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In the first time this matter came before the Mississippi Supreme Court, the Court agreed with the chancellor that Tanya and Hobson Sanderson’s prenuptial agreement was procedurally conscionable. But the Court disagreed that potential substantive unconscionability was not a consideration. The Court reversed and remanded for the chancellor to weigh Tanya’s claim that the agreement was substantively unconscionable. Tanya had also claimed the chancellor erroneously classified as "Hob’s" separate property several assets that had been commingled with marital property. The Supreme Court agreed with Tanya regarding one asset: the couple’s joint bank account, and reversed the chancellor’s finding that the joint bank-account funds were not commingled. On remand, a different chancellor found the prenuptial agreement was substantively conscionable and thus enforceable. After a detailed "Ferguson" analysis, the chancellor then awarded Tanya $537.42 - the balance of the joint bank account at the time of Tanya and Hob’s final separation. Tanya appealed, arguing: (1) the chancellor failed to recognize the prenuptial agreement was unconscionable because the results of enforcement are unfair; or (2) alternatively, the chancellor erred by not expanding the scope of commingled marital assets to include Hob’s home and investment accounts. Upon review, the Supreme Court found no reversible error. View "Sanderson v. Sanderson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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A jury convicted Darius Haynes on two counts: possession of cocaine while in possession of a firearm and possession of a weapon by a felon. Because the evidence was legally sufficient to support the conviction of possession of cocaine, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed Haynes’ conviction for possession and the corresponding sentence. View "Haynes v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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April Horton, the estate administratrix for decedent Emmanuel Erves, appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City of Vicksburg. She argued the court erred in finding that the City was entitled to immunity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). Erves lived as a tenant in a ninety-eight-year-old historic home that was converted to a "rooming house" for multiple tenants. On February 24, 2014, Erves tumbled down the home’s exterior concrete stairs and died as a result of the injuries he sustained. Horton, as estate administratrix for Erves' estate, filed a complaint against the rooming house's owner, Malcom and Rose Carson (collectively, Carson) and MM&R Land Investments for their failure to provide a reasonably safe premises, failure to provide adequate security, and failure to warn of a dangerous condition. Horton claimed that the condition and configuration of the stairs where Erves fell, along with the absence of a mandatory handrail, violated the city’s housing code. She argued that, because of these violations, Erves was unable to regain his balance or break his fall, which ultimately resulted in fatal injuries. One year later, Horton amended her complaint to include the City of Vicksburg and City Code Inspector Benjie Thomas as defendants in the action. Claiming that Thomas and the City breached their duty to inspect the property adequately, and that the City individually failed to provide reasonable supervision of Thomas in his duties, Horton argued that both parties should have known that the home’s exterior steps were not up to code, posing an unreasonable risk of harm to the public. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined Horton's claims against the City of Vicksburg did not support a private cause of action, therefore it failed to reach the merits of Horton's MTCA-immunity arguments. Finding that Horton cannot establish that the City breached any discernible duty owed to the decedent, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision. View "Horton v. City of Vicksburg" on Justia Law

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By interlocutory appeal, Central Insurers of Grenada, Inc., challenges the Warren County Circuit Court’s denial of its motion to dismiss William Greenwood’s complaint against it for insufficient service of process. Greenwood, the owner of Antique Wood Company of Mississippi, filed a complaint against Central and three other defendants, alleging breach of contract, conspiracy, and bad faith due to the defendants’ refusal to provide coverage under a commercial liability insurance policy Greenwood had purchased from them. Greenwood’s complaint acknowledged that Central was a Mississippi corporation, identified Lynn Simmons Grim as Central’s registered agent for service of process, and listed an address in Grenada County, Mississippi, where Grim could be served. However, Greenwood did not personally serve process on an officer or registered agent of Central, nor did he mail a copy of the complaint and summons directly to Central or its registered agent. Instead, Greenwood’s process server served a copy of the complaint and summons on an employee of the Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance. The Commissioner’s legal process clerk then forwarded a copy of the complaint and summons, along with a notification letter, to Central via certified mail. