Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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After Natchez Regional Medical Center (“NRMC”) filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, H. Kenneth Lefoldt, who had been appointed trustee for the NRMC Liquidation Trust, sued NRMC’s former directors and officers in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging breach of fiduciary duties of care, good faith, and loyalty. The directors and officers sought dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and argued that they were immune under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). The district court agreed and granted dismissal to the directors and officers. Lefoldt appealed, and the Fifth Circuit certified questions of Mississippi Law to the Mississippi Supreme Court pertaining to the MTCA as the exclusive remedy for a bankruptcy trustee standing in the shoes of a public hospital corporation against the employees or directors of that public corporation. If indeed the MTCA was the exclusive remedy, then did the MTCA permit the trustee to pursue any claims against the officers and directors in their personal capacity? The Mississippi Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative: the MTCA did not furnish the exclusive remedy for the bankruptcy trustee. View "Lefoldt v. Rentfro" on Justia Law

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The Board of Supervisors of Tunica County, Mississippi (the Board), ordered an ad valorem tax levy for fiscal year 2014-15 and increased the millage rate from the previous year. After entering the order, the Board advertised a public hearing of the proposed ad valorem tax levy in the Tunica Times. The hearing took place and various taxpayers appeared to voice objections and concerns. Aggrieved by the actions of the Board, one taxpayer, HWCC-Tunica, LLC (HWCC), which owned and operates Hollywood Casino-Tunica, filed a bill of exceptions with the Circuit Court of Tunica County and paid the taxes under protest. The trial court, finding that the failure of the Board to comply with statutory notice and public hearing requirements rendered the tax levy unlawful, ordered a refund. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Tunica County Board of Supervisors v. HWCC-Tunica, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a preceding case involving these parties, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the special court of eminent domain, specifically finding plaintiffs Todd and Angela Kuhn were not entitled to condemn Cheryl High’s property for a private road. The statutory procedures governing eminent-domain actions permit a defendant like High to recover expenses, including attorney’s fees, when “the judgment be that the plaintiff is not entitled to a judgment condemning property[.]” Following the Court's mandate, High moved the special court for attorney's fees and expenses under Miss. Code Ann. 11-27-37 (Rev. 2004). The special court held Section 11-27-37 did not apply and denied High’s request. High again appealed to the Supreme Court. And once again, the Court reversed and remanded: the Kuhns clearly invoked the statutory procedures of the special court of eminent domain when they petitioned that court for the statutory right to condemn High’s property for a private road. Thus, Section 11-27-37 applied. Because the award of fees and expenses under Section 11-27-37 is discretionary, not mandatory, the case was remanded back to the special court of eminent domain to consider the merits of High’s motion and the reasonableness of her request for $25,990.58 in attorney’s fees and expenses, plus interest. View "High v. Kuhn" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a trip-and-fall at a McDonald's in Winona, Mississippi: seventy-six-year-old John Renner, his wife, and two other family members stopped at a McDonald’s in Winona around 9:30 a.m. After he received his order, Renner set his food down at a table and walked to the condiment station. Before returning to his table, he thought one of the McDonald’s employees spoke to him. Renner turned and faced the counter before realizing the employee was speaking to another customer. As Renner turned back around to return to his table, his left foot struck a protruding leg of a highchair, causing him to fall and suffer injury to his face and left shoulder. After the fall, Renner heard one of the McDonald’s employees ask another what the highchair was doing there, and to move it. Two and a half years later, Renner filed suit against McDonald’s; Retzer Resources, Inc., the owner and operator of the Winona McDonald’s; and Velencia Hubbard, the manager of the Winona McDonald’s. During discovery, the defendants claimed that video footage of the fall no longer existed. The defendants, Hubbard and Retzer, moved for summary judgment, arguing that Renner could not demonstrate the existence of any genuine issue of material fact that: (1) the highchair was a dangerous condition; (2) any alleged danger was hidden; or (3) defendants had actual or constructive knowledge of the alleged dangerous condition. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of defendants. Renner appealed, arguing summary judgment was not proper because: (1) he established each element of a premises-liability claim; and (2) the defendants lost or destroyed key video evidence, which he argued foreclosed the grant of summary judgment. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded plaintiff established several triable issues of fact, and as a result, summary judgment was inappropriate. View "Renner v. Retzer Resources, Inc." on Justia Law

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Christopher Pollan filed a medical negligence action against Dr. Andrew Wartak, North Mississippi Medical Center-West Point; Angie Turnage, LPN; Chase Larmour, RN; and Ashley Thomas, LPN, claiming that the defendants’ medical negligence caused the death of his mother, Shirley Pollan. