Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Jimmy Kinard died in 2012. In 2014, Teresa Hamlet, Kinard’s sister, filed suit against Graceland Care Center of New Albany, LLC; Advanced Healthcare Management, Inc.; Karen Clayton, in her official capacity as administrator of Graceland Care Center of New Albany; W. Larry Overstreet; Sharon Windham; and John Does 1-10, jointly and individually (collectively referred to as “Graceland”). Hamlet alleged that Graceland’s negligence was the proximate cause of Kinard’s death. Hamlet filed a motion for an extension of time to serve process, prior to the expiration of a 120-day deadline provided by Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h). The trial judge granted the motion and signed an order, yet the order was not filed with the circuit clerk until the day before the granted extension expired, well after the expiration of the original, 120-day deadline. Hamlet served process on three defendants during the extension. On the same day the order was filed, Hamlet filed a second motion for time, which the trial court also granted. While Hamlet served process on the remaining defendants within the second extension period, the order granting the second extension was not filed with the clerk until three months after it was signed by the judge. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss Hamlet’s complaint, arguing that the statute of limitations had run before the court’s order granting additional time to serve process had been entered by the clerk of court. The defendants further argued that Hamlet’s suit could not be revived by the untimely filed order. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Because Hamlet was the only party to the action, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial judge’s order granting her motion for extension of time to serve process became effective once the order had been signed and had left the trial judge’s control. Accordingly, it affirmed the trial court. However, in cases where more than one party is involved, notice becomes essential. Therefore, in cases involving multiple parties, the Court adopted the holding of the majority of states that required the entry of an interlocutory order before it becomes effective. View "Graceland Care Center of New Albany, LLC v. Hamlet" on Justia Law

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The Chancery Court found that Ronald Lampkin had breached his fiduciary duties to Limestone Products, Inc. (“Limestone”). Lampkin and James Oldrum Smith Jr. jointly owned and operated Limestone with a line of credit they each personally guaranteed. Upon Smith’s death and his estate’s refusal to guarantee the line of credit, Lampkin formed Delta Stone, a new corporation which operated on the same property, used the same facilities, and sold rock to the same clients to whom Limestone had sold. Lampkin sought a declaratory judgment against the estate that he was not violating his fiduciary duties to Limestone. The executors of the estate counterclaimed for lost profits and attorney’s fees. At the liability stage of the bifurcated trial, the chancellor determined that Lampkin had breached his fiduciary duty to Limestone by usurping a corporate opportunity. In the damages stage of the trial, the chancellor considered expert testimony, awarded damages, and denied the executors’ request for attorney’s fees, expert-witness fees, and punitive damages. The executors appealed and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and found that the chancellor had abused his discretion in calculating the damages award. The Supreme Court remanded for the chancellor to re-evaluate damages. On remand, the chancellor reassessed the damages due to Limestone as a result of Lampkin’s breach of his fiduciary duties. The executors appeal again. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s judgment on every issue except for the calculation of lost assets. Concerning the calculation of lost assets, it reversed and rendered judgment for $64,363.50. View "Lane v. Lampkin" on Justia Law

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A patron of the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton, Mississippi, slipped, fell, and suffered injuries when stepping into the Healthplex therapy pool. He sued, alleging, inter alia, that the Healthplex had failed to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment to Baptist, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed. Finding that genuine issues of material fact exist, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Vivians v. Baptist HealthPlex" on Justia Law

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Laser Line Construction Company, LLC,(“Laser Line”) purchased statutory workers’ compensation insurance coverage from the Builders and Contractors Association of Mississippi (“BCAM”) Self Insurers’ Fund. Because Laser Line was a general contractor, BCAM sought premium payments for all employees of Laser Line’s subcontractors who did not independently secure workers’ compensation coverage. Laser Line refused to pay premiums for employees of subcontractors who had fewer than five employees and claimed they were thus exempt from the coverage requirement. BCAM canceled Laser Line’s coverage for nonpayment. Laser Line filed suit for damages and a declaratory judgment. The defendants answered, and BCAM separately filed a counterclaim. The parties filed competing summary judgment motions. The trial court granted Laser Line a partial summary judgment on the statutory interpretation issue. BCAM sought and was granted permission to file an interlocutory appeal. Mississippi Code Section 71-3-7 required general contractors secure workers’ compensation coverage for the employees of its uninsured subcontractors; the Mississippi Supreme Court found consistent with the unambiguous language of the statute and its own prior opinions, the number of employees of the subcontractor was not a factor in determining general-contractor liability under the Act. Thus, the trial judge’s contrary ruling was in error. View "Builders & Contractors Association of Mississippi, v. Laser Line Construction Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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Rodney Fulgham argued that the trial judge erred by denying his motion to dismiss as suit brought by plaintiff, Clara Jackson. Fulgham contended Jackson failed to show good cause justifying a second enlargement of time to serve process. Finding no error with the trial judge determined as “good cause” for the enlargements of time, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed denial of Fulgham’s motion to dismiss. View "Fulgham v. Jackson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

