Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Civil Procedure
Mississippi State Agencies Self-Insured Workers’ Compensation Trust v. Herrgott
Defendant Alex Herrgott, was driving a four-seat Polaris all-terrain vehicle at night down a gravel road when he “overcorrected” trying to avoid a pothole. The ATV overturned, and Joseph MacNabb, a passenger, was severely injured. Since MacNabb was a state employee in the course and scope of his employment, he received workers’ compensation benefits from the Mississippi State Agencies Self-Insured Workers’ Compensation Trust. The Trust later initiated this litigation in an attempt to recover more than $300,000 in benefits paid for MacNabb’s injury. The circuit court ultimately granted summary judgment to Herrgott because the Trust’s Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6) representative could not articulate a legal theory entitling it to recover. The Mississippi Supreme Court found there was sufficient evidence of Herrgott’s negligence for the case to go to trial, and the deposition testimony of a lay witness should not have bound the Trust as to which legal theories it could pursue. The Supreme Court therefore reversed the summary judgment and remanded the case for trial. View "Mississippi State Agencies Self-Insured Workers' Compensation Trust v. Herrgott" on Justia Law
Beachy, et al. v. Mississippi District Council for Assemblies of God
The General Council of the Assemblies of God (General Council) governed the Assemblies of God denomination. Its affiliate, the Mississippi District Council for Assemblies of God (District), governed the denomination’s local churches in Mississippi, including Gulf Coast Worship Center (GCWC) in Long Beach. In January 2017, Kevin Beachy, the pastor of GCWC, did not renew his credentials as an ordained pastor with the General Council, ultimately informing the District that he and GCWC intended to disaffiliate from the General Council. The District then informed Beachy that GCWC was being placed under District supervision. On March 19, 2017, the GCWC congregation voted to disaffiliate from the General Council. The congregation voted also to remove a reverter clause from its constitution and bylaws; this clause would have caused the GCWC’s property to revert to the District in the event that GCWC ceased operating as a “church body.” In November 2017, the District filed a chancery court petition for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief against Beachy and the GCWC board of trustees, Eddie Kinsey, Andre Mulet, and Kris Williams (collectively, Defendants). Both the District and Defendants moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the District’s motion for summary judgment and denied Defendants’ motion. Defendants appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined that issues concerning disaffiliation, i.e., actions taken at the congregational meeting on March 19, 2017, and whether GCWC was under the District’s supervision, were church-governing matters. Thus, the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine deprived the chancellor of jurisdiction to address those claims. But the Supreme Court found genuine issues of material fact remained regarding ownership of property. Therefore, the Court reversed the chancellor’s grant of summary judgment to the District and remanded all issues concerning ownership of property for further proceedings. View "Beachy, et al. v. Mississippi District Council for Assemblies of God" on Justia Law
Joe McGee Construction Company, Inc. v. Brown-Bowens
The Mississippi Department of Transportation hired Joe McGee Construction Company, Inc., for a road construction and bridge replacement project. The Department designed the temporary traffic control plan for the project, which provided for the placement of temporary traffic signs. McGee Construction then subcontracted with Riverside Traffic Systems, Inc. for the placement of the signs leading up to and around the site. Hattie Brown drove down the closed portion of Highway 245 and collided with a stationary crane, resulting in her death. Responding Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Jonathan Ragan’s report stated Brown’s vehicle “collided with the barricade on the southbound lane and traveled approximately 200 yards colliding head on with a crane parked on a bridge.” His report also noted that “[t]here was adequate warning signage of the road being closed with barricades across both lanes” and that “[t]he southbound side barricade was destroyed.” Dianne Brown-Bowens, Hattie Brown’s daughter, filed a wrongful death suit against McGee Construction, and later amended the complaint to include the Department and Riverside as defendants, asserting claims of negligence and strict liability, and sought to recover punitive damages. McGee Construction moved for summary judgment, asserting it “provided legally sufficient notice to motorists, including [Hattie] Brown, that the section of Highway 245 South where the accident occurred was closed and that McGee Construction therefore, breached no duty owed to [Hattie] Brown” and that it was not negligent because none of its actions proximately caused the accident. The trial court entered an order granting Riverside’s motion for summary judgment and granting in part and denying in part the Department’s and McGee Construction’s motions for summary judgment, ruling that the Department’s and McGee Construction’s summary judgment motions were denied as to Brown-Bowens’s negligence claim but granted as to her claims for strict liability and for punitive damages. On appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, defendants argued the trial court erred by denying their motions for summary judgment because Brown-Bowens failed to present evidence that either party, by act or omission, contributed to the death of Hattie Brown. The Court agreed with this and reversed the trial court. View "Joe McGee Construction Company, Inc. v. Brown-Bowens" on Justia Law
Loblolly Properties LLC v. Le Papillon Homeowner’s Association Inc.
