Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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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

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An investigation into the Hattiesburg municipal court system led to several local news stories. One online story posted a copy of the police department’s internal-affairs investigative report of the court system, which the media outlet obtained from a city councilman. Attached to this report was a copy of municipal court clerk Sharon Mark’s medical-leave form. The form indicated Mark had asked for leave to undergo breast-cancer surgery. Aggrieved by public disclosure of her medical condition, Mark sued the mayor and five city council members for invasion of privacy. To get around the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, Mark asserted that the mayor and city council members were individually liable because they had acted with malice. But at trial, the evidence showed the disclosure of her medical- leave form was at most negligence. Because Mark failed to support her claim that the mayor and council members maliciously invaded her privacy, the Mississippi Supreme Court held the trial court did not err by granting these individual defendants a directed verdict. View "Mark v. City of Hattiesburg" on Justia Law

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In March 2018, Renaulta Mayze, Markhail Mayze, and Tydarius Sago (“Mayze”) were involved in a vehicle collision with Casey Weir. Mayze filed suit alleging that the collision had occurred in Hinds County. Weir filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, to transfer venue, alleging that the collision had occurred in Madison County. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the trial judge abused her discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s decision and remanded the case to the Hinds County County Court to be transferred to the Madison County County Court. View "Weir v. Mayze" on Justia Law

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Robert Sheffield was injured on the job while working for S.J. Louis Construction (S.J. Louis). Sheffield filed a petition to contravert, and the administrative law judge (AJ) awarded Sheffield permanent-partial disability benefits. S.J. Louis appealed the decision to the full Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (Commission), and the Commission reversed this finding, concluding that Sheffield did not suffer any additional disability from the 2015 injury than that caused by a 2010 injury. Sheffield appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission’s decision. S.J. Louis filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Because the Supreme Court found, after review, that the Commission’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, it reinstated and affirmed that decision. View "Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc." on Justia Law

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Mary Thomas awoke, paralyzed, after surgery. She filed a medical malpractice suit against Dr. Adam Lewis, who performed the surgery, claiming her injuries stemmed from two neurosurgeries performed by Dr. Lewis. Thomas also filed suit against Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic and Central Mississippi Medical Center based on vicarious liability. Thomas’s medical malpractice claims were based on an alleged failure of Dr. Lewis to manage Thomas’s mean arterial blood pressure during the first surgery and Dr. Lewis’s decision to perform the second surgery. However, the issue on appeal involved the reliability of expert testimony under Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993). Thomas’s expert, neurosurgeon Dr. Neil Wright, claimed that Dr. Lewis had failed to provide the proper standard of care and, in turn, caused Thomas’s injuries. However, Dr. Lewis argued that Dr. Wright’s opinions were not reliable because they were inconsistent with medical literature. The trial court agreed, struck Dr. Wright’s opinions, and granted partial summary judgment in favor of Dr. Lewis with regard to the first surgery. The trial court also ruled that Dr. Wright could testify to negligence regarding the second surgery. The trial court allowed Thomas to proceed on claims related to the second surgery. Dr. Wright admitted that the decision to perform the second surgery was a judgment call and that he failed to testify that making the decision to proceed with a second surgery was a breach of the standard of care. The trial court considered the evidence and found that Mary Thomas had failed to offer admissible proof from which a reasonable juror could find that Dr. Lewis deviated from a professional standard of care. The trial court directed a verdict in favor of Dr. Lewis, Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic, and Central Mississippi Medical Center, and Thomas appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Thomas v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Melita Hamilton sued Weatherford International, LLC, and William Dixon. During the lawsuit, Hamilton requested a copy of her medical records from NewSouth Neurospine, LLC. NewSouth billed Hamilton $210.65 for production of 233 pages of medical records and the execution of a medical records affidavit. When Hamilton disputed the amount of the fees, NewSouth asserted that the amount was allowed by Mississippi Code Section 11-1-52 (Rev. 2019). Hamilton moved for discovery sanctions on the ground that NewSouth’s bill exceeded what was permitted by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The trial court granted Hamilton’s motion, finding that under the HIPAA Privacy Rule, NewSouth was limited to charging a reasonable, cost-based fee for reproduction of medical records. The trial court ordered NewSouth to refund Hamilton $159; NewSouth appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "NewSouth Neurospine, LLC v. Hamilton" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury
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In 2012, Timothy Hinton was deer hunting when he fell from his tree stand. He was using a fall-arrest system (FAS), but the tree strap snapped, and Timothy plunged eighteen feet, eventually dying from his injuries. In 2013, Timothy’s parents, Marsha and Thomas Hinton, filed a wrongful-death suit based on Mississippi products-liability law. The defendant manufacturer, C&S Global Imports, Inc., defaulted and was not a source of recovery. So the litigation turned its focus to the manufacturer’s insurer, Pekin Insurance Company. After the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Mississippi had personal jurisdiction over the Illinois-based insurer, Pekin successfully moved for summary judgment based on the clear tree-stand exclusion in C&S Global’s policy. Retailer Sportsman’s Guide, which sold Timothy the tree stand and FAS in 2009, also moved for and was granted summary judgment, giving rise to this appeal. As grounds for its decision, the trial court relied on the innocent-seller provision in the Mississippi Products Liability Act (MPLA), and found no evidence of active negligence by Sportsman's Guide. The Hintons argued in response: (1) Sportsman’s Guide waived its innocent-seller immunity affirmative defense; (2) a dispute of material fact existed over whether Sportsman's Guide was an innocent seller; or (3) alternatively, Mississippi’s innocent-seller provision should not control: instead the trial court should have followed Minnesota’s approach - the state where Sportsman’s Guide is located (under Minnesota’s law, innocent sellers may be liable when manufacturers are judgment proof, like C&S Global was here). Finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinton v. Sportsman's Guide, Inc." on Justia Law

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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