Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Davis, et al. v. Davis
John and Sandra Davis, then-married, had two children in the 1980s. In 2018, John discovered the possibility that the children were not biologically his, but that they may have been the biological result of Sandra’s extramarital relations with Porter Horgan. Almost immediately after discovering this possibility, John sued Sandra and Horgan for fraud, alienation of affection, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. A jury ultimately awarded John $700,000 in damages. Because some of the claims were barred by the statute of limitations, and because John completely failed to request proper jury instructions on damages, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the jury verdict and rendered judgment in favor of Sandra and Horgan on John’s claims against them. View "Davis, et al. v. Davis" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Family Law, Personal Injury
White v. Targa Downstream, LLC
Andy White, an independent contractor, worked for Ergon Trucking, Inc. (Ergon), loading and hauling chemicals. Another Ergon, Inc., subsidiary, Lampton-Love, Inc., contracted with Targa Downstream, LLC to store Lampton-Love’s propane at Targa’s facility in Petal, Mississippi. Targa owned and operated the facility in Petal, which consisted of propane storage as well as equipment to load and unload the propane. Prior to operating the propane loading equipment at the Targa facility and hauling the propane, White was required to load and unload the trailer with propane during several supervised training sessions. White testified he operated the Targa loading equipment exactly as he had done on all previous occasions but that when he was returning the Targa hose to its resting tray, the valve on the Targa hose opened, and liquified propane began spilling out of the hose. White testified that he tackled the hose, grabbed the detachable handle, placed it back on the Targa hose valve and, eventually, closed the valve, stopping the flow of propane. Following the incident, White stated he left the Targa facility with no feeling or indication that he had been injured by coming in contact with the liquified propane. White went to the Ergon yard, removed his “propane soaked clothes,” took a shower and put on fresh clothes. White then proceeded to his trailer to complete the propane delivery. White did not seek medical attention until the following day, January 15, 2017. By the time White did seek medical treatment, he stated that blisters had formed on his legs and that he was in excruciating pain. This case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review an issue of the scope of the intimately connected doctrine, which immunizes a premises owner against claims of an independent contractor for injuries that arise out of or are intimately connected with the work that the independent contractor was hired to perform. The circuit court granted Targa's second summary judgment motion based on this doctrine. The circuit court initially denied Targa’s first motion, holding that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Targa modified its equipment in a manner that constituted a dangerous condition and whether White knew or should have known of the alleged dangerous condition. After a careful review of the law, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Targa and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "White v. Targa Downstream, LLC" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury
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
Jones County, et al. v. Estate of Jada Bright, et al.
After being arrested twice in a two-day span, once in Lauderdale County (Mississippi) and once in Jones County, for being suspected of driving under the influence and public intoxication, Shelley Rose allegedly drove a rental van the wrong way down Interstate 59 in Pearl River County. A motor vehicle collision ensued, killing Jada Bright. Plaintiff Estate of Jada Bright (Bright) filed a wrongful death suit at the Pearl River County Circuit Court against Defendants Estate of Shelley Rose; EAN Holdings, LLC; Enterprise Leasing Company-South Central, LLC; Elco Administrative Services Company; Enterprise Holdings, Inc.; National Car Rental System, Inc.; Lauderdale County; Jones County; City of Ellisville; Beech’s Towing & Recovery LLC; ABC 1-5; and John Does 1-5, and asserted that venue was proper per Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3 (Rev. 2019) because the claim arose out of a motor vehicle accident which occurred in Pearl River County. Defendants Jones County, Lauderdale County, and the City of Ellisville, filed motions to change venue, alleging that they had not been sued in the proper venue, based on the specific venue statute, Mississippi Code Section 11-46-13(2) (Rev. 2019), of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The trial court ultimately denied the motions, and the Counties and City petitioned for an interlocutory appeal. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the circuit court’s judgment denying the change of venue motions, and remanded the case with instructions to transfer venue either to Jones County or Lauderdale County. View "Jones County, et al. v. Estate of Jada Bright, et al." on Justia Law
Byram Cafe Group, LLC v. Tucker
Byram Cafe Group, LLC (BCG), moved for summary judgment against Eddie and Teresa Tucker in a premises-liability action arising from Eddie’s slip-and-fall accident. BCG sought judgment as a matter of law based on a lack of evidence supporting any of the elements of a slip-and-fall case. In response, the Tuckers argued that genuine issues of material fact existed as to dangerous conditions that may have caused Eddie’s fall. The circuit court denied BCG’s summary-judgment motion, ruling that genuine issues of material fact were present. BCG sought interlocutory appeal of the circuit court’s denial of summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that as a matter of law, the circuit court erred by denying BCG’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded for further proceedings. View "Byram Cafe Group, LLC v. Tucker" on Justia Law
Posted in: Business Law, Personal Injury
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
Pruitt v. Sargent, et al.
