Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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The mayor and the board of aldermen of the City of Laurel, Mississippi unanimously passed an ordinance to extend Laurel’s boundaries, but the Pendorff Community Association contested the annexation. Following a bench trial, the Chancery Court of Jones County ruled in favor of Laurel and entered an order approving the annexation. Pendorff appealed the chancery court’s ruling. After reviewing the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court could the chancery court’s approval of the annexation was reasonable. Therefore, the Court affirmed. View "Pendorff Community Association, LLC v. City of Laurel" on Justia Law

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Six plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment regarding the meaning of the absentee-ballot provision under Mississippi law and its most recent addition in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their claims dealt exclusively with Mississippi Code Section 23-15-713(d). In partially granting plaintiffs' request, the chancery court ruled: "as it pertains to the issue of . . . whether [Section] 23-15-713(d) permits any voter with pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death to vote by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic – is well taken and the relief sought is hereby GRANTED to the extent that such pre-existing 'physical . . . condition impairs, interferes with, or limits a person’s ability to engage in certain tasks or actions or participate in typical daily activities and interactions' or in an 'impaired function or ability' that interferes thereof." The chancery court denied the Plaintiffs’ second request, finding that Section 24-15- 713(d) did not permit any voter to vote absentee if he or she wanted to avoid voting in-person at a polling place due to guidance from the MDH, the CDC, or public-health authorities to avoid unnecessary public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic. The chancery court declared, however, that “a voter will be allowed to vote absentee if he or she or any dependent has consulted with a physician who recommends, because of that individual’s physical disability or that of their dependent, not attending any public gathering because of the possibility of contracting COVID-19[.]” The chancery court denied the Plaintiffs’ third request for injunctive relief. Secretary of State Michael Watson, Jr. appealed the chancery court’s order, arguing the plain terms of Section 24-15-713(d), a voter must have a “physical disability,” and “because of” that disability, voting in-person “could reasonably cause danger” to the voter or others. The Secretary of State maintained a preexisting condition that was not itself a “physical disability” cannot satisfy the statute, whether or not the voter believed that COVID-19 might make voting in person dangerous. The Secretary of State contended the chancery court erred to the extent its order suggested that Section 23-15-713(d) applied to voters otherwise. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the chancery court erred to the extent its order declared Section 25-15-713(d) permitted any voter with preexisting conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death to vote by absentee ballot during the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, the chancery court erred to the extent that its order allowed a “recommended” quarantine to qualify as a “physician-imposed quarantine.” The court's order was affirmed in all other respects. View "Watson v. Oppenheim" on Justia Law

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The City of Petal’s March 30, 2017 Amended Annexation Ordinance sought to add six square miles, spread across five different locations, to the City’s limits. The proposed annexation would have also added 296 residents to the City. For the Special Chancellor to approve the City’s petition to ratify, the City had to prove the annexation was reasonable. The chancellor found the City did not fully meet that burden. After trial, the chancellor found a modified annexation acceptable, determining the City already had sufficient available land within its current limits for residential and commercial development. And he found it more beneficial and reasonable for the City to update zoning and improve infrastructure than to approve annexation of an industrial area and two mostly undeveloped and unpopulated areas. There were two smaller proposed areas the judge deemed reasonable for annexation. The City’s last annexation, finalized in 2003, resulted in some parcels or tracts of land erroneously split between the City and Forrest County. So the chancellor granted the City's petition (as modified) to correct those errors. The City appealed. Finding the chancellor's decision supported by substantial and credible evidence, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed his decision. View "In the Matter of the Enlargement & Extension of the Municipal Boundaries of the City of Petal, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court accepted this case on certiorari review from the Court of Appeals. Shaun Seals worked for the Pearl River Resort; he alleged he was terminated for reasons relating to a work-related injury. Donna Brolick, Pearl River Resort’s director of employment compliance, was called as a witness at the hearing before an administrative judge (AJ). Brolick testified that she was previously vice president of human resources at Pearl River Resort at the time Seals’s position was phased out and he was let go in January of 2013. Brolick further testified that in 2012 the resort changed its management. Multiple upper-level positions were eliminated or consolidated. Seals’s position as director of transportation was one of several positions that were eliminated. The Workers' Compensation Commission reversed the AJ’s order. The Commission found that Seals had reached maximum medical improvement on November 13, 2015, but failed to prove any permanent disability or loss of wage-earning capacity for two reasons. The Commission found that Seals was let go for unrelated economic reasons, noting his receipt of severance pay and other benefits as well as the testimony and evidence adduced by the Resort. Seals appealed the Commission's decision to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court held the Commission was correct in its assessment of the date of maximum medical improvement but that the Commission erred by finding Seals failed to prove any loss of wage-earning capacity. