Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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Timothy and Rebecca Hillhouse entered into a contract with Chris Cook Construction for the construction of their home. The contract contained an arbitration provision mandating that arbitration be conducted before a forum that was unavailable at the time the contract was executed. The trial court entered an order compelling arbitration and appointing an arbitrator. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in so doing: because the forum was a contract requirement, the arbitration provision was unenforceable, and appointing an arbitrator required courts to reform the contractual agreement between the parties. Judgment was reversed and the trial court’s order compelling arbitration and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hillhouse v. Chris Cook Construction, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review arose from a single-car accident involving a 2005 Santa Fe Hyundai, which had been rented by Joyce Hutton, and driven by Derek Bell on U.S. Highway 61. It was reported to the police officer that the car drifted into the median, and Bell lost control. Both Bell and Hutton were injured. Hutton filed suit against Hyundai Motor America, Hyundai Motor Company, and Bell, and Bell filed a cross-claim against Hyundai. Hutton settled her injury claims against Bell prior to trial. Bell and Hutton proceeded against Hyundai. At trial, both alleged the car was defectively designed. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged the Hyundai was defectively designed due to an exposed, unprotected component of the anti-lock braking system (ABS). Plaintiffs claimed that an unseen and never-discovered object of unknown elements and composition struck a component part, dislodging an ABS tone ring temporarily, which caused the vehicle’s computer to send erratic braking signals. The erratic signals in turn caused the ABS computer to assume that the front right wheel was not turning, which in turn caused braking to occur on the front left side. The alleged one-sided braking caused Bell to lose control before the vehicle overturned multiple times. Hyundai countered that a phantom object was never seen, found, or identified by Bell, Hutton, the state trooper who investigated the accident, eyewitnesses to the accident, Plaintiffs’ witnesses (experts or otherwise), or anyone else. Further, Hyundai argued that, assuming arguendo that Plaintiffs’ multiple-chain-reaction theory were possible, the trajectory of any object would have occurred within fifty milliseconds - a scientific, physical impossibility. After a two-week trial, the jury returned a verdict for Plaintiffs: $193,000 for Hutton and $2 million for Bell. Hyundai appealed, claiming a number of errors by the trial court. The Supreme Court the trial court committed reversible error, therefore the verdict was reversed, and judgment rendered in favor of Hyundai. View "Hyundai Motor America et al. v. Hutton et al." on Justia Law

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KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood entered into two separate contracts with Coumanis Allen, a general contractor. Subsequently, Coumanis did not pay subcontractors for their work, and Warren & Warren, one of Coumanis’s subcontractors, filed construction liens on Oak Grove’s and Westwood’s separate real property. In both payment actions, Warren admitted to failing to file its lis pendens notice along with its construction liens, waiting 110 days to file it. The two separate legal actions were brought before the Chancery Court of Lamar County, Mississippi, and were assigned to separate chancellors. Oak Grove and Westwood filed separate motions for summary judgment, which were denied by the chancellors; they timely appealed. The crux of the appeals was one of statutory interpretation: whether the failure to comply with Mississippi Code Section 85-7- 405(1)(c)(i) (Supp. 2020), which required the simultaneous filing of a lis pendens notice with the commencement of the payment action, rendered Warren’s liens unenforceable and ineffective. Chancellor Sheldon erred by denying Oak Grove’s motions for summary judgment, and Chancellor Gambrell erred by denying Westwood’s motion to dissolve. Therefore, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancellors’ decisions and entered summary judgment in favor of KD Oak Grove and KP Westwood. View "KD Oak Grove, LLC v. Warren & Warren Asphalt Paving, LLC" on Justia Law

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Michael Lockhart appealed a Chancery Court’s Opinion and Final Judgment entered in July 2019 (the 2019 Order) purporting to clarify the court’s previous 2018 Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Final Judgment (the 2018 Order) equitably distributing property between Lockhart and his ex-wife, Stella Payton. Lockhart also appealed the chancery court’s Order Denying Post Trial Motion entered in February 2020. In doing so, Lockhart claimed the chancery court erred: (1) by modifying the court’s property division ruling from its 2018 Order; (2) by assigning values to property identified in the 2018 Order; (3) in its determination of “proceeds” related to certain businesses owned by Lockhart; (4) by finding Lockhart in contempt; (5) by failing to penalize Payton’s contempt and allowing Payton equitable relief; (6) by failing to assign rental income to Lockhart for two marital rental properties; (7) by failing to provide Lockhart a way to retrieve his personal property from the marital home; and (8) by denying Lockhart’s motion to recuse. Since each of Lockhart’s eight assignments of error either lacked merit or ere procedurally barred on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court's decision. View "Lockhart v. Lockhart" on Justia Law

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Roxanne Watson filed two successive lawsuits against Greenwood Leflore Hospital and Dr. John Lucas III (collectively, “GLH”), alleging medical negligence. Watson’s first complaint was dismissed without prejudice because a notice of claim was not filed with the chief executive officer of the governmental entity at least ninety days before instituting suit as required by Mississippi Code Section 11-46-11(1) (Rev. 2019) of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). Watson then refiled the complaint. GLH sought dismissal of the second complaint, contending that Watson was required to provide it with a second notice of claim and that the one-year statute of limitations had expired. The trial court denied GLH’s motion to dismiss, and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted an interlocutory appeal. After review, the Supreme Court concluded Watson satisfied the MTCA’s notice requirements, affirming the trial court’s order denying the motion to dismiss. View "Greenwood Leflore Hospital et al. v. Watson" on Justia Law