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined the trial court erred in finding the Mississippi Commissioner of Insurance was authorized to accept service of process on Central's behalf, so it reversed that judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Central Insurers of Grenada, Inc. v. William Greenwood d/b/a Antique Wood Company of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ and the City of Brookhaven, Mississippi’s motions to dismiss Samuel Wilcher, Jr.’s personal injury suit, finding both governmental entities enjoyed discretionary-function immunity. In doing so, the judge employed the Mississsippi Supreme Court’s recently created test announced in Brantley v. City of Horn Lake, 152 So.3d 1106 (Miss. 2014). On appeal, the Court faced "head on one of the unintended but predicted consequences of Brantley—that the test forces parties and judges to wade through an ever-deepening quagmire of regulations and ordinances to locate 'ministerial' or 'discretionary' duties, overcomplicating the process of litigating and deciding claims involving governmental entities." Unfortunately, this methodology had proved unworkable. "Instead of trying to retool the Brantley test to somehow make it workable, we concede this short-lived idea, which was meant to be a course correction, has ultimately led this Court even farther adrift." The Court found it best to return to its original course of applying the widely recognized public-policy function test—the original Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) test first adopted by the Court in 1999. Applying the latter test to this case, the Supreme Court held that Wilcher’s claim that County and City employees negligently left an unfinished culvert installation overnight, without warning drivers they had removed but not yet replaced a bridge, was not barred by discretionary-function immunity. "Wilcher is not trying to second-guess a policy decision through tort. He is seeking to recover for injuries caused by run-of-the-mill negligence." Because, from the face of the complaint, the County and City were not immune, the Court reversed the grant of their motions to dismiss. View "Wilcher, Jr. v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The trial court granted the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors’ and the City of Brookhaven, Mississippi’s motions to dismiss Samuel Wilcher, Jr.’s personal injury suit, finding both governmental entities enjoyed discretionary-function immunity. In doing so, the judge employed the Mississsippi Supreme Court’s recently created test announced in Brantley v. City of Horn Lake, 152 So.3d 1106 (Miss. 2014). On appeal, the Court faced "head on one of the unintended but predicted consequences of Brantley—that the test forces parties and judges to wade through an ever-deepening quagmire of regulations and ordinances to locate 'ministerial' or 'discretionary' duties, overcomplicating the process of litigating and deciding claims involving governmental entities." Unfortunately, this methodology had proved unworkable. "Instead of trying to retool the Brantley test to somehow make it workable, we concede this short-lived idea, which was meant to be a course correction, has ultimately led this Court even farther adrift." The Court found it best to return to its original course of applying the widely recognized public-policy function test—the original Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) test first adopted by the Court in 1999. Applying the latter test to this case, the Supreme Court held that Wilcher’s claim that County and City employees negligently left an unfinished culvert installation overnight, without warning drivers they had removed but not yet replaced a bridge, was not barred by discretionary-function immunity. "Wilcher is not trying to second-guess a policy decision through tort. He is seeking to recover for injuries caused by run-of-the-mill negligence." Because, from the face of the complaint, the County and City were not immune, the Court reversed the grant of their motions to dismiss. View "Wilcher, Jr. v. Lincoln County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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The dispositive issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this matter was whether the Employee Appeals Board properly dismissed the Appellees’ claims for lack of jurisdiction due to the untimely filing of the appeal. After review, the Supreme Court held that it properly dismissed the Appellees’ claims for lack of jurisdiction. "In essence, we simply cannot ignore the gross procedural errors to accord the requested relief. Therefore, we reverse the circuit court’s decision to grant the summary-judgment motion and dismiss the appeal petition because the EAB lacked jurisdiction." View "Miss. Dept. of Public Safety v. Smith" on Justia Law