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendants, finding that Pollan’s survival claims were barred by the statute of limitations. Finding no error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "Pollan v. Wartak" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from a January 2016 order by the Lincoln County Chancery Court adjudicating minor Kevin Moore the heir of Travis Lynn Weems, who died in an automobile accident in July 2014. Dauwanna Mitchell, Weems’s mother, appealed that judgment, claiming it was invalid because Weems was never adjudicated to be Moore’s natural father due to a paternity action filed in 2007 that was dismissed and, as Mitchell claimed, never reinstated. Mitchell also claimed a final judgment entered in February 2011 terminating Weems’s parental rights was improperly revised by the chancery court in October 2015 under Rule 60 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. Consolidated with this appeal was another appeal by Mitchell concerning the chancery court’s 2014 judgment granting letters of administration based on an administrative-letters petition filed by the Chancery Clerk of Lincoln County. Both appealed raised the same claims of error: that the chancery court’s order adjudicating heirship was invalid because paternity never was adjudicated, and the chancery court erred in revising the February 2011 termination judgment. Finding no merit in Mitchell’s assignments of error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s judgment adjudicating Kevin Moore the heir of Travis Weems. View "Mitchell v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Thrasher Construction, Inc. (Thrasher) brought a third-party beneficiary action against Bruce Cope, Mary Cope, and Ike Thrash (the Copes and Thrash). Thrasher sought damages for payments owed for waterproofing the Inn by the Sea, a condominium in which the Copes and Thrash had acquired a full ownership interest by agreeing, in part, to pay all outstanding bills for work previously performed on the property. During trial, the county court dismissed the third-party beneficiary claim but allowed Thrasher to proceed on a quantum meruit theory of the case. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Thrasher for $69,290, and the county court entered judgment based on that verdict. The Copes and Thrash appealed the judgment to the Circuit Court, which affirmed the judgment of the county court. The Copes and Thrash then appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing the facts did not support a recovery on quantum meruit. Thrasher cross-appealed, arguing the trial court erred in dismissing its third-party beneficiary claim. The Court of Appeals held quantum meruit was not the proper method of relief because the action should have proceeded as a third-party beneficiary claim. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and remanded for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed the third-party beneficiary action was the appropriate basis for Thrasher’s recovery; however, because the trial court ultimately reached the correct result, no further proceedings were needed in this case. View "Cope v. Thrasher Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Appellant Troy Wesley lost the Democratic primary election for Mississippi’s Washington County District 3 Supervisor on August 4, 2015. He subsequently petitioned the circuit court to request a new election, alleging that numerous irregularities had invalidated the former election. After a hearing on the matter, the Washington County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to defendants Carl McGee and the Washington County Democratic Executive Committee. Wesley appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. During its review, the Court found Wesley cited no discrepancy in the original vote totals and instead focused his arguments on procedural problems, including an alleged lack of ballot-box security. “While the failure to maintain ballot-box security is a serious issue worthy of reprimand,” the Supreme Court found Wesley’s arguments were insufficient to raise a genuine issue of material fact and that summary judgment was properly entered in favor of the defendants. View "Wesley v. Washington Cty. Democratic Exec. Committee" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed and rendered a final judgment entered by the Harrison County Chancery Court, in which the chancery court held that: (1) Gulf Publishing’s (GP) records request under the Mississippi Public Records Act (MPRA) was not subject to any exemptions contained in the act; (2) the Department of Marine Research (DMR) acted in bad faith by asserting defenses for the purpose of delay in violation of the Mississippi Litigation Accountability Act (MLAA); (3) DMR willfully and wrongfully denied GP’s records requests; (4) the State Auditor acted in bad faith and willfully and wrongfully denied GP’s requests; (5) the State Auditor was in civil contempt from November 4, 2013, until it purged itself on December 5, 2013, when it filed a motion with the federal district court, seeking permission to release the records requested by GP, which were then in the custody of a federal grand jury; therefore, the State Auditor was liable for attorney’s fees and expenses resulting from the contempt; (6) GP was entitled to attorney’s fees under the MPRA, the MLAA, and relevant caselaw for contempt and monetary sanctions for bad faith; (7) DMR and the State Auditor were jointly and severally liable for attorney’s fees and other expenses; and (8) certain individuals were fined $100 each pursuant to the MPRA, for their participation in the willful and wrongful denial of GP’s public-records request. After granting GP's request for certiorari review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals should not have reached the question of whether the investigative-report exemption under the MPRA applied in this instance: that claim was waived. Therefore, that portion of the Court of Appeals’ judgment holding that the public records sought by GP were exempt under the MPRA’s investigative-report exemption was overruled. The Court found the Department of Audit, as a public body defined by Mississippi Code Section 25-61-3(a), was liable to GP for the civil penalty prescribed Mississippi Code Section 25-61-15, along with reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees as found by the chancery court, for denying GP access to public records not exempt from the provisions of the MPRA. View "Mississippi Department of Audit v. Gulf Publishing Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Teresa Hamlet filed a motion for an extension of time to serve process, prior to the expiration of the 120-day deadline provided by Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h). The trial judge granted the motion and signed an order, but 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, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. In cases where more than one party is involved, notice becomes essential. In cases involving multiple parties, the Court adopted the holding of the majority of states that require the entry of an interlocutory order before it becomes effective. View "Graceland Care Center of New Albany, LLC v. Hamlet" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure