed to present sufficient medical evidence to support a $50,000 workers’ compensation claim. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the appellate court: "Were this a workers’ compensation case, we might agree with the Court of Appeals. But this is a legal malpractice case. And part of what Chandler lost, due to attorney negligence, was her ability to prove her work-related injury led to her temporary total disability. ... the Court of Appeals erred by applying exacting statutory requirements for a workers’ compensation claim to Chandler’s common-law legal malpractice claim." The Court reversed on the issue of compensatory damages and reinstated the trial judge’s $50,000 compensatory-damages award. Because this was the only issue for which Chandler sought certiorari review, it affirmed the remainder of the Court of Appeals’ decision, which affirmed the punitive-damages award but reversed and remanded the grant of partial summary judgment against attorney Angela Lairy in her individual capacity. View "Turner & Associates, PLLC, et al. v. Chandler" on Justia Law

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In 2008, the City of Gulfport undertook a project to replace the infrastructure associated with its water and sewer systems relating to damage caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The repair project involved federal, state, and local agencies and ultimately cost approximately $85 million to complete. The original design of the Area 3B project, the sewer infrastructure that crossed the Cowan Road property located north of U.S. Highway 90 and east of Highway 605 were to be replaced, and the new infrastructure was to be installed within the City’s existing easements across the properties. The Cowan Road property at issue was located in the Area 3B geographic zone. Robert “Kris” Riemann, P.E., then-director of the City’s department of public works, was notified that John Felsher had inquired about relocating the sewer infrastructure in Area 3B. Based on an agreement with Felsher to relocate the utilities, the City had the Area 3B design drawings redrafted to move the utilities. The City's project manager was notified that the discovery of underground telephone lines and other utilities required that the sewer line being relocated had to cut the northwest corner of the property. Cowan Road filed a complaint in the Chancery Court of Harrison County, Mississippi, advancing a claim for inverse condemnation against the City. The chancery court transferred the case to the Special Court of Eminent Domain in Harrison County. Due to the jurisdictional limits of county court, the case ended up in Harrison County Circuit Court. The circuit court entered an order granting the motion for partial summary judgment filed by the City on the issue of the date of the taking. The parties eventually settled the reverse condemnation claim, and the City agreed to pay $100,000 to Cowan Road & Hwy 90, LLC, for the improper and unlawful taking of its property. The issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court centered on the circuit court's grant of attorneys' fees and expenses: Gulfport argued that Cowan Road should not have been allowed to recover attorneys’ fees under Section 43-37-9. Finding that the statute applied and fees were appropriate, the Supreme Court affirmed. However, the Court found the trial judge abused his discretion by disallowing requests for postjudgment interest. View "City of Gulfport v. Cowan Road & Hwy 90, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, the issue presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review involved a premises liability claim against Riverboat Corporation of Mississippi (Riverboat). In 2014, Treslya Davis and her stepmother visited the Golden Nugget Biloxi Hotel and Casino, which was owned by Riverboat. While at the casino, Davis was playing the slot machines when the chair in which she was sitting fell backward. Davis claimed she suffered physical and emotional injuries as a result of the fall. Riverboat argued the trial court committed reversible error “by granting [Tresyla Davis’s] request to reopen the case, when the two alleged instances of fraud are demonstrably incorrect and the trial court failed to consider all of the elements of fraud necessary to justify the extraordinary relief under Rule 60(b)(1)[.]” The Supreme Court found Davis failed to prove all the necessary elements of fraud by clear and convincing evidence and that the trial court abused its discretion by granting the Rule 60(b)(1) motion. Therefore, the Court reversed the grant of the Rule 60(b)(1) motion and reinstated the summary judgment previously granted to Riverboat. View "Riverboat Corporation of Mississippi v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Ernest Jones appealed a circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Board of Trustees of the State of Institutions of Higher Learning of the State of Mississippi (IHL) because the doctrine of judicial estoppel barred his claims. Jones became the head football coach at Alcorn State University. Subsequently, he filed a breach of contract action against the IHL on in 2008. Jones was fired in January 2009. In October 2015, Jones petitioned a bankruptcy court in Florida for protection from his creditors. Jones failed to disclose the breach of contract suit against the IHL in the bankruptcy schedule’s “list of suits and administrative proceedings to which the debtor was a party within one year immediately preceding the filing of this bankruptcy case.” A jury returned a verdict in Jones’ favor in his breach of contract suit. On the day of the verdict, he voluntarily dismissed his bankruptcy proceeding. IHL moved for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the circuit court set aside the verdict. Then in April 2017, while Jones’s appeal was pending before the Court of Appeals, he filed a second bankruptcy petition, this time, Jones proposed and filed a Chapter 13 plan. Despite the pending appeal, Jones again failed to disclose the IHL suit to the bankruptcy court, attesting under oath that no such claims existed. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the IHL suit. Back at the circuit court, IHL moved for summary judgment, arguing judicial estoppel barred Jones from recovery. Within ten days of the IHL’s seeking dismissal, Jones moved to amend his bankruptcy plan and for the first time disclosed the IHL lawsuit. Thereafter, the circuit court held a hearing on the IHL’s motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no abuse of the circuit court’s discretion in applying judicial estoppel to the facts found in this record. View "Jones v. Alcorn State University, et al." on Justia Law

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Charles McRae and the McRae Law Firm, PLLC, filed a notice of appeal of a non-final judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court entered an order that treated the notice of appeal as a petition for an interlocutory appeal, granted the petition, and stayed the proceedings at the trial court. Mississippi appellate rules provided that a petition for an interlocutory appeal had to be filed “within 21 days after the entry of such order in the trial court . . . .” The time for taking an appeal under Rule 5 may not be extended. Because McRae filed the petition for an interlocutory appeal more than twenty-one days after the entry of the order from which he sought an appeal, the petition for an interlocutory appeal was untimely. Therefore, the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction over the appeal and, accordingly, it was dismissed. View "McRae v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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The question presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case “boils down to one of statutory interpretation:” whether plaintiff Crystal Bufkin was “legally entitled to recover” damages from her employer under the uninsured motorist statute, Mississippi Code Section 83-11-101(1) (Supp. 2021). The Supreme Court previously held that employees are not legally entitled to recover from their employers and thus could not make a claim under uninsured motorist coverages. Bufkin acknowledged that precedent precluded her claim, but she argued Medders v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 623 So. 2d 979 (Miss. 1993 )and its progeny were wrongly decided because the uninsured motorist law should be liberally construed in her favor. The Supreme Court concluded it already rejected the arguments Bufkin presented here, and declined to overrule Medders. View "Bufkin v. Geico Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law