Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

by
This case arose from the tragic 2014 death of nine-year-old Patrauna Hudson, who drowned in flash-flood waters that swept through a drainage ditch that ran alongside her family’s residence. Patrauna’s estate (the “Estate”) filed suit against Yazoo City for wrongful death under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Yazoo City (the “City”) on all claims filed against it by the Estate, having found Yazoo City immune from liability under both the discretionary-function exception and the open-and-obvious exception contained in Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9. The Estate appealed, maintaining that Yazoo City violated numerous city ordinances, along with certain federal regulations, when the City converted a portion of the drainage ditch downstream from the Hudson residence into a covered tunnel with two side-by-side culverts in 2007. The Estate argued that these laws imposed a ministerial duty upon Yazoo City, and the City breached that duty by failing to comply with all the mandatory requirements prescribed by these laws when the city implemented and carried out the 2007 project. Therefore, the Estate contended, the City was not immune from liability. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the Estate’s claim that Yazoo City is liable for the wrongful death of Patrauna failed as a matter of law for failure to state a cause of action. The Court also found the Estate abandoned its claim for negligently failing to maintain its drainage ditches. The Estate, however, abandoned this claim under the auspices of the test adopted by this Court in However, the Court found “slight evidence,” which if developed further, could create a genuine issue of fact with regard to this claim, and that the Estate should have been given the opportunity to do so. The Supreme Court found the trial court’s ruling as to the open-and-obvious exception provided by Section 11-46-9(1)(v) was premature in this case because factual questions remained. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hudson v. Yazoo City, Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
B&B Management Company, LLC (“B&B”) and Terence McGee (“McGee”) appealed the circuit court’s denial of their Motion to Dismiss and Transfer Venue. Y.X. first filed a premises-liability case in Madison County, Mississippi against B&B and five John Does, alleging she was injured on a treadmill in the fitness room of an apartment complex located in Madison County. Prior to B&B making an appearance, Y.X. voluntarily dismissed that case and refiled essentially an identical case in Hinds County, adding McGee, a former employee of B&B and resident of Hinds County, as a defendant. Accepting Y.X.’s testimony that she saw McGee leaving the complex, despite McGee’s denial of being there that on the day Y.X. was injured, does not change the fact that no evidence was presented which established that McGee owed an individual, legal duty to Y.X., or that he personally breached any legal duty that day. No actions imposing legal liability on McGee individually were developed during discovery. Applying principles set forth in the controlling Mississippi case law, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that McGee was joined fraudulently and/or frivolously with the intention of depriving B&B of its right to be sued in Madison County and that no reasonable claim of liability was established against McGee. Thus, the Court concluded, venue was improper in Hinds County. View "B&B Management Company, LLC v. Y.X." on Justia Law

by
Joe and Dianne McGinty sued Grand Casinos of Mississippi Inc.-Biloxi alleging negligence and breach of implied warranty of merchantability for serving unfit food. The McGintys ate breakfast at the Island View Café inside the Grand Casinos. Mr. McGinty ordered “Mama’s Eggs and Chops,” which included two grilled pork chops. Mr. McGinty took a bite of the pork chop and “didn’t like it.” Mrs. McGinty finished the remainder from his plate. Hours later, after only consuming water following the "bad" chop, Mrs. McGinty began to feel nauseated, and she experienced diarrhea at the airport. They then caught a flight to Los Angeles, California. About an hour into the flight, Ms. McGinty began vomiting. Mr. McGinty also fell ill. He began to sweat profusely, feel nauseous, and become incontinent. The flight attendants gave him oxygen and moved the couple to the back of the plane. Mr. McGinty vomited and had diarrhea as well. The McGintys did not eat or drink anything on the airplane. When the plane landed in Los Angeles, Mr. McGinty was carried off the airplane on a stretcher by emergency medical technicians. The McGintys were transported to a local hospital by ambulance. On the way to the hospital, Mrs. McGinty began to vomit a large amount of blood. At the hospital, she received two blood transfusions and was treated for an esophageal tear. Mr. McGinty was discharged from the hospital the same day, but Mrs. McGinty stayed for three days. No tests were conducted for food poisoning at the hospital. Upon returning home, Mrs. McGinty saw her general doctor. Prior medical records from her general doctor show Mrs. McGinty had a history of digestive problems. Two months before the alleged food poisoning, her medical records noted that she suffered from “abdominal pain within 30 minutes after eating which is chronic/recurring frequently, . . . [c]rampy/colicky abdominal pain, diarrhea 15-30 minutes after eating which is chronic.” Further, Mrs. McGinty’s medical records show that she had vomited blood in March 2003, which also occurred prior to the alleged food poisoning. Mrs. McGinty’s treating physician from the California hospital concluded Mrs. McGinty’s “upper gastrointestinal bleeding was caused by the severe vomiting, which related to food and drink [she] had prior to the event.” The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Grand Casinos as to both McGinty claims, and the Court of Appeals affirmed as to negligence, but reversed as to breach-of-implied-warranty. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed. View "McGinty v. Grand Casinos of Mississippi, Inc. - Biloxi" on Justia Law

