Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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This case involved a medical-malpractice suit brought by Jalena and Brian Taylor against Jalena’s OB/GYN, Dr. Donielle Daigle, and her clinic, Premier Women’s Health, PLLC. In 2017, Jalena was admitted to Memorial Hospital of Gulfport in active labor preparing to give birth. After pushing for two and a half hours, the baby’s head became lodged in the mother’s pelvis, and it was determined that a caesarean section was necessary. Following delivery of the child, Jalena’s blood pressure dropped, and her pulse increased. The nurses worked to firm Jalena’s uterus post delivery, but she continued to have heavy clots and bleeding. Jalena was given a drug to tighten the uterus, and an OR team was called to be on standby in the event surgery became necessary. Dr. Daigle called the OR team off after Jalena’s bleeding was minimal, and her uterus remained completely firm. But Jalena’s heart rate remained extremely elevated. Dr. Daigle allowed Jalena to go back to her room, and she checked her again, and the uterus was firm. A minute or two later, Jalena sat up and felt a gush of blood. Dr. Daigle prepared to perform a hysterectomy, There was still bleeding from the cervical area, which doctors decided they needed to amputate. Even after doing so, there was still bleeding because of a laceration extending into the vagina. When the vagina was sutured and incorporated into the repair of the vaginal cuff, the bleeding finally stopped. The Taylors allege that Dr. Daigle failed to adequately treat Jalena and, as a result, she cannot have any more children. A five-day jury trial was held in January 2021, and the jury returned a twelve-to-zero verdict in favor of Dr. Daigle and Premier. On appeal, the Taylors argued the trial court committed reversible error by: (1) refusing to grant their cause challenges of patients of Dr. Daigle and Premier, thus failing to give them a right to a fair and impartial jury; and (2) failing to find a deviation from the standard of care for failing to perform a proper inspection of a genital tract laceration. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the jury verdict because it was reached on factual evidence in favor of Dr. Daigle and Premier by an impartial jury. "All twelve of the jurors agreed on the verdict, and the verdict was not against the overwhelming weight of the evidence. It should not be disturbed." View "Taylor v. Premier Women's Health, PLLC, et al." on Justia Law

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In September 2016, Christopher Strickland, Jr., a sophomore at Northwest Rankin High School, was at Choctaw Trails in Clinton, Mississippi, preparing to run a cross- country meet. Before the race, a wasp stung Christopher on the top of his head. According to Christopher, a lump began to form and his head felt tight, like it was swelling. Christopher told one of his coaches. According to affidavits submitted by the Rankin County School District (RCSD), two coaches and a registered nurse, who was there to watch her son race, examined Christopher’s head and found no evidence of a sting or adverse reaction. And Christopher assured them he was fine and wanted to run the race. But Christopher recalled only one coach examining him. And this coach told him to “man up” and run the race. Christopher ran the race. According to one of his coaches, she checked in on him at the mile marker. He responded that he was “okay, just hot.” According to Christopher, after the mile marker he began to feel dizzy. Then he fell, hitting his head. The same nurse attended to him. So did her husband, who was a neurologist. Christopher appeared to recover and rejoined his team after the race. But he later went to a doctor, who discovered injuries to his brain and spine. In January 2017, Christopher’s father, Christopher Strickland, Sr. (Strickland), sued RCSD on Christopher’s behalf. He alleged various breaches of duties in how RCSD employees acted both (1) after the wasp sting but before the race and (2) after Christopher’s fall. Specifically, Strickland alleged that, after the fall, RCSD employees failed to follow the district’s concussion protocol. The Mississippi Supreme Court surmised "much legal analysis has been aimed at whether the actions of two cross-country coaches were discretionary policy decisions entitled to immunity from suit under Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9(1)(d) (Rev. 2019)." But on certiorari review, the Court found this question to be moot: the alleged actions of the coaches do not establish any triable claim for negligence. For that reason, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment to the Rankin County School District. View "Strickland v. Rankin County School District" on Justia Law

