Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
Lee v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company
Niyokia Lee and James Cooper sustained damages in separate, independent automobile accidents caused by negligent city emergency responders. Lee’s accident happened in Harrison County, and Cooper’s happened in Rankin County. The Mississippi Tort Claims Act afforded immunity to the negligent police officer, the fireman, and the governmental entities employing them. Because Lee and Cooper could not recover from the responders or municipalities, both sought recovery under their car insurance policies’ uninsured motorist provisions. Lee and Cooper had the same UM coverage carrier—State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company. And State Farm denied UM coverage to both, citing Mississippi Code Section 83-11-101(1) of Mississippi’s Uninsured Motorist Act. As State Farm saw it, because the officer and fireman enjoyed police and fire protection immunity under the MTCA, neither policyholder was legally entitled to recover from the immune responders or their city employers. State Farm thus denied UM coverage to Lee and Cooper despite the fact that, in 2009, the state legislature had revised Mississippi Code Section 83-11-103(c) of the UM Act by adding a new subsection expanding the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” to include “[a] motor vehicle owned or operated by a person protected by immunity under the [MTCA.]” The two trial courts considering the UM coverage issue reached opposite results. The Harrison County Circuit Court granted summary judgment in State Farm’s favor and dismissed Lee’s claims against State Farm, finding because the officer was immune, Lee was not "legally entitled to recover" and consequently, was not eligible for UM coverage. The Rankin County Court granted summary judgment in Cooper’s favor, against State Farm, ruling UM coverage did apply because, otherwise, the 2009 amendment to the UM Act, which expanded the definition of “uninsured motor vehicle” to include vehicles operated by persons who are immune under the MTCA, would be "rendered virtually meaningless." The Mississippi Supreme Court consolidating the two cases found that the plain language of the two provisions made it apparent that Lee and Cooper were entitled to UM coverage. It therefore reversed and remanded the decision of the Harrison County Circuit Court, and affirmed and remanded the decision of the Rankin County Circuit Court. View "Lee v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Carr v. Mississippi Lottery Corporation
In a matter of first impression before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the issue presented for review required an interpretation and application of the federal Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act (ACPA). 15 U.S.C. § 1125(d). Jonathan Carr registered five domain names that included variations of the identifying marks of the Mississippi Lottery Corporation (MLC). After an unfavorable decision from a national arbitration board, Carr brought a reverse domain name hijacking claim against the MLC, which countersued for cybersquatting. The Mississippi Supreme Court dismissed Carr’s first appeal in this case for lack of a final appealable judgment. Carr appealed the trial judge’s Order Granting and Denying Motions for Injunctive Relief, Order on Motion for New Trial, or In the Alternative, Motion for a Trial By Jury, and Order on Motion for New Trial and/or In the Alternative, to Alter or Amend the Judgment. After a careful review of federal and state law, the Supreme Court affirmed the decisions of the trial court on all issues. View "Carr v. Mississippi Lottery Corporation" on Justia Law
Humphrey v. Holts, et al.
The Mississippi Court of Appeals dismissed Omar Humphrey's appeal relating to a public records request. In 2020, Humphrey filed a singular document titled "Complaint for Violation of the Mississippi Public Records Act of 1983." The defendants to this complaint were Steve Holts, police chief of Senatobia, and John Champion, district attorney for the Seventeenth Circuit Court District. Humphrey’s complaint alleged that neither Holts nor Champion had responded to his letters requesting evidence and documents that related to his conviction. Humphrey’s complaint alleged the same basis for his claims against both Holts and Champion and made very little, if any, distinction between the two other than referencing the individual letters sent to each defendant. The Court of Appeals dismissed Humphrey's direct appeal for want of an appealable judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found there was in fact, a final, appealable judgment, and that the Court of Appeals should have decided Humphrey’s appeal on the merits. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment and remanded the case for that court to decide on the merits of the appeal. View "Humphrey v. Holts, et al." on Justia Law
Thornhill v. Walker-Hill Environmental, et al.
