Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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This case arose from the tragic 2014 death of nine-year-old Patrauna Hudson, who drowned in flash-flood waters that swept through a drainage ditch that ran alongside her family’s residence. Patrauna’s estate (the “Estate”) filed suit against Yazoo City for wrongful death under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA). The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Yazoo City (the “City”) on all claims filed against it by the Estate, having found Yazoo City immune from liability under both the discretionary-function exception and the open-and-obvious exception contained in Mississippi Code Section 11-46-9. The Estate appealed, maintaining that Yazoo City violated numerous city ordinances, along with certain federal regulations, when the City converted a portion of the drainage ditch downstream from the Hudson residence into a covered tunnel with two side-by-side culverts in 2007. The Estate argued that these laws imposed a ministerial duty upon Yazoo City, and the City breached that duty by failing to comply with all the mandatory requirements prescribed by these laws when the city implemented and carried out the 2007 project. Therefore, the Estate contended, the City was not immune from liability. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the Estate’s claim that Yazoo City is liable for the wrongful death of Patrauna failed as a matter of law for failure to state a cause of action. The Court also found the Estate abandoned its claim for negligently failing to maintain its drainage ditches. The Estate, however, abandoned this claim under the auspices of the test adopted by this Court in However, the Court found “slight evidence,” which if developed further, could create a genuine issue of fact with regard to this claim, and that the Estate should have been given the opportunity to do so. The Supreme Court found the trial court’s ruling as to the open-and-obvious exception provided by Section 11-46-9(1)(v) was premature in this case because factual questions remained. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Hudson v. Yazoo City, Mississippi" on Justia Law

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B&B Management Company, LLC (“B&B”) and Terence McGee (“McGee”) appealed the circuit court’s denial of their Motion to Dismiss and Transfer Venue. Y.X. first filed a premises-liability case in Madison County, Mississippi against B&B and five John Does, alleging she was injured on a treadmill in the fitness room of an apartment complex located in Madison County. Prior to B&B making an appearance, Y.X. voluntarily dismissed that case and refiled essentially an identical case in Hinds County, adding McGee, a former employee of B&B and resident of Hinds County, as a defendant. Accepting Y.X.’s testimony that she saw McGee leaving the complex, despite McGee’s denial of being there that on the day Y.X. was injured, does not change the fact that no evidence was presented which established that McGee owed an individual, legal duty to Y.X., or that he personally breached any legal duty that day. No actions imposing legal liability on McGee individually were developed during discovery. Applying principles set forth in the controlling Mississippi case law, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that McGee was joined fraudulently and/or frivolously with the intention of depriving B&B of its right to be sued in Madison County and that no reasonable claim of liability was established against McGee. Thus, the Court concluded, venue was improper in Hinds County. View "B&B Management Company, LLC v. Y.X." on Justia Law

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Joe and Dianne McGinty sued Grand Casinos of Mississippi Inc.-Biloxi alleging negligence and breach of implied warranty of merchantability for serving unfit food. The McGintys ate breakfast at the Island View Café inside the Grand Casinos. Mr. McGinty ordered “Mama’s Eggs and Chops,” which included two grilled pork chops. Mr. McGinty took a bite of the pork chop and “didn’t like it.” Mrs. McGinty finished the remainder from his plate. Hours later, after only consuming water following the "bad" chop, Mrs. McGinty began to feel nauseated, and she experienced diarrhea at the airport. They then caught a flight to Los Angeles, California. About an hour into the flight, Ms. McGinty began vomiting. Mr. McGinty also fell ill. He began to sweat profusely, feel nauseous, and become incontinent. The flight attendants gave him oxygen and moved the couple to the back of the plane. Mr. McGinty vomited and had diarrhea as well. The McGintys did not eat or drink anything on the airplane. When the plane landed in Los Angeles, Mr. McGinty was carried off the airplane on a stretcher by emergency medical technicians. The McGintys were transported to a local hospital by ambulance. On the way to the hospital, Mrs. McGinty began to vomit a large amount of blood. At the hospital, she received two blood transfusions and was treated for an esophageal tear. Mr. McGinty was discharged from the hospital the same day, but Mrs. McGinty stayed for three days. No tests were conducted for food poisoning at the hospital. Upon returning home, Mrs. McGinty saw her general doctor. Prior medical records from her general doctor show Mrs. McGinty had a history of digestive problems. Two months before the alleged food poisoning, her medical records noted that she suffered from “abdominal pain within 30 minutes after eating which is chronic/recurring frequently, . . . [c]rampy/colicky abdominal pain, diarrhea 15-30 minutes after eating which is chronic.” Further, Mrs. McGinty’s medical records show that she had vomited blood in March 2003, which also occurred prior to the alleged food poisoning. Mrs. McGinty’s treating physician from the California hospital concluded Mrs. McGinty’s “upper gastrointestinal bleeding was caused by the severe vomiting, which related to food and drink [she] had prior to the event.” The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Grand Casinos as to both McGinty claims, and the Court of Appeals affirmed as to negligence, but reversed as to breach-of-implied-warranty. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court and affirmed. View "McGinty v. Grand Casinos of Mississippi, Inc. - Biloxi" 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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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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Rebecca Keyes, a former employee of Dollar General, filed suit against Dollar General Corporation; DG Mize, LLC; Dolgencorp, LLC d/b/a Dollar General Store #11775 (collectively “Dollar General”), alleging counts of malicious prosecution, infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false imprisonment, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation, after Dollar General filed a criminal affidavit against Keyes in the Municipal Court of Mize, Mississippi, causing Keyes to be arrested for embezzlement. Keyes performed a "cash reload" to a money network card for $500.00, which did not go through properly. Rebecca Keyes informed her manager of the problem and placed the receipt on the office desk. Rebecca was told not to worry about the problem and that it would be fixed. On June 2, 2015, Rebecca Keyes was arrested for embezzlement. Thereafter, on July 16, 2015, Rebecca was found not guilty of the charges. Keyes moved to have the charges dismissed for failure of a Dollar General representative to appear and prosecute the claims. Her motion was granted. She then filed the instant lawsuit. Dollar General filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration, which was granted by the Circuit Court of Smith County. With the exception of the defamation claim, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in compelling arbitration, for Keyes’s remaining claims were not within the scope of the arbitration agreement. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order as to the defamation claim and reversed its judgment as to the remaining claims, remanding for further proceedings. View "Keyes v. Dollar General Corp." on Justia Law