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While driving a forklift at work, Lori Chandler was hit by another forklift and injured. She retained Turner & Associates to file a workers’ compensation claim. But Turner & Associates failed to file her claim within the statute of limitations. Adding to that, the firm’s case manager engaged in a year-and-a-half-long cover-up, which included false assurances of settlement negotiations, fake settlement offers, and a forged settlement letter purporting to be from Chandler’s former employer. Because of this professional negligence, Chandler filed a legal malpractice action. The only issue at trial was damages. The trial judge, sitting as fact-finder, concluded that Chandler had suffered a compensable work-related injury—an injury that caused her to lose her job and left her unemployed for nearly two years. Based on her hourly wage, the trial judge determined, had Turner & Associates timely filed Chandler’s workers’ compensation claim, Chandler could have reasonably recovered $50,000 in disability benefits. So the trial judge awarded her $50,000 in compensatory damages. The trial judge also awarded Chandler $100,000 in punitive damages against the case manager due to her egregious conduct. The Court of Appeals affirmed the punitive-damages award. But the court reversed and remanded the compensatory-damages award. Essentially, the Court of Appeals held that Chandler had failed to present sufficient medical evidence to support a $50,000 workers’ compensation claim. The Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the appellate court: "Were this a workers’ compensation case, we might agree with the Court of Appeals. But this is a legal malpractice case. And part of what Chandler lost, due to attorney negligence, was her ability to prove her work-related injury led to her temporary total disability. ... the Court of Appeals erred by applying exacting statutory requirements for a workers’ compensation claim to Chandler’s common-law legal malpractice claim." The Court reversed on the issue of compensatory damages and reinstated the trial judge’s $50,000 compensatory-damages award. Because this was the only issue for which Chandler sought certiorari review, it affirmed the remainder of the Court of Appeals’ decision, which affirmed the punitive-damages award but reversed and remanded the grant of partial summary judgment against attorney Angela Lairy in her individual capacity. View "Turner & Associates, PLLC, et al. v. Chandler" on Justia Law

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In an interlocutory appeal, the issue presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review involved a premises liability claim against Riverboat Corporation of Mississippi (Riverboat). In 2014, Treslya Davis and her stepmother visited the Golden Nugget Biloxi Hotel and Casino, which was owned by Riverboat. While at the casino, Davis was playing the slot machines when the chair in which she was sitting fell backward. Davis claimed she suffered physical and emotional injuries as a result of the fall. Riverboat argued the trial court committed reversible error “by granting [Tresyla Davis’s] request to reopen the case, when the two alleged instances of fraud are demonstrably incorrect and the trial court failed to consider all of the elements of fraud necessary to justify the extraordinary relief under Rule 60(b)(1)[.]” The Supreme Court found Davis failed to prove all the necessary elements of fraud by clear and convincing evidence and that the trial court abused its discretion by granting the Rule 60(b)(1) motion. Therefore, the Court reversed the grant of the Rule 60(b)(1) motion and reinstated the summary judgment previously granted to Riverboat. View "Riverboat Corporation of Mississippi v. Davis" on Justia Law

