Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Morton v. Belk
After an automobile accident in 2015, Reericka Belk and Tracey Crayton filed suit against Victoria Morton in the Lee County Court. The case was tried by jury in September 2017, and the jury returned a unanimous verdict in favor of Morton. Belk and Crayton filed a motion for a new trial, claiming that the jury disregarded the instructions of the court and rendered a verdict contrary to the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The court granted the motion for a new trial. Morton petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for an interlocutory appeal. After review, the Supreme Court determined the jury was properly instructed on the law and was informed of all the relevant facts. The verdict returned by the jury was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. The Court found the trial judge abused his discretion by granting the motion for a new trial. Therefore, the Cout reversed the trial court’s order granting a new trial, and reinstated the trial court’s judgment entered on the jury’s verdict. View "Morton v. Belk" on Justia Law
Parsons v. Walters
Vernon Walters was injured in a work-related incident in October 2006; the vehicle he was driving was struck by an oncoming train. After receiving workers’ compensation benefits, he and his wife, Donyell Walters, filed a third-party claim against the company operating the train involved in the collision, Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR). The Walterses hired the Parsons Law Firm to represent them in their suit, and Tadd Parsons took the case. The Walterses’ lawsuit against KCSR was ultimately dismissed with prejudice in September 2010 for, among other reasons, failure to prosecute, failure to comply with discovery obligations and fraud upon the court. Tadd never told the Walterses that their case had been dismissed and led them to believe their case was ongoing. Three years after the case had been dismissed, Tadd admitted he fabricated a settlement offer from KCSR in the amount of $104,000 and advised the Walterses to accept the offer, which they did. When eight months passed after Tadd informed the Walterses about the fabricated settlement, the Walterses demanded to meet with Jack Parsons, the other general partner at the Parsons Law Firm. Jack offered the Walterses $50,000 to settle any claims they may have had against Tadd based on his conduct in representing them in the KCSR lawsuit. The Walterses refused Jack’s offer and then filed a claim against Tadd, Jack and the Parsons Law Firm, alleging claims of fraud, defamation, negligent representation, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for the Walterses on the matter of liability, finding that Tadd and the Parsons Law Firm were liable for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court then held a jury trial on damages. The jury verdict awarded the Walterses $2,850,002 in compensatory damages, which exceeded what the Walterses had demanded in compensatory damages in their complaint and in their motion to set damages. Finding the jury’s verdict shocked the conscience, the court remitted the damages to $1,034,666.67 in a second amended final judgment. Parsons appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the Walterses cross-appealed. The Supreme Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding irrelevant evidence about the underlying KCSR lawsuit because the value of the lawsuit had no bearing on the damages the Walterses sustained due to Tadd Parsons’s and the Parsons Law Firm’s fraud and IIED. Further, the Court determined the remitted verdict’s award of damages was excessive and not supported by substantial evidence. The trial court was therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded for a new trial on damages. View "Parsons v. Walters" on Justia Law
Jones v. Mississippi Baptist Health Systems Inc.
Angela Jones alleged she sustained a compensable back injury while working as a registered nurse at Baptist Hospital. A Workers’ Compensation Commission administrative judge determined that Jones sustained a compensable work-related injury. Baptist appealed the administrative judge’s decision to the full Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission, and the Commission reversed, determining Jones did not sustain a compensable work-related injury. Jones appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission's decision. Baptist then petitioned for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review. Finding the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the Commission's decision. View "Jones v. Mississippi Baptist Health Systems Inc." on Justia Law
Mississippi Department of Transportation v. Musgrove
Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant declared a state of emergency on January 27, 2014, in anticipation of an imminent winter storm. In response to the governor’s declaration, Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) placed limestone material on roadways as a remedial measure. Four days after the state of emergency was declared, Kenneth Musgrove lost control of his car and crashed on Highway 37, where MDOT had placed the limestone material, severely injuring his wife and himself. The Musgroves filed a complaint against MDOT for damages from the car accident. MDOT filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that it was participating in emergency-management services under the Mississippi Emergency Management Law (MEML) and therefore was immune from liability. The trial court denied MDOT’s motion for summary judgment, finding that there was a “genuine issue of material fact as to whether MDOT exercised due care in maintaining the road by placing gravel on the road and failing to warn drivers” of the gravel. MDOT timely filed its petition for interlocutory appeal, arguing that the MEML explicitly grants state agencies complete immunity from liability and that the trial court had erred by applying the standards set forth in the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) instead of applying the willful-misconduct standard set forth in the MEML. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found MDOT indeed had immunity under the MEML, and that the trial court erred by applying the MTCA’s immunity standards instead of applying the MEML’s standard. View "Mississippi Department of Transportation v. Musgrove" on Justia Law