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Tillman Infrastructure, LLC, sought to build a 290-foot tower in Marshall County, Mississippi on a plot designated an agricultural zone. Tillman applied for a special exception through the Marshall County Planning Commission, and the request was approved. American Tower Corporation owns an existing wireless-telecommunications tower that is approximately a quarter of a mile from Tillman’s proposed tower. American Tower opposed Tillman’s request for a special exception. Tillman’s application was considered at the November 18, 2019 meeting of the Marshall County Board of Supervisors. American Tower argued that Tillman could not satisfy the standards for a special exception. The board unanimously approved Tillman’s request for a special exception. American Tower appealed to the Marshall County Circuit Court. Marshall County filed a motion to dismiss the appeal and argued that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction. Marshall County claimed that American Tower failed to provide notice to the board president of the board of supervisors as required by Mississippi Code Section 11-51-75. Tillman joined the motion and also argued that American Tower lacked standing to prosecute its appeal. The circuit court entered an order granting the motion to dismiss. In this appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court considered the dismissal of an appeal of a decision by a board of supervisors under Mississippi Code Section 11-51-75 (Rev. 2019), and whether American Tower properly perfected its appeal. The Supreme Court found that under Section 11-51-75, as revised, it was the filing of the notice of appeal that established appellate jurisdiction to the circuit court. "We acknowledge that American Tower did not deliver a copy of the notice of appeal to the president of the board of supervisors. However, we find this defect is procedural and may be remedied." Judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "American Tower Asset Sub, LLC d/b/a American Tower Corporation v. Tillman Infrastructure, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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Cascio Investments, LLC (Investments), sued Philip Cascio (Cascio) for breach of contract, alleging violations of a noncompetition agreement (NCA). The circuit court found in favor of Investments, and Cascio appealed. Investments cross-appealed, seeking review of a punitive damages award and injunctive relief. The patriarch of the family, Phil Cascio, Sr., founded Cascio’s Storage and Warehouse, Inc. (CSW), during the 1970s, a business that primarily engaged in warehousing and storage of agricultural products in the Mississippi Delta region and beyond. Phil Cascio, Sr. passed the general management of the business to his son, Cascio while his other children, Jackie Pearson, Phyllis Cascio, and Patrick Cascio, pursued other careers. Not until later did Phil Cascio, Sr., divide his interests among his children. This extremely dissatisfied Cascio, Jr., who believed he should receive full ownership of the family businesses on account of the years of work he had poured into them. This chain of events led to a degeneration of the familial bonds between the Cascio siblings, which ultimately resulted in the action on review by the Mississippi Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court concluded substantial evidence supported the trial court’s findings, so judgment was affirmed as to all issues except the joinder of Jackie and Phyllis as plaintiffs. As for the cross-appeal, the issue of the constitutionality of the punitive- damages cap was procedurally barred, and the circuit court was affirmed as to the denial of additional injunctive relief. View "Cascio v. Cascio Investments, LLC" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case was whether the Civil Service Commission for the City of Jackson (Commission) sufficiently and clearly certified its findings when it affirmed the Jackson Police Department’s termination of Officer Justin Roberts. The Supreme Court found that because the Commission failed to set forth with sufficient clarity and specificity its reasons for affirming Roberts’s termination, the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Circuit Court were reversed, and the matter remanded to the Commission to comply with the Supreme Court's directive to certify in writing and to set forth with sufficient clarity and specificity its factual findings. View "Roberts v. City of Jackson" on Justia Law

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In the aftermath of her divorce from ex-Methodist minister Andrew Johnson, Kim Miller sued not only Johnson but also his employer, the Mississippi Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church (MUMC). Miller also sued fellow MUMC minister Susan Woodard. Her claims against Johnson were aimed at his risky extramarital sexual behavior, which led to Johnson contracting HIV and later infecting Miller with the virus. Miller based her claims against MUMC and Woodard on her allegation that, had the conference and the fellow minister followed United Methodist policy and procedure, they would have discovered Johnson’s behavior and remedied it or warned Miller before she contracted HIV. The question before the Mississippi Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal was whether she established a wrong for which she could legally recover. After review, the Court found "it is clear that Miller seeks to hold MUMC and Woodard legally accountable for failing to follow religious doctrine and procedure. Under the First Amendment, this Court has no authority to consider and enforce religious standards. Thus, MUMC and Woodard are entitled to summary judgment." The Court found Miller’s claims against her ex-husband, Johnson, were not barred by the First Amendment. Still, Johnson insisted he was entitled to summary judgment based on a mutual release in Miller and Johnson’s divorce settlement. The Court found Johnson did not pursue his affirmative defense based on the release for more than two and a half years. By that time, the trial court deemed this defense waived. And after review, the Court held the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying Johnson summary judgment on this basis. The trial court's orders denying MUMC’s and Woodard’s motions for summary judgment were reversed; the order denying Johnson’s motion for summary judgment was affirmed and Miller’s claims against Johnson remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Woodard v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought to overturn a chancellor’s decision confirming a partition sale. They argued they were entitled to a new sale because the COVID-19 pandemic rendered the prior sale unfair. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Plaintiffs did not claim the chancellor abused his discretion, nor did the Court found an abuse of discretion. Accordingly, the decision was affirmed. View "Osby v. Janes" on Justia Law