In 2017, Jeremy Thornhill said that he had injured his back while working. He sought workers’ compensation benefits from his employer, Walker-Hill and its insurance carrier, Zurich American Insurance Company of Illinois, but the Employer/Carrier denied that Thornhill had sustained a compensable injury. Ultimately, the parties agreed to compromise and settled pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 71-3-29 (Rev. 2021). Thornhill submitted the settlement to the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission for approval. After examining the application, the Commission approved the settlement and dismissed Thornhill’s case with prejudice. Pursuant to the settlement, Thornhill signed a general release, which reserved his right to pursue a bad faith claim. Believing he had exhausted his administrative remedies, Thornhill filed a bad faith suit against the Employer/Carrier; the Employer/Carrier moved to dismiss the case, arguing the circuit court lacked jurisdiction because the Commission never made a factual finding that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court concurred it lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the case. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that Thornhill had exhausted his administrative remedies and that the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear his bad faith claim. The appeals court determined that “Thornhill exhausted his administrative remedies because he fully and finally settled his workers’ compensation claim against the Employer/Carrier, the Commission approved the settlement, and there is nothing left pending before the Commission.” To this, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed. The circuit court judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Thornhill v. Walker-Hill Environmental, et al." on Justia Law
Mississippi Division of Medicaid v. Yalobusha County Nursing Home
The Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) and Yalobusha County Nursing Home (YNH) dispute four costs submitted for reimbursement by YNH in its fiscal year 2013 Medicaid cost report. The DOM appeals the Hinds County Chancery Court’s judgment ordering the DOM to reverse the four adjustments at issue. Because the DOM correctly interpreted the appropriate statutes and because its decisions were supported by substantial evidence, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s order and rendered judgment reinstating the decisions of the DOM. View "Mississippi Division of Medicaid v. Yalobusha County Nursing Home" on Justia Law
Mississippi v. Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC
Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC (the Resort), leased a parcel of land located on the Public Trust Tidelands from the City of Long Beach. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court to determine was whether the Resort was required to enter into a separate lease with the Secretary of State for the use of the tidelands property or whether the Resort already had a valid lease allowing use of the tidelands in question. The Supreme Court found that the State of Mississippi had, through its Boundary Agreement and Tidelands Lease with the City of Long Beach, ratified the prior lease entered into between the City and the Resort. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the chancery court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Resort and found that the Resort had a valid tidelands lease as ratified by the Secretary of State. View "Mississippi v. Long Beach Harbor Resort, LLC" on Justia Law
White v. Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC
Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC (JCA), a law firm practicing out of Ridgeland, Mississippi, filed suit against Shad White, in his official capacity as auditor for the state of Mississippi, seeking to recover damages for services rendered and for the reimbursement of costs and expenses owed to a public relations firm. A circuit court found that, because discovery had not been completed in the case, genuine issues of material fact remained. Thus, it denied the office of the state auditor’s (OSA) motion to dismiss or, alternatively, for summary judgment. Because JCA failed to submit evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact that the employment contract complied with statutory requirements, and because JCA’s alternative claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of summary judgment. View "White v. Jernigan Copeland Attorneys, PLLC" on Justia Law
Longo, et al. v. City of Waveland, et al.
Two cases were consolidated for the purposes of appeal, both from the Circuit Court of Hancock County, Mississippi. In each case, the circuit court found that it lacked jurisdiction due to a defect in the notice of appeal pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 11- 51-75(a)(i) (Rev. 2019). The circuit court dismissed both cases. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the statute did require that a petitioner before a local governing authority be made a party to an appeal of the authority’s decision. "But naming petitioners as appellees in the notice of appeal is procedural. Therefore, a notice of appeal that is filed on time but erroneously omits a petitioner’s name does not defeat the circuit court’s jurisdiction, and the error may be corrected." Finding that a defect in the contents of the notice of appeal was a procedural rather than a jurisdictional error, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Longo, et al. v. City of Waveland, et al." on Justia Law
Tiger Production Company, LLC, et al. v. Pace
In 2018, John Webb Pace, Jeannette Pace, and John Gregory Pace (the Paces) filed a complaint against Tiger Production Company, LLC, CCore Energy Management Company, LLC, Robert Marsh Nippes, and Harry Walters (collectively, “Tiger Production”). Each defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Paces’ claims for failure to exhaust their administrative remedies before the Mississippi Oil and Gas Board (MSOGB). After hearing oral arguments, the circuit court denied the motions to dismiss, determining that all of the Paces’ claims were based in common law and could not be remedied by the MSOGB. Tiger Production timely sought interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. After review, the Supreme Court found the circuit court was correct. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s judgment and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Tiger Production Company, LLC, et al. v. Pace" on Justia Law
Jones County School District v. Covington County School District, et al.
Jones County School District (JCSD) alleged Covington County School District (CCSD), the custodial district, failed to share sixteenth-section income as required by statute for a period of eighteen years or more. JCSD requested, among other things, an accounting going back to 1997. The chancellor ultimately ordered what JCSD called a “partial” accounting, lacking some requested details and going back only to 2003, when the two districts began exchanging lists of educable students as required by statute. JCSD then petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for permission to file an interlocutory appeal, which the Court granted. JCSD contended on appeal that certain statutes prescribing time periods relating to the distribution of sixteenth-section incomes were statutes of limitation, which the Mississippi Constitution prohibited from being enforced against political subdivisions of the State. This appeal also presented questions of statutory interpretation regarding how income from shared townships is to be managed. The Supreme Court concluded that the statute conditioning the annual payment of sixteenth-section funds on the exchanging of lists of educable children was a constitutional exercise of the Legislature’s authority to decide the method and procedure for allocating funds. The statute giving the noncustodial district one year to contest the sufficiency of the payments (in those years in which lists of educable students were exchanged) was likewise not a statute of limitations. The Court recognized there might still be a need for an accounting, as the custodial district is required to pay a pro-rata share of the interest derived from the principal fund associated with each of the sixteenth-section lands to the noncustodial district on an annual basis. "Maintenance of the principal fund is potentially subject to an action in equity for an accounting." The Court vacated the chancery court's accounting order and remanded for that court to consider a new claim for accounting, if JCSD pursues one, in light of the Supreme Court's holding here. View "Jones County School District v. Covington County School District, et al." on Justia Law