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SW 98/99, LLC (“SW”), appealed a Pike County Chancery Court order dismissing its complaint with prejudice under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 41(b). SW filed objections to the tax assessments for the years 2005 and 2006 for several low-income housing properties, but those objections were denied. SW then filed a complaint at Chancery Court alleging that Pike County, the Pike County Board of Supervisors, and the Pike County Tax Assessor (collectively “the defendants”) had wrongfully and excessively assessed taxes on SW’s properties using an appraisal method not authorized by Section 27-35-50(4)(d). Along with SW’s chancery-court lawsuit, SW also appealed the property-tax assessments to the Pike County Circuit Court. This case and SW’s tax appeals proceeded separately along their own paths until March 2011, when the chancellor entered an order granting the defendants’ motion to stay the proceedings in this case pending final resolution of SW’s circuit-court tax appeals. By 2015, the Pike County Circuit Court granted summary judgment to SW on each of its tax appeals, ordering the defendants to refund SW’s overpayments for the years 2005 through 2012. The defendants moved for reconsideration. While this matter was still pending, SW’s attorney was concurrently involved in an unrelated case in federal district court. The district court contacted SW’s attorney to inquire as to his availability for a trial beginning September 14, 2015, one day before the trial setting in this tax assessment case. Because the circuit court had not yet ruled on the defendants’ motion for reconsideration in SW’s tax appeals, SW’s attorney believed that the chancellor’s stay of proceedings in this case remained in effect, as the circuit-court proceedings were not “finally resolved.” Because of this, SW’s attorney contacted the chancery court to request that the trial date be continued and removed from the trial docket. Although later disputed by the court administrator, SW’s attorney believed at this time that the case had been continued and that the trial setting had been removed from the docket. SW’s attorney then informed counsel for the defendants of the continuance. The defendants did not object to the continuance. The chancellor entered a show-cause order noting that SW had not appeared at its scheduled motions hearing and that neither of the parties had appeared on the scheduled trial date. The order acknowledged that “some telephonic communication was made by a staff member of Counsel to the Court Administrator regarding the prior Order staying this litigation.” The chancellor’s show-cause order concluded that SW’s lawsuit was “stale and in a posture to be dismissed for lack of prosecution inasmuch as Counsel set aside two full trial days on a heavily congested trial docket and failed to appear for trial.” Finding that the chancery court abused its discretion in ruling that SW had failed to prosecute its complaint, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed the chancery court’s judgment and remanded this case to the chancery court for further proceedings. View "SW 98/99, LLC v. Pike County, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Prisoner Timothy Pryer filed an action in chancery court against the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Department and the Itawamba County Circuit Clerk. Pryer claimed that the defendants wrongfully had denied him access to public records under the Mississippi Public Records Act, entitling him to civil damages. More than three years after filing the complaint, Pryer filed a motion for leave to amend it to add a Public Records Act claim against Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner, III. Pryer alleged that, in deeming his public records request a motion for post-conviction relief, and then denying it, Judge Gardner had violated the Public Records Act, entitling Pryer to civil damages. The Chancery Court of Itawamba County granted Judge Gardner’s motion to dismiss, and Pryer appealed. Because Pryer’s claim against Judge Gardner was barred by the doctrine of judicial immunity, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of his amended complaint. View "Pryer v. Gardner" on Justia Law

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Mississippi Sand Solutions, LLC (“MSS”) appealed a Chancery Court decree that MSS did not have an easement of any type across property owned by a group of heirs, the “Fisher Property.” MSS’s predecessors used the alleged easement across the Fisher Property to access another parcel of land from which they mined gravel and sand throughout the years. The Fisher heirs, who owned the Fisher Property, claimed that this access was by permission, evidenced by lease agreements with MSS’s predecessors. As a result, the Fisher heirs filed a declaratory action against MSS, seeking to have the alleged easement declared invalid. After a trial, the chancellor ruled that MSS did not have an easement across the Fisher Property. Given the standard of review and the sufficient evidence in the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s judgment. View "Mississippi Sand Solutions, LLC v. Otis" on Justia Law