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The question presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case “boils down to one of statutory interpretation:” whether plaintiff Crystal Bufkin was “legally entitled to recover” damages from her employer under the uninsured motorist statute, Mississippi Code Section 83-11-101(1) (Supp. 2021). The Supreme Court previously held that employees are not legally entitled to recover from their employers and thus could not make a claim under uninsured motorist coverages. Bufkin acknowledged that precedent precluded her claim, but she argued Medders v. U.S. Fid. & Guar. Co., 623 So. 2d 979 (Miss. 1993 )and its progeny were wrongly decided because the uninsured motorist law should be liberally construed in her favor. The Supreme Court concluded it already rejected the arguments Bufkin presented here, and declined to overrule Medders. View "Bufkin v. Geico Insurance Agency, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Hinds County Circuit Court denied the motion of Weeks, Inc., to transfer venue to Madison County, even though neither Mississippi defendant (both corporations) had its principal place of business in Hinds County. Nor did any substantial alleged act or event causing the alleged injuries occur in Hinds County. The circuit court based its ruling on Weeks’s corporate filings with the Mississippi Secretary of State, which listed a Hinds County address as Weeks’s principal address. Affidavits and other documents submitted with Weeks’s motion to transfer venue showed this was not Weeks’s address; the address belonged to an outside certified public accountant who handled Weeks’s correspondence and filings with the Secretary of State. Weeks conducts no business from this location. Instead, it solely operates out of its Madison County location. Still, plaintiff Gregory Lewis, asked the Mississippi Supreme Court to hold that Weeks’s corporate filings were conclusive evidence of the corporation’s principal place of business. Lewis conceded, in his own words, that the “actual physical location” where Weeks conducted its business was in Madison County. The Supreme Court therefore concluded the circuit court abused its discretion by denying Weeks’s motion to transfer venue. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded with instructions to transfer this case to the Madison County Circuit Court. View "Weeks, Inc. et al.. v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Victoria Leasy sued after she allegedly slipped and fell in her hotel room’s bathroom at Harlow’s Casino. The circuit court granted SW Gaming LLC d/b/a Harlow’s Casino's motion to dismiss, and on appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the circuit court and remanded the case. Finding that the Court of Appeals reweighed the evidence and substituted its own findings for those of the circuit court, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court reinstated and affirmed the judgment of the circuit court, and reaffirmed the controlling abuse-of-discretion standard of review in such cases. View "Leasy v. SW Gaming, LLC d/b/a Harlow's Casino" on Justia Law

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Claiborne County Hospital (CCH) sought summary judgment against Julius Truitt on his medical-negligence claim. CCH claimed Truitt failed to designate a medical expert. Truitt responded to CCH’s motion that a genuine issue of material fact existed, and that he was exempt from producing sworn expert testimony under the layman’s exception allowing lay testimony despite the general rule requiring medical expert testimony in medical-negligence cases. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that as a matter of law, the trial court erred by denying CCH’s motion for summary judgment. The Supreme Court found CCH met its summary-judgment burden by showing that Truitt failed to produce sworn expert testimony establishing a prima facie case of medical negligence. The trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Claiborne County Hospital v. Truitt" on Justia Law

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The Workers’ Compensation Commission and an Administrative Judge (AJ) had ordered Gamma Healthcare and Employers Insurance Company of Wausau (Employer/Carrier) to replace Sharon Grantham’s septic and HVAC systems and to pay for insurance on a handicapped-accessible van. The Commission, sua sponte, issued a separate order sanctioning the Employer/Carrier for causing an unnecessary delay by appealing the AJ’s order to the full Commission without reasonable grounds. The Employer/Carrier appealed. While this case was pending before the Court of Appeals, Sharon Grantham died. Thereafter, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case as moot. The Court of Appeals applied the general rule followed by federal courts by vacating the outstanding Commission and AJ orders. The appeals court reversed and rendered the Commission’s sanctions order against the Employer/Carrier, determining that the Commission had abused its discretion by its imposition of the sanction, reasoning that the Employer/Carrier had a reasonable legal argument for its appeal. Grantham’s estate filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court concluded that in light of Grantham’s untimely death and the concession by her estate, it agreed with the Court of Appeals that this case was moot. "However, the main issue is not whether the case is moot. Rather it is whether the Court of Appeals erred by vacating the Commission’s and the AJ’s valid orders to replace the septic and HVAC systems in a case that became moot on appeal due to circumstances beyond the control of the parties. Additionally, did the court err by following federal vacatur law instead of existing Mississippi law?" These were issues of first impression. the Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals did not err and that the federal vacatur rule was appropriate. The Commission’s orders were vacated properly. Furthermore, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ reversing and rendering of the Commission’s sanctions award. View "Gamma Healthcare Inc., et al. v. Estate of Sharon Burrell Grantham" on Justia Law

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The University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) appealed a county court judgment granting Genevieve Jensen’s motion for extension of time to serve process on the attorney general and its decision denying UMMC’s motion for summary judgment based on a statute of limitations defense. Since Jensen failed to articulate good cause for an extension of time to serve process, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined the county court abused its discretion by granting her motion for extension, it reversed the county court’s decision and dismissed Jensen’s case with prejudice. View "University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Jensen" on Justia Law