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The Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) adopted a rule requiring utilities to waive utility deposits for certified domestic violence victims for a period of sixty days. The rule also required the utilities to keep the information regarding the domestic violence victims confidential and established penalties for violating that confidentiality. The Mississippi Rural Water Association, Inc. (“Water Association”) appealed, objecting to the promulgation of the new rule, but the chancery court affirmed the MPSC’s decision. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the MPSC lacked statutory authority to adopt any rule regulating the rates of nonprofit water utility associations and corporations. Accordingly, the Court reversed the order adopting the new rule and remanded this case to the MPSC for further proceedings. View "Mississippi Rural Water Association, Inc. v. Mississippi Public Service Comm'n" on Justia Law

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Under Mississippi civil discovery rules, a party who fails to attend his own properly noticed deposition may be sanctioned. Here, the plaintiff in a will contest intentionally skipped out on his deposition. This prompted the chancellor to grant the defendant’s motion for sanctions, dismissing the will contest. While this sanction was harsh, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded it was within the chancellor’s discretion to impose. The Court thus affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Robert Ernie Johnson" on Justia Law

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An order of divorce was entered in 2008. This case made its third trip to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Drake Lewis appealed two issues: (1) the order of divorce should have been voided due to a lack of jurisdiction and that the chancellor erred in finding that he resided in Harrison County (he claimed improper venue for the suit); and (2) the chancellor erred in entering an order of contempt against him. Finding no error, the Court affirmed the judgment of the chancellor on both issues. View "Lewis v. (Lewis) Pagel" on Justia Law

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This election contest arose out of the November 4, 2014, general election for the circuit judge seat in Mississippi’s eleventh circuit district, subdistrict 3. Charles Webster received 3,255 votes, whereas Chaka Smith received 2,369 votes. Of the total votes cast, 390 were cast by absentee ballot. Webster received 296 of the absentee ballots and Smith received the remaining 94. After the election had been certified, Smith conducted statutory examinations of the ballot boxes. During the examinations, Smith requested to photocopy or scan the contents of the ballot boxes. The Coahoma, Quitman, and Tunica County circuit clerks denied these requests. Smith filed a petition in the Quitman County Circuit Court seeking both declaratory relief and to contest the election, seeking a declaration on whether he had the right to make copies of election documents before contesting the election. In addition, Smith argued most of the absentee ballots violated Mississippi law and were comingled to the extent that illegal absentee ballots could not be separated from legal ones. Webster successfully moved for summary judgment; the trial court found no genuine issue of material fact existed regarding which candidate received the most votes in the election. Smith appealed. Finding no error in the grant of summary judgment in favor of Webster, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Smith v. Webster" on Justia Law

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The parties ultimately agreed to an irreconcilable differences divorce, with the chancery court to decide certain issues: child custody, visitation, equitable division of property and attorney fees. The bulk of Candice Ballard’s appeal centered on the court’s order denying her custody of the parties’ three minor children based upon the chancery court’s determination that both Candice and Marshall Ballard were “unfit” and that neither should be awarded custody pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 93-5-24-(9)(a)(ii) (the “family-violence presumption”). The chancery court awarded custody to the Mississippi Department of Human Services but placed the children with Marshall’s parents. Candice challenged the custody decision, arguing the chancellor relied strictly on hearsay to establish her “unfitness” and history of family violence. She also argued the chancery court erred in dividing the marital estate and awarding attorney’s fees. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded with respect to the issues of custody and division of the marital estate; with respect to fees, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Ballard v. Ballard" on Justia Law