Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Maria Thompson filed sued Dennis Holliman and Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Allstate”) alleging that Holliman had negligently operated his motor vehicle while pulling a trailer in a gas-station parking lot, resulting in a collision in which she was injured. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Holliman, and the circuit court entered a judgment consistent with the jury verdict. Aggrieved, Thompson appealed, alleging that the trial court had abused its discretion by excluding her expert witness. Finding no abuse of the trial court's discretion, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed judgment in Holliman's favor. View "Thompson v. Holliman" on Justia Law

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Katherine Grace Short appeals the circuit court’s change of venue in her defamation case from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, Mississippi, to the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi. On the evening of August 1, 1975, Short’s husband, Tye Breland, died from a gunshot wound to the chest at their home in Pascagoula, in Jackson County, Mississippi. Short was not charged with Breland’s death. Forty-two years later, "Cold Justice: Beyond the Grave," a true-crime documentary (the episode), premiered on the Oxygen Network. The episode aired nationally, focused on Breland’s death, and considered whether Short murdered her late husband. During the episode, crime experts Kelly Siegler (identified as a prosecutor) and John Bonds (identified as a homicide investigator) investigated Breland’s death. Darren Versiga, a law-enforcement officer with the Pascagoula Police Department, assisted the investigation. The investigation team exhumed Breland’s body, prepared a mockup of the crime scene, conducted ballistics testing, and interviewed numerous witnesses to determine whether Breland’s death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide. The team concluded that Breland did not commit suicide. They identified Short as a suspect in Breland’s death and turned over their investigation to the Jackson County District Attorney’s Office. According to the team, they put together enough information for a circumstantial case of murder. Short sued Siegler, Bonds and Versiga and various media entities, alleging defamation and tortious invasion of privacy. Versiga then filed a motion to transfer venue to the Circuit Court of Jackson County. In his motion, Versiga argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue under Mississippi law because it was where a substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred. Versiga further argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue “as it is the county in which [he] resides.” The Mississippi Supreme Court disagreed, determining the injury at issue occurred in Harrison county, and venue was proper there. Accordingly, the circuit court's judgment was reversed and remanded. View "Short v. Versiga" on Justia Law

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Benjamin Robinson drove his employer’s vehicle into the rear end of a stopped Holmes County garbage truck. The garbage truck was stopped picking up garbage on the side of the highway in dense fog. Robinson sued Holmes County and his uninsured motorist carrier, Brierfield Insurance Company. Robinson claimed Holmes County was negligent in its operation of the garbage truck. Robinson also asserted a breach of contract claim, stating that Brierfield Insurance Company breached the insurance contract by denying him uninsured motorist benefits. The trial court granted summary judgment and found not only that Holmes County was not negligent but also that it was immune under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The trial court further found that, since Holmes County was not negligent, Brierfield also was not liable as the uninsured motorist insurance provider. Robinson appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed granting summary judgment to Holmes County and Brierfield Insurance Company. View "Robinson v. Holmes County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC (Mar-Jac), appealed the denial of its motion for summary judgment on the Plaintiffs’ claims for negligence, negligence per se, and wrongful death under the theory of respondeat superior after a Mar-Jac employee’s vehicle collided with a school bus on the way to work, killing his two passengers, who were also Mar-Jac employees. Based on the evidence presented, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in denying Mar-Jac’s motion for summary judgment, because it was undisputed that the driver was not acting in the course and scope of his employment with Mar-Jac when the accident occurred. Thus, the Court reversed and entered judgment in favor of Mar-Jac. View "Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC v. Love" on Justia Law

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Larry Seward worked for Illinois Central Railroad Company from 1961 to 2004. In 2005, Seward settled an asbestosis claim with Illinois Central. He subsequently developed and passed away from anaplastic oligodendroglioma, a type of brain cancer. In 2012, Andrew L. Ward sued Illinois Central on behalf of Seward. Ward alleged that Illinois Central breached its duty of care and failed to provide Seward with a safe place to work. The complaint detailed specific issues with the work environment, including Seward’s exposure to chemicals and hazardous conditions. The complaint alleged that the working environment “caused, in whole or in part,” Seward’s brain cancer. Illinois Central filed a motion for summary judgment based on a previous settlement and release that Seward had entered into with Illinois Central before his death. The trial court granted Illinois Central’s motion for summary judgment. Ward appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined there were no remaining issues of material fact, therefore, affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Ward v. Illinois Central Railroad Company" on Justia Law