Peak v. Cohee
An insurance adjuster was injured while performing the specific task he was hired to do: identify and distinguish preexisting roof damage from storm damage. While the adjuster recovered workers’ compensation benefits, he also filed suit against the homeowner for failing to make the premises safe and for not warning him about the roof’s condition. The homeowner filed two summary judgment motions, arguing the "intimately connected" doctrine barred the adjuster’s suit as a matter of law. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred by denying summary judgment. "The homeowner exercised no control over the adjuster. And absent some exercise of control over a contractor, Mississippi law does not impose liability on property owners for injuries suffered by independent contractors arising from or intimately connected to the work they were contracted to perform." The Court therefore reversed the trial court's denial fo summary judgment and rendered judgment I the homeowner's favor. View "Peak v. Cohee" on Justia Law
Smith v. Mississippi Transportation Commission
Rhonda Smith appeals the Smith County Circuit Court’s grant of summary judgment to the Mississippi Transportation Commission (MTC). In 2010, Smith collided with a loaded logging truck. The truck was driven by Shelby Colson on Highway 28 in Smith County, Mississippi. Colson testified that he began slowing his vehicle because Joe Blackwell, an MTC employee, approached the truck from the side of the highway. He said Blackwell approached from under a tree canopy carrying a stop sign. Colson further said he had not seen any warning signs indicating that road work was occurring ahead or that he needed to slow his vehicle down before spotting Blackwell. Colson said Blackwell made no effort to wave the sign or to get his attention. He stopped because he was unsure what Blackwell was doing. Regardless of what prompted Colson to stop, Smith’s car rear ended Colson’s truck. Smith had no recollection of most of the events that occurred that morning. In June 2011, she brought suit against the MTC. The suit alleged that both Blackwell and the MTC were negligent in Blackwell’s posting, the sign placement, as well as Blackwell’s signaling. The MTC argued that Smith’s claims were preempted by the MTC’s discretionary-function immunity under Mississippi Code Section 11–46–9(1)(d) (Rev. 2015). As the Court of Appeals noted, “the precedent governing that question has evolved even during the pendency of this case . . . .” In Bailey v. City of Pearl, 282 So. 3d 669, 671(Miss. Ct. App. 2019), the Mississippi Court of Appeals correctly applied the public-policy function test articulated in the recent decision Wilcher v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors, 243 So. 3d 177 (Miss. 2018). Similar to Bailey, not all of Smith’s theories of recovery were disposed of by summary judgment. As in Wilcher and Bailey, issues of material fact remainrf regarding the MTC’s liability. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the Smith County Circuit Court’s grant of summary judgment to the extent Smith’s claims were grounded in the MTC’s decision-making processes, but it was reversed concerning Smith’s claims unrelated to the MTC’s decision-making processes. View "Smith v. Mississippi Transportation Commission" on Justia Law
Wolfe v. Delta Discount Drugs, Inc.
In May, 2015, Spencer Wolfe was being treated for high blood pressure and was prescribed two milligrams of hydralazine two times a day. Some time between May 20, 2015, and May 27, 2015, Wolfe had this prescription filled at Delta Discount Drugs. Delta, however, allegedly mis-filled Wolfe’s prescription with twenty-five milligram tablets of hydroxyzine, rather than the prescribed two milligram tablets of hydralazine. Less than a month later, on June 19, 2015, Wolfe was hospitalized after he had blacked out while driving. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review was whether a claim asserted against a pharmacy for allegedly mis-filling a prescription was subject to the two-year professional-malpractice statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-36 or the three-year catch-all statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49. The Circuit Court ruled that Section 15-1-36 applied to Wolfe’s claims against Delta Discount Drugs and granted Delta’s motion to dismiss with prejudice because Wolfe’s claims were filed beyond the two-year statute of limitations found in Section 15-1- 36. Aggrieved, Wolfe has timely appealed to this Court. After review, and finding no reversible error in that decision, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Wolfe v. Delta Discount Drugs, Inc." on Justia Law
Anderson v. Wiggins