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the decision of the Commission and directed the Commission to calculate Seals’s loss of wage-earning capacity and to award corresponding compensation. The Resort petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted. The Supreme Court adopted "the well-reasoned analysis of the opinion concerning maximum medical improvement," but was "constrained to reverse the Court of Appeals’ majority regarding loss of wage-earning capacity. Sufficient evidence supported the Commission’s decision that Seals had not suffered loss of wage-earning capacity." The Commission's decision was reinstated in toto. View "Seals v. Pearl River Resort & Casino" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was the computation of the broadband credit limits that a taxpayer may use against its franchise-tax and income-tax liabilities. During the tax periods at issue, AT&T Mobility II, LLC, and BellSouth Telecommunications operated telecommunications enterprises and made significant investments in broadband technology developments throughout Mississippi, generating Broadband Investment Credits (Broadband Credits) under Mississippi Code Section 57-87-5. BellSouth Mobile Data, SBC Alloy Holdings, New BellSouth Cannular Holdings, New Cingular Wireless Services, SBC Telecom, and Centennial were all direct or indirect corporate owners of AT&T Mobility II. The taxpayers here each filed a separate franchise-tax return and were included as affiliated group members in the combined corporate income-tax return filed on behalf of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) determined that the broadband credits the taxpayers had claimed had been improperly applied to an amount greater than the credit cap of 50 percent of the taxpayers’ tax liabilities according to Mississippi Code Section 57-87- 5(3) (Rev. 2014). The MDR disallowed portions of the broadband credits claimed by the taxpayers and assessed additional franchise taxes, interest and penalties to the taxpayers separately on several dates between December 22, 2014, and May 20, 2015. The taxpayers argue that each taxpayer is jointly and severally liable for the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group, therefore making the income-tax liability of each taxpayer the same as the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The chancellor granted summary judgment in favor of the taxpayers and ruled that the taxpayer’s tax liabilities under Chapters 7 and 13 of Title 271 of the Mississippi Code was the aggregate of the taxpayer’s separate franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor's ruling on the credit-computation issue. "The plain and unambiguous language of Section 57-87-5 clearly limits broadband credits that a taxpayer may take in any given year to 50 percent of the aggregate of the taxpayers’ franchise-tax liability and the total combined income-tax liability of the affiliated group." View "Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. SBC Telecom, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) appealed a chancellor’s entry of summary judgment in favor of Comcast of Georgia/Virginia, Inc., n/k/a Comcast Communications, LLC. In July 2012, the MDOR commenced an audit of Comcast’s Corporate Income and Franchise Tax Returns for 2008, 2009, and 2010. At the conclusion of the audit, the MDOR determined that Comcast owed additional corporate franchise tax. Specifically, the MDOR found that Comcast’s preapportioned capital base and its Mississippi apportionment ratios should have been increased for each applicable year. The increase in Comcast’s capital base was attributable to the MDOR’s disallowance of the holding-company exclusion. The increase in Comcast’s Mississippi apportionment ratios was attributable to MDOR’s inclusion of all of Comcast’s Mississippi destination sales as gross receipts. The application of the audited apportionment ratios to the audited capital base resulted in additional taxable capital apportioned to Mississippi for each year, with a corresponding increase in franchise tax due for each year. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that because the MDOR’s franchise-tax assessment does not fairly represent the true value of Comcast’s capital in Mississippi, the chancellor’s judgment was correct. View "Mississippi Dept. of Revenue v. Comcast Cable Communications, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Revenue (Department) conducted an audit of the Mississippi corporate tax returns of The Williams Companies, Inc. (Williams), for the years 2008 through 2010. During the course of the audit, Williams filed amended returns removing the capital of its single-member limited-liability companies (SMLLCs) from its calculation of capital employed in the state, seeking a refund of franchise tax in the amount of $981,419. After the Department’s review of Williams’ records and returns, the Department issued an assessment. The calculation included the capital of Williams’ SMLLCs in Williams’ Mississippi franchise-tax base. This resulted in a refund of $231,641. Williams objected, arguing it should not have been assessed a franchise-tax on capital employed by its Mississippi subsidiaries because of ambiguous language in the Mississippi franchise tax statutes. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the holding of the chancery court that Williams could not exclude the capital of its SMLLCs from its franchise-tax base. View "The Williams Companies, Inc. v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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HWCC-Tunica, LLC, and BSLO, LLC, had casino members’ rewards programs that allowed members to earn entries into random computerized drawings to win prizes. In 2014, after recalculating their gross revenue and deducting the costs of prizes from their rewards programs’ drawings, HWCC and BSLO filed individual refund claims for the tax period of October 1, 2011, through August 31, 2014. The Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) denied the refund claims in 2015. HWCC and BSLO appealed, and MDOR and the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC) filed a joint motion for summary judgment, arguing the plain language of Mississippi Code Section 75-76-193 (Rev. 2016) does not allow a casino to deduct the cost of prizes purchased for a rewards program’s drawings because “these promotional giveaways are not the result of ‘a legitimate wager’ as used in [Mississippi Code Section] 75-76-193.” After a hearing on the motion, the chancellor determined that Section 75-76-193 does not allow HWCC and BSLO to deduct the cost of the prizes and that there were no genuine issues of material fact. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the chancellor erred by giving deference to the MDOR’s and the MGC’s interpretations of Code Section 75-76-193. That error notwithstanding, the Supreme Court found the chancellor reached the right conclusion: that no genuine issues of material fact existed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s grant of summary judgment. View "HWCC-Tunica, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Revenue" on Justia Law

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Methodist Specialty Care Center was the only nursing facility for the severely disabled (NFSD) in Mississippi. NFSDs generally incur higher costs than other nursing facilities, and because of this, Methodist received a percentage adjustment to its new-bed-value (NBV) calculation when the Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) determined how much it should reimburse Methodist for its property costs through the DOM’s fair-rental system. A NBV was intended to reflect what it would cost to put a new bed into service in a nursing facility today. Methodist had received a NBV adjustment of 328.178 percent added to the standard NBV every year since it opened in 2004 until State Plan Amendment (SPA) 15-004 was enacted. During the 2014 Regular Session, the Mississippi Legislature passed House Bill 1275, which authorized the DOM to update and revise several provisions within the State Plan; one such amendment changed Methodist's adjustment rate, and made the facility experience a substantial decrease in its NBV, while all other nursing facilities in the state received increases. Methodist appealed the DOM’s changes to its NBV that were enacted in SPA 15-004. After a hearing, an Administrative Hearing Officer (AHO) upheld the decreased percentage adjustment to Methodist’s NBV, but also determined the DOM had miscalculated Methodist’s NBV adjustment. The DOM had planned to calculate Methodist’s adjustment as 175 percent of the base NBV, but the AHO found that Methodist’s adjusted NBV should be calculated in the same manner as it was calculated preamendment - by taking 175 percent of the standard NBV and adding that value to the standard NBV. Methodist still felt aggrieved because its NBV adjustment rate had not been restored to the preamendment rate. Methodist appealed the DOM’s final decision to the Chancery Court. When the chancellor affirmed the DOM’s final decision, Methodist appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court found the DOM’s final decision was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, did not violate Methodist’s constitutional or statutory rights and that the DOM was acting within its power in reaching and adopting its final decision. View "Methodist Specialty Care Center v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Division of Medicaid (DOM) appealed a chancery court judgment ordering the DOM to reverse the adjustments for “Legend Drug” costs reported by Windsor Place Nursing Center, Inc., d/b/a Windsor Place Nursing & Rehab Center (Windsor) and Billdora Senior Care, Lexington Manor Senior Care, and Magnolia Senior Care (collectively Senior Care). The chancery court found that legend drug expenses incurred by these providers were properly reported on each of their Long Term Care (LTC) cost reports as an allowable cost and should have been taken into account the by DOM in determining the per diem rates for each provider. The DOM contends that its decision to disallow the legend drug expenses claimed by the providers in their required cost report for reporting years 2005, 2007, and 2008 was supported by substantial evidence, was not arbitrary or capricious, and was within its authority to decide. Therefore, the chancery court’s order must be reversed and the DOM’s decision must be reinstated. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the DOM. "No where in the controlling statutes, the state plan, or Medicaid’s policy do we see language that lends itself to a construction taken by the providers that all prescription drug costs “not covered” by the Medicaid drug program means drug costs 'not paid for' by Medicaid. ... While the DOM may have failed to catch this in the past, legend drugs covered by Medicaid’s Drug Program are subject to direct reimbursement from Medicaid to the dispensing pharmacist, and constitute a non-allowable cost for the provider’s pier diem reimbursement report. And any action taken to the contrary by Medicaid is a violation of its rules and regulations." View "Mississippi Division of Medicaid v. Windsor Place Nursing Center, Inc. et al." on Justia Law