by
The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review was whether Robert Hammons Jr. properly named fictitious parties in his original complaint so his amended complaint related back to the filing of the original complaint to avoid the statute-of-limitations bar. The Circuit Court ruled that Hammons had failed to comply with the fictitious-party rules and granted summary judgment for the defendants. The Court of Appeals, in an evenly divided decision, affirmed the circuit court’s judgment. Hammons’s amended complaint, fifteen pages longer than his original complaint, added new parties and new claims against those parties. As the amendment was not a substitution under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 9(h), the Supreme Court determined it did not relate back to the time of filing of the original complaint under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c)(2). Further, the amended complaint was filed outside the statute of limitations, and Hammons’s claim was time-barred. Thus, the Court affirmed the judgment of the circuit court and the decision of the Court of Appeals. View "Hammons v. Navarre" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

by
April Horton, the estate administratrix for decedent Emmanuel Erves, appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Vicksburg. She argued the court erred in finding that the City was entitled to immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). Erves lived as a tenant in a ninety-eight-year-old historic home that was converted to a "rooming house" for multiple tenants. On February 24, 2014, Erves tumbled down the home’s exterior concrete stairs and died as a result of the injuries he sustained. Horton, as estate administratrix for Erves' estate, filed a complaint against the rooming house's owner, Malcom and Rose Carson (collectively, Carson) and MM&R Land Investments for their failure to provide a reasonably safe premises, failure to provide adequate security, and failure to warn of a dangerous condition. Horton claimed that the condition and configuration of the stairs where Erves fell, along with the absence of a mandatory handrail, violated the city’s housing code. She argued that, because of these violations, Erves was unable to regain his balance or break his fall, which ultimately resulted in fatal injuries. One year later, Horton amended her complaint to include the City of Vicksburg and City Code Inspector Benjie Thomas as defendants in the action. Claiming that Thomas and the City breached their duty to inspect the property adequately, and that the City individually failed to provide reasonable supervision of Thomas in his duties, Horton argued that both parties should have known that the home’s exterior steps were not up to code, posing an unreasonable risk of harm to the public. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined Horton's claims against the City of Vicksburg did not support a private cause of action, therefore it failed to reach the merits of Horton's MTCA-immunity arguments. Finding that Horton cannot establish that the City breached any discernible duty owed to the decedent, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision. View "Horton v. City of Vicksburg" on Justia Law

by
By interlocutory appeal, Central Insurers of Grenada, Inc., challenges the Warren County Circuit Court’s denial of its motion to dismiss William Greenwood’s complaint against it for insufficient service of process. Greenwood, the owner of Antique Wood Company of Mississippi, filed a complaint against Central and three other defendants, alleging breach of contract, conspiracy, and bad faith due to the defendants’ refusal to provide coverage under a commercial liability insurance policy Greenwood had purchased from them. Greenwood’s complaint acknowledged that Central was a Mississippi corporation, identified Lynn Simmons Grim as Central’s registered agent for service of process, and listed an address in Grenada County, Mississippi, where Grim could be served. However, Greenwood did not personally serve process on an officer or registered agent of Central, nor did he mail a copy of the complaint and summons directly to Central or its registered agent. Instead, Greenwood’s process server served a copy of the complaint and summons on an employee of the Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance. The Commissioner’s legal process clerk then forwarded a copy of the complaint and summons, along with a notification letter, to Central via certified mail. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the trial court erred in finding the Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance was authorized to accept service of process on Central's behalf, so it reversed that judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Central Insurers of Grenada, Inc. v. William Greenwood d/b/a Antique Wood Company of Mississippi" on Justia Law

by
The trial court granted the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ and the City of Brookhaven, Mississippi’s motions to dismiss Samuel Wilcher, Jr.’s personal injury suit, finding both governmental entities enjoyed discretionary-function immunity. In doing so, the judge employed the Mississsippi Supreme Court’s recently created test announced in Brantley v. City of Horn Lake, 152 So.3d 1106 (Miss. 2014). On appeal, the Court faced "head on one of the unintended but predicted consequences of Brantley—that the test forces parties and judges to wade through an ever-deepening quagmire of regulations and ordinances to locate 'ministerial' or 'discretionary' duties, overcomplicating the process of litigating and deciding claims involving governmental entities." Unfortunately, this methodology had proved unworkable. "Instead of trying to retool the Brantley test to somehow make it workable, we concede this short-lived idea, which was meant to be a course correction, has ultimately led this Court even farther adrift." The Court found it best to return to its original course of applying the widely recognized public-policy function test—the original Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) test first adopted by the Court in 1999. Applying the latter test to this case, the Supreme Court held that Wilcher’s claim that County and City employees negligently left an unfinished culvert installation overnight, without warning drivers they had removed but not yet replaced a bridge, was not barred by discretionary-function immunity. "Wilcher is not trying to second-guess a policy decision through tort. He is seeking to recover for injuries caused by run-of-the-mill negligence." Because, from the face of the complaint, the County and City were not immune, the Court reversed the grant of their motions to dismiss. View "Wilcher, Jr. v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

