Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Murray v. James Gray d/b/a Gray Trucking
Stacie Murray was driving home from work in the northbound lane on Highway 35 in Scott County, Mississippi. Kevin Parker, while in the course and scope of his employment with James Gray d/b/a Gray Trucking (Gray), was driving a fully loaded log truck in the southbound lane. The two vehicles collided. Murray sued Parker and Gray alleging she suffered personal injuries and property damage as a result of Parker’s negligence. The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether allowing cross-examination of an expert witness with the accident report and a judicial opinion from another case amounted to reversible error. The Court also considered whether cumulative error required a new trial. James Hannah testified for Murray as an expert in accident reconstruction. Hannah testified that he visited the accident scene about two months after the accident and found a “gouge mark” in the highway that, in his opinion, indicated the area of impact. Hannah admitted that the highway patrolman who investigated the wreck, Trooper Greg Lucas, did not find or photograph a gouge mark. Hannah also admitted that he did not know whether the gouge mark was actually caused by the collision. Gray and Parker filed a pretrial motion to exclude Hannah’s testimony and opinions regarding the alleged gouge mark. They argued that Hannah’s testimony was based on “mere speculation” and was neither relevant nor reliable. But the trial court denied the motion and allowed Hannah to testify about the gouge mark. Over Murray’s objections, defense counsel cross-examined Hannah regarding the Uniform Crash Report (UCR) (i.e., the accident report) that Trooper Lucas prepared after the accident. The jury returned a nine-to-three verdict in favor of Gray and Parker. Murray filed a motion for a new trial, which the trial court denied. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case for a new trial. The Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals properly concluded that “[b]ecause Trooper Lucas was not qualified as an expert in accident reconstruction, his opinions on the paths of the subject vehicles and fault did not satisfy Rule 803(8)’s trustworthiness requirement. Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion by admitting the UCR’s narrative and diagram.” Further, the Court of Appeal properly concluded the trial court abused its discretion by allowing the cross-examination of Hannah because “it had no relevance to the present case and yet created a risk of unfair prejudice, misleading the jury, and confusing the issues.” The Court found Murray was entitled to a new trial. View "Murray v. James Gray d/b/a Gray Trucking" on Justia Law
Cottage Grove Nursing Home, L.P. v. Bowen
Carolyn Bowen sued Cottage Grove Nursing Home for wrongful death and medical negligence on behalf of her husband, Guy Bowen. Guy Bowen had been a resident of Cottage Grove since June 2016. In May 2017, Guy was diagnosed with prostate cancer that had metastasized into his organs and bones. In October 2017, Guy fell in the shower at Cottage Grove and sustained multiple fractures. The attending radiologist noted that the fractures were likely pathologic. Guy was transferred to a rehabilitation facility and then to Pleasant Hill Nursing Home. Guy did not return to Cottage Grove. On March 18, 2018, Guy presented to the emergency department at UMMC with various pain. A CT scan showed diffuse metastatic disease through his liver and widespread osseous disease in his bones. Guy died five days later. Carolyn in her suit, Carolyn claimed that Guy’s fall at Cottage Grove, in which he sustained multiple fractures, was the cause of Guy’s death five months later. Cottage Grove filed a summary-judgment motion for Carolyn’s failure to produce medical-expert testimony. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the trial court erred by denying Cottage Grove’s summary-judgment motion. "Cottage Grove met its summary-judgment burden by showing that Carolyn had failed to produce sworn expert testimony establishing a prima facie case of medical negligence." View "Cottage Grove Nursing Home, L.P. v. Bowen" on Justia Law
McGowen v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi
In September 2019, Robert McGowen filed a complaint in circuit court alleging that he had been sexually abused by a priest at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in 1984 and 1985 when McGowen was twelve to thirteen years old. According to McGowen, he repressed the memories until December 2018. Sacred Heart Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi answered the complaint and moved to dismiss based on the expiration of the statute of limitations in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49. In April 2020, the circuit court entered an order dismissing the complaint without prejudice. McGowen appealed. Accepting the allegations in the complaint as true, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by finding that McGowen failed to state a claim. "Based on the allegations, we cannot agree that there is no set of facts upon which McGowan could recover; the decision of the circuit court is reversed and remanded." View "McGowen v. Roman Catholic Diocese of Biloxi" on Justia Law
Mississippi Baptist Health Systems Inc. et al. v. Harris