The Chancery Court granted summary judgment in favor of Darnice Wiggins in a conversion case she brought against Chastity Anderson, the fiancée of Wiggins’s deceased son Jhonte Sanders. Sanders and Anderson met each other while serving in the military in 2009. The two lost touch with one another. In 2011, Sanders was diagnosed with leukemia while living in Chicago, Illinois. In May 2013, Sanders reconnected with Anderson online. Sanders then moved to Rankin County, Mississippi and continued his chemotherapy treatment at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC). In 2014, Sanders settled a personal-injury claim and received a monetary settlement in excess of $350,000. Sanders made multiple transfers of those settlement funds to Anderson. Sanders died soon after the transfer of his funds. Following Sanders’s death, the Chancery Court appointed Wiggins administratrix of his estate. Wiggins filed a “Complaint for Conversion” against Anderson, the crux of her complaint revolved around transfers Sanders made after his personal-injury settlement. In support of her conversion claim, Wiggins alleged that Anderson was aware of Sanders’s pending settlement, that Sanders qualified as a vulnerable adult, and that Anderson either unduly influenced him to transfer the funds or utilized her position of trust to take advantage of him while he was a vulnerable adult. During the summary judgment hearing, Wiggins offered multiple exhibits into evidence. Wiggins argued that the court should grant her motion because Anderson’s admissions, the established facts, and a doctor's affidavit proved that no genuine issue of material fact existed. The chancellor agreed and granted summary judgment, reasoning that the pleadings, answers to discovery and requests for admission, together with the affidavit of the doctor showed no genuine issue of material fact. De facto affirming the chancery courts decision by a 5-5 vote, the prevailing opinion wrote that Anderson’s failure to respond to the motion for summary judgment meant she rested upon her allegations, and those were insufficient to show there was a genuine dispute of material fact. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the Chancery Court erred by granting the motion for summary judgment. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party left genuine issues of material fact unresolved. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Anderson v. Wiggins" on Justia Law
Holland v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc.
In 2016, Mario Holland parked his vehicle at Black’s Food Market and walked to West Lounge. Upon returning to his vehicle after patronizing West Lounge, Holland was shot and robbed in the Black’s Food parking lot. He alleged the assailant came from a vacant lot across the street from Black’s Food. Murphy Oil owned the vacant lot. Holland suffered serious injuries from the assault. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of defendant Murphy Oil, finding that, as a landowner that owned land near the scene of an assault, it did not owe any legal duty to Holland. Holland appealed, arguing that the Mississippi Supreme Court should adopt Section 54 of the Restatement (Third) of Torts, which provided for instances when landowners might owe a duty to persons or property located off the landowner’s property. The Supreme Court determined it did not need to address the Restatement because it did not apply to the facts of this case. Further, the Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment because the landowner did not owe any legal duty to Holland. View "Holland v. Murphy Oil USA, Inc." on Justia Law
In the Matter of the Estate of Julisa Matute
Sixteen-year old Julisa Matute, along with her sister and father, were involved in a motor-vehicle accident in Harrison County, Mississippi. Julisa was transported to Mobile, Alabama, and was admitted to University of South Alabama Medical Center, a hospital operated by University of South Alabama (USA). Julisa died there intestate. Julisa’s mother and sister executed an authorization for the donation of Julisa’s organs with the Alabama Organ Center (AOC). An estate was opened; Julisa’s mother was appointed administratrix of the Estate. Shortly thereafter notice was served to creditors, USA probated a claim against the Estate for medical expenses. The Estate filed a “complaint to contest illegal probated claim and compulsory counterclaim,” alleging that before Julisa’s death, USA representatives approached Julisa’s family and asked that they donate her organs and, in turn, Julisa’s hospital bill incurred at USA would be “totally wiped out and not be collected.” As a result of this alleged agreement, the Estate contested USA’s probated claim and asserted that the “probated claim [wa]s null and void and uncollectable.” In a counterclaim, the Estate alleged emotional distress, fraud, and punitive damages because, according to the Estate, “[t]he hospital told [Julisa’s family] that the bill would be wiped clean for allowing them to have [Julisa’s] organs . . . .” A wrongful-death lawsuit related to the motor-vehicle accident was filed then by the Estate. A settlement was reached among the parties in September 2018. Months later, a hearing was held on USA’s contested probated claim. The chancellor entered a judgment approving the Estate’s Petition to Receive First and Final Accounting, Discharge Administratrix and Close Estate. USA filed a motion to alter or amend the order granting the Estate’s Petition to Approve Settlement of Claims of Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of Julisa, and asserted that the chancellor’s reference to a “hospital lien claim” was erroneous. The chancellor denied the motion. USA timely appealed. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that while the chancellor properly denied USA's probated claim as uncollectable, the chancellor erred in finding the probated claim was invalid and erroneously ruled on USA's hospital-lien claim. As a result, the chancery court's judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Julisa Matute" on Justia Law