Le Papillon Homeowner’s Association Inc. sought to collect homeowners’ association fees from Loblolly Properties LLC for the nine lots it owned in the Le Papillon development. Loblolly argued that it did not have to pay HOA fees because a nonjudicial foreclosure sale extinguished all restrictive covenants on the subject lots. The trial court disagreed, finding that the covenants were on record when Loblolly purchased the subject lots in the Le Papillon property. The trial court also held that Loblolly’s Special Warranty Deed’s language clearly stated that the “conveyance and the warranty hereof is subject to any and all Covenants and Restrictions of record.” The trial court later granted summary judgment for Le Papillon. Loblolly appealed, raising two issues: (1) whether the foreclosure sale made the covenants and restrictions not binding, despite the language of the Special Warranty Deed; and (2) whether the foreclosure extinguished the covenants and restrictions. The Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment of the trial court, holding that Loblolly was bound to the covenants through the language in the Special Warranty Deed and that the foreclosure did not extinguish the covenants and restrictions. Upon a review of the record and law in this state, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial and appellate courts. View "Loblolly Properties LLC v. Le Papillon Homeowner's Association Inc." on Justia Law
University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Aycock
Plaintiffs Jackie and Debra Aycock sued the University of Mississippi Medical Center for medical negligence, alleging injuries Jackie suffered occurred as a result of the hospital’s negligence. The medical center sought summary judgment seeking dismissal of the negligence action based on the Aycocks’ failure to serve its chief executive officer with their notice of claim as required by Mississippi Code Section 11-46-11(2)(a)(ii) (Rev. 2019). The hospital argued that the Aycocks’ failure to serve proper notice resulted in the running of the one-year statute of limitations under Mississippi Code Section 11-46-11(3)(a) (Rev. 2019). The circuit court denied summary judgment, finding that genuine issues of material fact existed. The hospital appealed. but the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's denial of UMMC's motion for summary judgment. View "University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Aycock" on Justia Law
Phillips v. City of Oxford
While responding to an emergency, City of Oxford Police Officer Matthew Brown collided with Patricia Phillips’s vehicle at an intersection. Phillips filed suit to recover for injuries suffered in the collision. After a bench trial, the circuit court found that Officer Brown did not act with reckless disregard in response to the emergency and determined that the City of Oxford was entitled to police-protection immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. Phillips appealed; the Court of Appeals reversed. The majority of the appellate court held that the trial court’s finding that Officer Brown’s actions did not rise to the level of reckless disregard is against the overwhelming weight of the evidence and that Oxford was not entitled to police-protection immunity. IThe dissent’s opinion said that the circuit court’s judgment was supported by substantial evidence and, therefore, the Court of Appeals lacked the power to disturb the trial judge’s findings. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the record contained substantial evidence to support the trial court’s decision. Accordingly, the Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals and reinstated and affirmed the decision of the trial court. View "Phillips v. City of Oxford" on Justia Law
Penn-Star Insurance Company v. Thompson, et al.
Penn-Star Insurance Company (Penn-Star) appealed a trial court’s denial of its motion for summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found after review of the trial court record that because the commercial general liability policy at issue did not cover the sustained losses, the trial court’s order was reversed, judgment was rendered in favor of Penn-Star, and this case was remanded to the trial court for consideration of the remaining issues. View "Penn-Star Insurance Company v. Thompson, et al." on Justia Law
In The Matter of The Estate of Frederick Adams Biddle
Richard Biddle and Brian Biddle questioned whether the Chancery Court of Tishomingo County, Mississippi had jurisdiction over their father’s estate. Brian and Richard also appealed the chancery court’s finding that there was no evidence of undue influence by their stepmother. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found venue and jurisdiction were proper and that no evidence of undue influence was presented. View "In The Matter of The Estate of Frederick Adams Biddle" on Justia Law
Dolgencorp, LLC v. Payton
In this slip-and-fall case, the trial court denied the defendant business Dolgencorp’s summary judgment motion. The judge found there “may be a question of fact.” After de novo review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found clear that plaintiff Patsy Payton failed to present sufficient evidence to establish a material fact issue as to whether the alleged dangerous condition, Carpet Fresh powder on the floor of the main aisle of a Dollar General store, had existed long enough on the ground for the store to have constructive knowledge of the spill. The only evidence Payton produced was her deposition testimony that no other customer was in the store when she arrived. And soon after arriving, she slipped and fell, implying that the substance must have been spilled sometime before she entered the store. Payton admitted she had only been in the store less than a minute when she fell. On these facts, the Supreme Court found Payton's claims failed, and reversed the trial court's denial of Dolgencorp's motion. View "Dolgencorp, LLC v. Payton" on Justia Law
Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al.
Gulf South Pipeline Company, LLC owned an underground natural gas storage facility in Rankin County, Mississippi. It owned additional properties that ran through thirty-two Mississippi counties. As a public service corporation with property situated in more than one Mississippi county, property belonging to Gulf South was assessed centrally by the Mississippi Department of Revenue rather than by individual county tax assessors. After conducting the central assessment, MDOR apportions the tax revenues among the several counties in which the property is located. A significant amount of the natural gas stored in Gulf South’s Rankin County facility is owned by Gulf South’s customers and, therefore, it is excluded from MDOR’s central assessment. The Rankin County tax assessor requested that Gulf South disclose the volume of natural gas owned by each of its customers. Following Gulf South’s refusal to provide these data, in September 2021 the Rankin County tax assessor gave notice of its intention to assess Gulf South more than sixteen million dollars for approximately four billion cubic feet of natural gas stored by Gulf South but owned by its customers. Gulf South filed suit at the Chancery Court in Hinds County, seeking to enjoin the assessment and seeking a declaratory judgment that MDOR was the exclusive entity with the authority to assess a public service corporation with property located in more than one Mississippi county. On interlocutory appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court was asked to determine whether venue was proper in Hinds County when Rankin County was named as a defendant and MDOR was joined as a necessary party. The Court held that, under the venue provisions of Mississippi Code Section 11-45-17 and the Court’s consistent construction of these statutory provisions as mandatory and controlling, venue was proper only in Rankin County. Therefore, the chancellor erred by denying Rankin County’s motion to transfer venue. View "Rankin County v. Boardwalk Pipeline Partners, L.P., et al." on Justia Law