Mississippi Baptist Medical Center (MBMC) sought, and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted interlocutory appeal challenging a circuit court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. Mississippi Baptist Health System (MBHS) also appealed the circuit court’s order granting summary judgment in its favor, claiming that the circuit court erred by granting the judgment without prejudice instead of with prejudice. In 2016, Roosevelt Ard arrived at the emergency room at MBMC complaining of chest pain and leg numbness after earlier undergoing an outpatient cardiac stress test. Ard was checked by two nurses and seen by an emergency room physician, Dr. William Dawson, an emergency-medicine physician employed by Mississippi Physicians, LLP. Dr. Dawson ordered one shot of Dilaudid for Ard’s pain. He then ordered a chest X-ray and EKG, which were both normal, ruling out cardiovascular issues. Dr. Dawson diagnosed Ard with acute back strain and discharged him with a prescription for oral pain relief and muscle relaxants. Eight hours after being discharged, Ard became unresponsive at home and was rushed to the emergency room at University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) via ambulance, where he was pronounced dead after cardiac arrest. Ard’s autopsy report showed that the cause of death was aortic dissection. Plaintiffs, Ard's family, filed a complaint against MBMC, MBHS, Dr. Dawson, and Mississippi Physicians, arguing: (1) MBMC was vicariously liable for the medical care rendered by Dr. Dawson at MBMC’s emergency department; and (2) MBMC was vicariously liable for the allegedly negligent care provided by its nursing employees in the emergency department. After the Plaintiffs did not answer MBMC and Dr. Dawson’s propounded discovery for two years, MBMC filed a motion for summary judgment. MBMC claimed it was not vicariously liable and that negligence could not have proximately caused Ard’s injuries. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the circuit erred by denying MBMC’s motion for summary judgment since the Plaintiffs failed to establish the element of causation in their medical-malpractice claim against MBMC. The Court also found that the circuit court erred by not dismissing the Plaintiffs’ claims against MBHS with prejudice. View "Mississippi Baptist Health Systems Inc. et al. v. Harris" on Justia Law
Gonzalez v. Coastal Industrial Contractors, Inc.
Clayton Harmer, an employee of Coastal Industrial Contractors, failed to yield to a stop sign. The ensuing collision injured Leighann Gonzalez, who filed suit against Coastal Industrial Contractors and Harmer. Coastal admitted vicarious liability by stipulation and then moved to dismiss Harmer. The court dismissed Harmer pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41. A bifurcated jury trial took place, and the jury awarded Gonzalez compensatory damages in the amount of $3.5 million. Before the punitive damages phase of the bifurcated trial, Gonzalez made an ore tenus motion for recusal and mistrial, which the judge denied. The court granted a directed verdict to Coastal on the issue of punitive damages. Gonzalez appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court judgment. View "Gonzalez v. Coastal Industrial Contractors, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Personal Injury
Hyundai Motor America, et al. v. Applewhite, et al.
This case arose from a two-car accident in Mississippi in which a Hyundai Excel was traveling southbound at a closing speed of 68 to 78 mph and, for reasons unknown, crossed the center line into the oncoming lane of traffic, striking a Lincoln Continental passenger car traveling northbound. None of the three Excel occupants survived the collision. This case made it to the Mississippi Supreme Court after an earlier appeal and remand for a new trial. During the remand proceedings, multiple discovery disputes ensued before the trial court ultimately held two 606(b) hearings on October 30, 2018, and January 23, 2019 (nearly four years after the trial court’s original denial of relief). The trial court expressly found that one of Applewhite’s counsel, Dennis Sweet, III, misrepresented his relationship with a witness, Carey Sparks, during the April 2015 hearing. It was not until a January 25, 2018 hearing, that Sweet admitted that he had paid Sparks to perform services during the Applewhite trial. This admission was made only after documents evidencing multiple payments to Sparks by Sweet surfaced in the discovery ordered by the Supreme Court. During discovery, multiple witnesses, including six attorneys, testified that Sparks stated that he had knowledge of discussions of the jurors during the trial. Following the 606(b) hearings, the trial court issued a one-paragraph order, finding that the posttrial testimony of the jurors offered no evidence supporting Defendants’ allegations. Reviewing the trial court proceedings, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded "a fair and impartial trial was not had." The Court found "overwhelming evidence of actual impropriety, which destroys any confidence in the jury verdict. The facts developed in this record threaten the public’s confidence in our system of justice. We find that this case is permeated by actual deception upon the trial court, which led to Plaintiffs’ obtaining a favorable ruling. Such improper acts of misconduct leave a indelible stain on these proceedings. We are loathe to overturn jury verdicts, yet justice dictates a reversal and a retrial, unencumbered by extraneous assaults on our justice system. We considered the ultimate sanction of dismissal of this case with prejudice. We decline to impose such a severe sanction, for no evidence suggests that any Plaintiff employed Sparks or had knowledge of Sparks’s actions. But the judgment must be reversed." This case was remanded for a new trial. View "Hyundai Motor America, et al. v. Applewhite, et al." on Justia Law
Wilbourn v. Wilbourn