In 2008, minor Kelvin Pruitt lost two fingers in a bicycle chain accident shortly after accepting a ride home from school from another student. According to the complaint, Kelvin was a special needs student who had been ordered off the school bus and told to walk home. Plaintiff initially filed suit against the school district and two of the district’s employees in 2009, but the action was dismissed voluntarily in 2018 in light of defects related to service of process. Plaintiff filed a second suit in 2018, which also was dismissed voluntarily. Third, plaintiff filed the present lawsuit on January 16, 2020. Defendants submitted their answer and defenses on February 20, 2020. The parties engaged in discovery for several months, including preliminary interrogatories. In June 2020, defendants moved to dismiss on the ground that the statute of limitations had expired in 2010. They argued that the statute of limitations, while initially tolled by the minors’ saving statute, had run without interruption from the filing of the first complaint on the minor’s behalf in 2009. Plaintiff argued defendants waived the statute of limitations defense by failing to raise it in their initial responsive pleading and, in the alternative, that the minors’ saving statute continued to operate when a case brought on behalf of a minor was dismissed for reasons other than the merits. By plaintiff’s calculation, the statute of limitations did not expire until February 28, 2020, a year after Kelvin’s twenty-first birthday. The circuit court granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Finding no reversible error in dismissal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Pruitt v. Sargent, et al." on Justia Law
Lawson v. City of Jackson
Latoya Lawson brought an interlocutory appeal of a protective order entered by the Hinds County Circuit Court in a negligence case against the City of Jackson. In 2018, Lawson was injured when “she hit an unavoidable pothole” while driving her motorcycle on Woodrow Wilson Drive in Jackson, Mississippi. She alleged, inter alia, that the City was negligent in constructing and maintaining the roadway and that the City’s negligence caused her injuries. The trial court issued the order on review here due to Lawson’s lack of diligence in conducting discovery and her attempts to conduct discovery outside the agreed-upon deadlines. The order protected the City from having to respond to production requests that would be due after the discovery deadlines. Additionally, the order prohibited Lawson from making public records requests and from offering any public records she might obtain as evidence at trial. Lawson argued that the order was an abuse of the trial court’s discretion because it improperly restricted her right to access public records. The City argues that the trial court’s order was wholly within the court’s discretion as a discovery matter. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed a portion of the trial courts order protecting the City from having to respond to Lawson’s request for production of documents. It reversed, however, the portions of the order prohibiting Lawson from requesting public records and from offering those public records at trial. View "Lawson v. City of Jackson" on Justia Law
Dilworth v. LG Chem, Ltd. et al.
This case presented a question of whether Mississippi courts had personal jurisdiction over a South Korean battery manufacturer whose goods were in the stream of commerce in Mississippi. The Mississippi Plaintiff, Melissa Dilworth, was seriously injured when one of LG Chem Ltd.’s (LG Chem) lithium-ion batteries exploded in her vaping pen. LG Chem and its Georgia-based subsidiary, LG Chem America, argued successfully before the circuit court that they lacked sufficient minimum contacts with Mississippi to satisfy the constitutional standard for exercising personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that manufacturer LG Chem purposefully availed itself of the market for its product in Mississippi such that the exercise of specific personal jurisdiction comported with due process principles. The Supreme Court also found that dismissal of subsidiary LG Chem America was premature; therefore, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for jurisdictional discovery. View "Dilworth v. LG Chem, Ltd. et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Personal Injury, Products Liability
Thornhill v. Walker-Hill Environmental, et al.
In July 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 (collectively, Employer/Carrier), 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, arguing that Thornhill had not exhausted administrative remedies—and that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction—because the Commission never made a factual finding that he was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court granted the motion on that basis. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded, finding that Thornhill indeed exhausted his administrative remedies and that the circuit court had jurisdiction to hear his bad faith claim. Finding no reversible error in the appellate court’s decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thornhill v. Walker-Hill Environmental, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Insurance Law, Labor & Employment Law, Personal Injury