by
The trial court granted the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ and the City of Brookhaven, Mississippi’s motions to dismiss Samuel Wilcher, Jr.’s personal injury suit, finding both governmental entities enjoyed discretionary-function immunity. In doing so, the judge employed the Mississsippi Supreme Court’s recently created test announced in Brantley v. City of Horn Lake, 152 So.3d 1106 (Miss. 2014). On appeal, the Court faced "head on one of the unintended but predicted consequences of Brantley—that the test forces parties and judges to wade through an ever-deepening quagmire of regulations and ordinances to locate 'ministerial' or 'discretionary' duties, overcomplicating the process of litigating and deciding claims involving governmental entities." Unfortunately, this methodology had proved unworkable. "Instead of trying to retool the Brantley test to somehow make it workable, we concede this short-lived idea, which was meant to be a course correction, has ultimately led this Court even farther adrift." The Court found it best to return to its original course of applying the widely recognized public-policy function test—the original Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) test first adopted by the Court in 1999. Applying the latter test to this case, the Supreme Court held that Wilcher’s claim that County and City employees negligently left an unfinished culvert installation overnight, without warning drivers they had removed but not yet replaced a bridge, was not barred by discretionary-function immunity. "Wilcher is not trying to second-guess a policy decision through tort. He is seeking to recover for injuries caused by run-of-the-mill negligence." Because, from the face of the complaint, the County and City were not immune, the Court reversed the grant of their motions to dismiss. View "Wilcher, Jr. v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

by
The dispositive issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this matter was whether the Employee Appeals Board properly dismissed the Appellees’ claims for lack of jurisdiction due to the untimely filing of the appeal. After review, the Supreme Court held that it properly dismissed the Appellees’ claims for lack of jurisdiction. "In essence, we simply cannot ignore the gross procedural errors to accord the requested relief. Therefore, we reverse the circuit court’s decision to grant the summary-judgment motion and dismiss the appeal petition because the EAB lacked jurisdiction." View "Miss. Dept. of Public Safety v. Smith" on Justia Law

by
SW 98/99, LLC (“SW”), appealed a Pike County Chancery Court order dismissing its complaint with prejudice under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). SW filed objections to the tax assessments for the years 2005 and 2006 for several low-income housing properties, but those objections were denied. SW then filed a complaint at Chancery Court alleging that Pike County, the Pike County Board of Supervisors, and the Pike County Tax Assessor (collectively “the defendants”) had wrongfully and excessively assessed taxes on SW’s properties using an appraisal method not authorized by Section 27-35-50(4)(d). Along with SW’s chancery-court lawsuit, SW also appealed the property-tax assessments to the Pike County Circuit Court. This case and SW’s tax appeals proceeded separately along their own paths until March 2011, when the chancellor entered an order granting the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings in this case pending final resolution of SW’s circuit-court tax appeals. By 2015, the Pike County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to SW on each of its tax appeals, ordering the defendants to refund SW’s overpayments for the years 2005 through 2012. The defendants moved for reconsideration. While this matter was still pending, SW’s attorney was concurrently involved in an unrelated case in federal district court. The district court contacted SW’s attorney to inquire as to his availability for a trial beginning September 14, 2015, one day before the trial setting in this tax assessment case. Because the circuit court had not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion for reconsideration in SW’s tax appeals, SW’s attorney believed that the chancellor’s stay of proceedings in this case remained in effect, as the circuit-court proceedings were not “finally resolved.” Because of this, SW’s attorney contacted the chancery court to request that the trial date be continued and removed from the trial docket. Although later disputed by the court administrator, SW’s attorney believed at this time that the case had been continued and that the trial setting had been removed from the docket. SW’s attorney then informed counsel for the defendants of the continuance. The defendants did not object to the continuance. The chancellor entered a show-cause order noting that SW had not appeared at its scheduled motions hearing and that neither of the parties had appeared on the scheduled trial date. The order acknowledged that “some telephonic communication was made by a staff member of Counsel to the Court Administrator regarding the prior Order staying this litigation.” The chancellor’s show-cause order concluded that SW’s lawsuit was “stale and in a posture to be dismissed for lack of prosecution inasmuch as Counsel set aside two full trial days on a heavily congested trial docket and failed to appear for trial.” Finding that the chancery court abused its discretion in ruling that SW had failed to prosecute its complaint, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s judgment and remanded this case to the chancery court for further proceedings. View "SW 98/99, LLC v. Pike County, Mississippi" on Justia Law