This interlocutory appeal stemmed from a trial judge granting partial summary judgment, dismissing a claim of malicious prosecution. Richard and Victoria Wilbourn were in a longstanding domestic matter. Victoria accused Richard of misconduct towards their children, but the chancellor determined that the accusations were unfounded. Victoria went to the Ridgeland Police Department for help and filed an eight-page report against Richard, restating his alleged misconduct. The Ridgeland Police Department followed protocol, investigated, and referred the case to the district attorney’s office. The case was presented to a grand jury; the grand jury returned no bill. Notably, Richard was never charged, indicted, or arrested in connection with the investigation, and Victoria did not swear an affidavit against him. In the summer of 2016, Richard discovered the investigation and grand jury presentment and responded by filing suit, claiming malicious prosecution, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In response, Victoria moved for summary judgment. And after a hearing, the trial judge granted partial summary judgment, dismissing Richard’s claim of malicious prosecution but retaining the others. Definitively, the trial judge found that “no criminal proceedings were instituted and therefore [Richard] cannot satisfy the first element of his claim.” With no arrest or indictment, or Richard otherwise being subjected to oppressive litigation of criminal charges for the report that Victoria gave to the Ridgeland Police Department, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in dismissing Richard's malicious-prosecution claim. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Wilbourn v. Wilbourn" on Justia Law
Estate of Gorman v. Mississippi Gaming Commission
Robert Sharp shot and killed John Gorman during a firearm-training exercise ("a multitude of lapses in safety protocols"). Sharp and Gorman were employees of the Mississippi Gaming Commission and were acting in the course and scope of their employment. The Commission Shooting Review Board concluded that the incident “was an accidental discharge of an agency weapon,” it also concluded that the “failure to follow the prescribed policies, procedures and lesson plans” was the most significant contributing factor. After the incident, Gorman’s heirs began receiving automatic workers’ compensation payments. Each heir brought independent actions against the Commission that were later consolidated. Once consolidated, the Commission filed a joint motion for summary judgment in August 2017, stating the exclusivity of Mississippi Workers’ Compensation law barred further remedy. Gorman’s heirs opposed the motion by way of a pleading, memorandum, and a supplement with affidavits and admissions purportedly deemed admitted. The circuit court later granted summary judgment for the Commission. On appeal, the heirs argued: (1) the circuit court erred in determining the Workers' Compensation Act was the exclusive remedy to recover for the wrongful death of John Gorman; and (2) the circuit court erred in determining complete immunity applied regarding the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. Finding no triable issues of material fact in the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Estate of Gorman v. Mississippi Gaming Commission" on Justia Law
Venture, Inc. d/b/a Save-A-Lot v. Harris
Mattie Harris filed a premises-liability action against Venture, Inc., d/b/a/ Save-A-Lot after Harris allegedly tripped over the base of a temporary iron display rack while shopping at a Save-A-Lot grocery store. Harris claimed that Venture created a dangerous condition on the premises by placing a temporary iron display rack on the edge of a shopping aisle so that the base and the legs of the display rack protruded into the aisle and obstructed the walking clearance of customers. Harris claimed that Venture negligently maintained the premises by creating a dangerous condition on the premises and failed to warn invitees of the condition. The dangerous condition, Harris claimed, was the proximate cause of her fall and the resulting injuries. Both Harris and Venture moved for summary judgment, and Venture filed a motion to stay proceedings for the parties to complete discovery. The trial court granted in part Harris' motion on the issue of liability, and denied Venture's two motions. Aggrieved, Venture sought interlocutory appeal and argued the trial court abused its discretion by denying its Rule 56(f) motion and by granting Harris’s motion for summary judgment. Venture further asserted that the trial court erred by denying its motion for summary judgment because no unreasonably dangerous condition existed on the premises. Because this case was fact intensive and the two parties submitted conflicting evidence as to whether the rack constituted a dangerous condition, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that summary judgment in favor of either party was inappropriate and that the question of whether the rack constituted a dangerous condition should have been resolved by a trier of fact in a trial on the merits. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Venture, Inc. d/b/a Save-A-Lot v. Harris" on Justia Law
Rollins v. Hinds County Sheriff’s Department et al.
Quality Choice Correctional Healthcare entered a contract with Hinds County, Mississippi to provide comprehensive medical care to inmates. Delorise Rollins was hired by Quality Choice as a nurse at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond and was injured in the course of her duties. At that time, Quality Choice did not carry workers’ compensation coverage. As a result, Rollins filed a petition to controvert with the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission found that the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD) was not Rollins’s statutory employer and denied workers’ compensation benefits. Rollins then appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Rollins’s petition for writ of certiorari, and found that because the HCSD was not Rollins' statutory employer, workers’ compensation benefits were not available. The Court therefore affirmed decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Commission. View "Rollins v. Hinds County Sheriff's Department et al." on Justia Law