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On April 19, 2011, the vehicles driven by Victor May and Kenneth Austin collided at the intersection of Northside Drive and Hanging Moss Road in Jackson, Mississippi. Claiming that the wreck produced injuries to his neck, lower back, and right shoulder, May filed suit seeking damages for Austin’s alleged negligence in causing the accident. Shortly after May filed his complaint, the parties engaged in discovery. A year and a half later, the defendants filed a motion requesting that the circuit court dismiss the matter with prejudice, due to May’s inconsistent and deliberately false testimony throughout the discovery process. The circuit court entered its decision after finding that May willfully concealed his past injuries and accidents, significantly prejudicing the defendants’ ability to proceed with their case. After reviewing the circuit court’s decision for an abuse of discretion, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the circuit court did not err in finding that the plaintiff committed numerous discovery violations which resulted in inordinate delay and increased costs to the defendants. As a result, the Court affirmed dismissal. View "May v. Austin" on Justia Law

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Two officers with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) observed Donald Bernius speeding on the Tchoutacabouffa River in Harrison County, Mississippi. Prior to effecting a stop, the officers ordered Bernius to move his boat to what they contended was a safer location on the river; but Bernius fled in the opposite direction. Bernius’s vessel collided with a boat operated by Christopher Webb. The collision killed Webb and seriously injured Shane Webb. Two hours after the collision, Bernius’s blood-alcohol content was .25 percent. Kathleen Webb, individually and on behalf of Christopher Webb’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, and Candace Webb, as Shane Webb’s guardian, filed a lawsuit pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) against the MDWFP, arguing that the officers had acted in reckless disregard for the safety of others. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court agreed and ruled in favor of the Webbs. The Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed and rendered a judgment in favor of the MDWFP, finding that the evidence did not demonstrate that the officers had acted with reckless disregard. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Candace Webb’s Petition for certiorari review. Finding that the Mississippi Court of Appeals misapplied the applicable standard of review and substituted its judgment for that of the trial court, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of that court and reinstated and affirmed the Circuit Court's judgment. View "Mississippi Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries &Parks v. Webb" on Justia Law

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Bettye Logan sustained a compensable leg injury while employed at Klaussner Furniture Corporation d/b/a Bruce Furniture Industries (“Klaussner”). An Administrative Judge (“AJ”), and the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (“Commission”), found that Logan had suffered a sixty-percent loss of industrial use to her left lower extremity, which entitled her to 105 weeks of compensation set at $331.06 for her “scheduled-member” injury under Mississippi Code Section 71-3-17(c)(2). Logan appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the Commission and the AJ had applied the incorrect part of Section 71-3-17 and that either subsection (a) or subsection (c)(25) of the statute, and not subsection (c)(2), applied. Klaussner and the American Casualty Company, the carrier, petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for review. The Court determined the Commission and the AJ properly awarded Logan permanent-partial disability benefits under Section 71-3-17(c)(2). Accordingly, it reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated and affirmed the holding of the AJ and Commission. View "Logan v. Klaussner Furniture Corp." on Justia Law

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Two officers with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) observed Donald Bernius speeding on the Tchoutacabouffa River in Harrison County, Mississippi. Prior to effecting a stop, the officers ordered Bernius to move his boat to what they contended was a safer location on the river; but Bernius fled in the opposite direction. Bernius’s vessel collided with a boat operated by Christopher Webb. The collision killed Webb and seriously injured Shane Webb. Two hours after the collision, Bernius’s blood-alcohol content was .25 percent. Kathleen Webb, individually and on behalf of Christopher Webb’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, and Candace Webb, as Shane Webb’s guardian, filed a lawsuit pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) against the MDWFP, arguing that the officers had acted in reckless disregard for the safety of others. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court agreed and ruled in favor of the Webbs. The Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed and rendered a judgment in favor of the MDWFP, finding that the evidence did not demonstrate that the officers had acted with reckless disregard. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Candace Webb’s Petition for certiorari review. Finding that the Mississippi Court of Appeals misapplied the applicable standard of review and substituted its judgment for that of the trial court, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of that court and reinstated and affirmed the Circuit Court's judgment. View "Mississippi Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries &Parks v. Webb" on Justia Law