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Sonya Chaffee, on behalf of her minor child, Fredrick Latham, Jr., sued the Jackson Public School District; Lonnie J. Edwards, the School District superintendent in his official capacity; and Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees (collectively, “the School District”) alleging negligence and res ipsa loquitur. Fredrick was a student in Tracy Scott’s first grade class at Woodville Heights Elementary School. While Scott was standing at the front of the classroom readying the students for lunch, Fredrick and another boy got out of line and ran to the back of the classroom to use the single restroom. Bernice Anderson, Scott’s teaching assistant, was present at her desk in the back of the classroom nearer the restroom. Fredrick was injured when his hand slipped off the door and his finger got caught in the crack of the door as the other boy was closing it. After hearing a student scream that Fredrick had smashed his finger, Scott went to the back of the classroom, wrapped Fredrick’s finger in papers towels, and took him to the principal’s office. Fredrick’s mother was called, and he was taken by ambulance to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Surgery was performed to reattach Fredrick’s fingertip using a skin graft. The School District defended on sovereign immunity grounds pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). After engaging in discovery, the School District moved for summary judgment which was granted. Aggrieved, Chaffee appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Chaffee v. Jackson Public School District" on Justia Law

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Judy Johnson appealed the circuit court's affirmance of a county court judgment granting Ronnie Goodson’s motion for summary judgment. Johnson claimed she was injured while she was an invited guest on Goodson’s property and a passenger in his golf cart. Johnson sued Goodson, alleging Goodson had operated the golf cart carelessly, recklessly, and negligently, causing Johnson to be thrown about in the vehicle and to suffer injuries. Johnson filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that, at the time of the accident, Goodson was the operator of a motor vehicle, and, as such, the applicable standard of care was that of a reasonable person. Johnson argued Goodson breached his duty of care by operating a vehicle on his property in an unsafe manner, proximately causing Johnson’s injuries. Goodson responded that Johnson was a licensee, that he did not breach any duties owed to her as a licensee, and the standard Johnson sought was not applicable. In Goodson’s motion for summary judgment, he sought to be shielded from ordinary negligence by alleging that Johnson’s cause of action was one of premises liability, and that he, as a landowner, only owed Johnson, a licensee, a duty to refrain from wilfully, wantonly, knowingly, or intentionally injuring her. Were premises liability the only law applicable, the Mississippi Supreme Court opined the trial and appellate courts would be affirmed. But given the facts presented, the Supreme Court concluded both erred: that the circumstances surrounding a moving golf cart, which the property owner was driving, raise an issue of negligence proper for resolution by the trier of fact. View "Johnson v. Goodson" on Justia Law

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Mary Edwards sued Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc. (Coca-Cola), and Willie Lee, Jr., for back injuries sustained when, while shopping at Wal-Mart, she was struck by a cart driven by Lee as he stocked shelves with soft drinks. The Circuit Court dismissed Edwards’s lawsuit with prejudice after finding that she had misrepresented her injuries during discovery. Edwards appealed, arguing that her failure to disclose prior back problems in her discovery responses either did not amount to a discovery violation that such failure merited a sanction less severe than dismissal. Edwards also argued that, because no genuine issue of material fact existed about whether Lee’s breach of the duty of care proximately caused her injuries, the trial court erred by denying her motion for summary judgment on liability. Because the trial court was within its discretion in dismissing Edwards’s case on the basis of her discovery violation, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Edwards v. Coca Cola Bottling Company United, Inc." on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In 2013, Lauderdale County contracted with roofing company Norman Enterprises, Inc. to repair the roof of the Ulmer Building in Meridian, Mississippi. George Waltman, a Norman employee, fell through the roof while performing work. Waltman sued Engineering Plus, Inc., the project engineer, claiming it should have warned him of the dangerous condition of the roof. Engineering Plus moved for summary judgment, arguing it had no duty to warn Waltman. The Circuit Court agreed and granted summary judgment to Engineering Plus. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Waltman v. Engineering Plus, Inc." on Justia Law

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Timothy Hinton died from injuries sustained in a fall from a tree stand. At the time of his fall, Timothy was wearing a fall-arrest system which included a full-body harness, tether and tree strap. Timothy had purchased the tree stand and fall-arrest system from The Sportsman’s Guide, Inc. (“TSG”), in 2009. C&S Global Imports, Inc. (“C&S”) had manufactured the items and marketed them to TSG. Pekin Insurance Company insured C&S at the time of Timothy’s injury and death. After filing their third amended complaint, the Hintons filed a motion for partial summary judgment against Pekin, claiming Pekin waived its defenses to coverage or should have been estopped from asserting any coverage defenses. Among other arguments, the Hintons maintained that Pekin failed to defend C&S, did not file a declaratory-judgment action and allowed a default judgment against C&S. The circuit court denied the Hintons’ motion. Pekin then moved for summary judgment, arguing the insurance policy excluded coverage for tree or deer stands and related equipment. The circuit court granted Pekin’s motion and entered a final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. The Hintons appealed both of the circuit court’s rulings. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the order denying partial summary judgment to the Hintons, the order granting summary judgment to Pekin and the final judgment dismissing Pekin from the suit. View "Hinton v. Pekin Insurance Company" on Justia Law