Justia Mississippi Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Franklin County Memorial Hospital v. Fairman
At issue in this interlocutory appeal before the Mississippi Supreme Court was whether the statute of limitations has run on Sabrina Fairman’s malpractice claims against Franklin County Memorial Hospital. Fairman alleged she was injured as a result of negligent treatment in the Hospital’s emergency room. She served a timely notice of claim on the Hospital’s CEO that correctly identified the Hospital as the responsible party. But when she filed suit, Fairman named as defendants “The Foundation for a Healthy Franklin County d/b/a Franklin County Memorial Hospital” as well as several John Does. According to the Hospital, it “is not, and never has been, the d/b/a of the Foundation.” Fairman filed an amended complaint naming the Hospital correctly and then voluntarily dismissed the Foundation as a party by agreed order. She then served the amended complaint on the Hospital’s CEO within 120 days of the timely filing of the original complaint. The Hospital moved to dismiss on statute of limitations grounds, but the circuit court denied the motion. This case was presented to the Supreme Court as hinging on the doctrine of misnomer: whether Fairman’s original complaint named the Hospital as the defendant under the wrong name. The Hospital contended that Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 21 required Fairman to secure leave of the court before amending her complaint. Ultimately, we conclude that this is not a case of misnomer, but the trial court was nonetheless correct to refuse to dismiss the case. Rule 21 should not be read to require a court order when an amended complaint could otherwise be filed as a matter of course and the amendment merely corrects a misidentification of the defendant by substituting a new defendant for an old one. Under Rule 15, Fairman’s amended complaint related back to the time of the filing of the first complaint for statute of limitations purposes, and the original complaint was timely. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the trial court’s order denying the Hospital’s motion to dismiss, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Franklin County Memorial Hospital v. Fairman" on Justia Law
Deepak Jasco, LLC, et al. v. Palmer
In 2017, Charles Green was stabbed and killed. His body was found in a parking lot in front of an abandoned building. Deepak Jasco, LLC, owned and operated a convenience store in the adjacent lot. Luretha Green Palmer, Green’s sister and the executrix of his estate, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit and asserted a claim for premises liability based on negligent security. The circuit judge denied the motion for summary judgment, and the Mississippi Supreme Court granted an interlocutory appeal. Palmer did not allege that defendants had actual knowledge of the violent nature of Green’s attacker and offered no affidavit or evidence to establish this element. Instead, Palmer argued that Defendants were aware of an atmosphere of violence on their premises. Further, Palmer insisted that summary judgment was properly denied because there was a genuine issue of a material fact in dispute about whether Green was killed on Defendant’s premises at 1034 West Woodrow Wilson Drive and whether Deepak Jasco, LLC, exercised possession and control over the portion of the common parking lot where Green died from his injuries. The Mississippi Supreme Court did not agree with Palmer's contentions, finding she failed to establish an atmosphere of violence through police records of other instances of crime at or near the property in question, and that defendants owned or operated the property. With no genuine issue of material fact in dispute, the Court found defendants were entitled to summary judgment. View "Deepak Jasco, LLC, et al. v. Palmer" on Justia Law
Otuseso v. Estate of Delores Mason, et al.
Helen McNeal, who had been appointed administratrix of Delores Mason’s estate, brought a wrongful death claim against a physician, Dr. Eniola Otuseso. Upon learning that McNeal did not satisfy the qualifications to serve as an administratrix, Otuseso moved to intervene in the estate matter and to strike the letters of administration. The chancellor denied her motion. But the chancellor, upon learning that McNeal was not related to the decedent and that she was a convicted felon, removed McNeal as administratrix and appointed the decedent’s two siblings, who were Delores Mason’s heirs at law, as coadministrators of the estate. Otuseso appealed the chancellor’s decision to deny her motion to intervene and the decision to replace McNeal, with the decedent’s actual heirs at law. Otuseso argued she had a right to intervene in the estate matter and that the chancellor was without authority to substitute the decedent’s heirs as the new administrators. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s decision to substitute and appoint the decedent’s siblings and heirs as the coadministrators of Mason’s estate. Because Otuseso sought to intervene in the estate matter to challenge McNeal’s qualifications as admininstratrix, the Supreme Court found that the question of intervention was moot as it no longer was at issue, due to the chancellor’s rightful removal of the unqualified administratrix and his appointment of successor coadministrators. View "Otuseso v. Estate of Delores Mason, et al." on Justia Law
Belhaven Senior Care, LLC, et al. v. Smith, et al.
Betty Smith brought a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against Belhaven Senior Care, LLC (Belhaven), a nursing home facility in which her mother Mary Hayes had resided shortly before Hayes’s death. Belhaven sought to compel arbitration, citing the arbitration provision in the nursing home admissions agreement Smith signed when admitting her mother. The trial judge denied arbitration, finding that Smith lacked the legal authority to bind her mother to the agreement. Belhaven appealed. The nursing home’s primary argument on appeal was that under the Health-Care Decisions Act (“the Act”), Smith acted as a statutory healthcare surrogate. So in signing the nursing home admission agreement, Smith had authority to waive arbitration on her mother’s behalf. In addition, Belhaven puts forth arguments of direct-benefit estoppel and third-party beneficiary status. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, finding that while Hayes did suffer from some form of dementia, when admitted to the nursing home, she was neither evaluated by a physician nor was she determined to lack capacity. Indeed, her “Admission Physician Orders” were signed by a nurse practitioner. It was not until eleven days later that a physician evaluated Hayes. "And even then, the physician did not deem she lacked capacity. In fact, Belhaven puts forth no evidence that—at any time during her stay of more than a year at Belhaven—any physician ever determined Hayes lacked capacity." The Court determined Belhaven failed to prove the strict requirements of the surrogacy statute to rebut this presumption. Furthermore, the Court found Belhaven’s direct-benefit estoppel and third-party beneficiary arguments were lacking: because Belhaven contends that Hayes was incapacitated, she could not knowingly seek or obtain benefits from the agreement. "Nor does Smith’s largely negligence-based lawsuit seek to enforce the contract’s terms or require determination by reference to the contract. So Smith is not estopped from pursuing these claims." View "Belhaven Senior Care, LLC, et al. v. Smith, et al." on Justia Law
Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Peteet
Following a vehicular accident, Martin Peteet entered into a release and settlement agreement with the driver of the other vehicle and her insurer. Peteet did not seek a waiver of subrogation or consent from his own automobile insurer, Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company (Farm Bureau), prior to executing the release and settlement agreement. After the release and settlement agreement was executed, Peteet filed a complaint against Farm Bureau, seeking damages under the uninsured motorist (UM) provision in his auto policy with Farm Bureau. Farm Bureau moved to dismiss the complaint, and the county court denied the motion. Farm Bureau sought an interlocutory appeal, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. After a careful review of the law, the Supreme Court reversed the denial of the motion to dismiss and rendered judgment in favor of Farm Bureau. View "Mississippi Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company v. Peteet" on Justia Law
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
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
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