Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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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

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E.C. alleged she was sexually assaulted on the premises of Pass Christian High School. The Youth Court adjudicated the alleged perpetrators not delinquent. Later, Roy and Kimberly Cuevas, individually, and on behalf of their minor daughter, E.C., filed a negligence action seeking damages from the Pass Christian School District associated with the alleged assault. Pass Christian unsuccessfully sought the records from the youth-court action to use in its defense in the civil case. It argued on appeal that the youth-court judge abused her discretion in denying its requests for disclosure of the youth-court records and trial transcripts relating to the three minor perpetrators. It also argued it would be denied due process and fairness if the sworn testimony of E.C. were not released due to the confidentiality rules protecting the subjects of youth-court actions. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the circuit court to conduct an in camera review of the youth-court record to determine whether any of it should have been disclosed. View "In the Interest of M.D.G. v. Harrison County Youth Court of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Green Hills Development Company, LLC, forfeited property to the State for failure to pay taxes. Five years later, the State sold the property, following the statutory procedure under which the Secretary of State accepts written applications to purchase and, if an application is approved, issues a land patent. After learning of the sale, Green Hills sued the Secretary of State and the purchasers to have the land patents set aside. Green Hills argued it had been entitled to notice of the purchasers’ pending applications. Had it been properly notified, Green Hills claimed it would have filed its own application. And its application would have received priority based on Green Hills’ status as former owner. Green Hills also sued one of the purchasers for interfering with its rights as developer to enforce protective covenants and maintain common areas within the development. The Defendants successfully moved for summary judgment on Green Hills’ notice-based claims. The trial court ruled that the notice provision on which Green Hills relied was no longer in effect when the purchasers submitted their applications. And under the then-current administrative rules, Green Hills undisputedly received all required notice. The court further ruled the priority status for former owners’ applications was contingent on Green Hills’ filing an application, which Green Hills never did. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed this part of the trial court’s judgment: the record confirmed the material facts were not in dispute, and Green Hills received all required notice, and never filed an application to purchase, despite multiple opportunities. So the Defendants were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on Green Hills’ notice-based claims. However, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s ruling that Green Hills lacked standing to challenge the validity of the land patents issued. Because Green Hills’ claims based on the development’s protective covenants and common areas were still pending, Green Hills had a colorable interest in whether the purchasers held valid land patents. Green Hills also suffered an adverse effect from the purchasers’ countersuit to declare the protective covenants unenforceable and to divest Green Hills of its interest in the common areas. Thus, Green Hills had standing to challenge the land patents’ validity. View "Green Hills Development Company, LLC v. Mississippi Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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A standing order in the Third Chancery Court District (Mississippi) set motion days in advance and assigns the particular judge who will preside that day. H. R. Garner, a practitioner in the Third Chancery Court District, knew the directives of this standing order. Yet Garner still claimed that his opposing counsel was judge shopping by filing a contempt petition against Garner’s client and issuing a Rule 81(d) summons that noticed a hearing before a judge who had not been assigned the case. Although his opponent’s actions were authorized by Rule 1.06(C) and the District’s standing order, Garner filed what amounted to a hopeless motion to quash and for sanctions against him. In a twist, the Honorable Vicki Daniels, the judge actually assigned the contempt case, heard Garner’s motion to quash and request for sanctions, which Garner continued to pursue even though he was in front of his preferred judge. After reviewing the motion, Judge Daniels found what Garner’s opposing counsel had done was a “common practice” and was not improper. This prompted Garner’s opposing counsel to urge Judge Daniels to instead sanction Garner for filing a hopeless and frivolous motion, which she did: Garner and his client were sanctioned $1,000 under Rule 11 and the Litigation Accountability Act. Finding no abuse of discretion in Judge Daniels awarding sanctions against Garner, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the sanction. View "Garner v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC (Mar-Jac), appealed the denial of its motion for summary judgment on the Plaintiffs’ claims for negligence, negligence per se, and wrongful death under the theory of respondeat superior after a Mar-Jac employee’s vehicle collided with a school bus on the way to work, killing his two passengers, who were also Mar-Jac employees. Based on the evidence presented, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in denying Mar-Jac’s motion for summary judgment, because it was undisputed that the driver was not acting in the course and scope of his employment with Mar-Jac when the accident occurred. Thus, the Court reversed and entered judgment in favor of Mar-Jac. View "Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC v. Love" on Justia Law

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Following a disciplinary proceeding, Meloney Harbour’s minor son, T.D.H., was suspended from school and placed in an alternative school. The chancery court initially reversed and rendered the decision of the Tupelo Public School District Board of Trustees after finding that the deprivation of an attorney at the initial disciplinary hearing, as well as the failure to state the applicable standard of proof, violated T.D.H.’s due process rights. After a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59(a) motion, the chancery court amended its judgment to remand the case instead of rendering it. Harbour then filed a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 60(b) motion and, for the first time, challenged the constitutionality of Mississippi Code Section 37-9-71. Harbour contended the statute contained an unconstitutional standard of proof: substantial evidence rather than clear and convincing evidence. Harbour did not notice the attorney general of the constitutional challenge to the statute. Finding that Harbour failed to meet her burden under Rule 60(b), the chancery court denied the motion. Harbour then appealed that ruling. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s denial of the Rule 60(b) motion. View "Harbour v. Tupelo Public School District" on Justia Law

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Hinds County, Mississippi appealed an administrative order signed by two Hinds County Court judges that appointed and set the salaries of the county court administrator and the deputy county court administrator. The county judges sought to set the salaries of their administrators at an amount greater than the budgeted amount set by the Hinds County Board of Supervisors. In this direct appeal, Hinds County asked the Mississippi Supreme Court that the order be vacated. The Supreme Court found this appeal was not properly before it Court. Therefore, the appeal was dismissed, and the matter remanded to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County for consideration. View "In Re: In the Matter of the Appointment and Setting Salary for County Court Administrator and Deputy Court Administrator: Hinds County, Mississippi v. Skinner" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case before the Mississippi Supreme Court was a dispute between an automobile manufacturer and one of its dealerships. Specifically, the issue reduced to whether the dealer filed a timely complaint under Mississippi Code section 63-17-73(1)(d)(iii) after the dealer received the manufacturer’s notice it would terminate the applicable dealership agreement. The Court determined the statute was unambiguous, and its plain meaning provided a dealer may file its verified complaint within the sixty day notice period, i.e., the sixty days preceding the effective date of termination. Because the statute was unambiguous and conveyed a clear and definite meaning, the Court did not resort to the rules of statutory construction. The Court found the dealer’s complaint was timely filed within the sixty days immediately preceding the effective date of termination. View "Nissan North America, Inc. v. Great River Nissan, LLC d/b/a Great River Nissan" on Justia Law

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Previous opinions in this case were withdrawn. John and Cindy Henderson sued Copper Ridge Homes and First Bank regarding the construction of their new home in Magnolia, Mississippi. The case spiraled into foreclosure proceedings; the trial court granted First Bank’s motion for judicial foreclosure. On appeal, the Hendersons argued the trial court erred in granting First Bank a judicial foreclosure, by granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s motions for summary judgment, and by denying their motions for leave to amend and add wrongful disclosure to their complaint. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the trial court erred in granting Copper Ridge’s and First Bank’s post-foreclosure motions for dismissal of the Hendersons’ claims. The Court affirmed the grant of judicial foreclosure, but reversed the grant of summary judgment to both parties, and remanded the case back to the trial court for a determination of the Hendersons’ claims. View "Henderson v. Copper Ridge Homes, LLC" on Justia Law