Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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Sallie Amerson sued Inland Family Clinic LLC and Dr. Ikechukwu Okorie over an allegedly defamatory statement Dr. Okorie made to another physician concerning Amerson’s apparent use of illegal drugs. The Defendants moved for summary judgment, contending the statements were privileged, but the Circuit Court denied the motion. Inland and Dr. Okorie petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for interlocutory review, which was granted. After consideration, the Supreme Court reversed the circuit court and rendered judgment in favor of Inland and Dr. Okorie. The Court found there was no genuine issue of material fact as to the substance of Dr. Okorie’s communication to the other physician regarding Amerson’s drug-test results. “By all accounts, the communication concerned Amerson’s continuing medical treatment and satisfied all of the elements of the qualified privilege. Since Amerson failed to produce any evidence of malice, her defamation claims fail as a matter of law.” View "Inland Family Practice Center, LLC v. Amerson" on Justia Law

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James Owens had been experiencing drug-withdrawal symptoms when he wandered off his work shift onto a dark Louisiana highway. At that time, Will Gates was driving his employer’s truck when he struck Owens. Gates did not see Owens, and the truck never left its lane of travel. Owens filed a negligence suit against Gates and his employer. The case proceeded to trial, and the jury returned a verdict in favor of Gates and his employer. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the evidence supported the jury’s verdict that Gates had not been negligent. Furthermore, the Court found no merit to Owens’s claim that the judge wrongly denied his request for a mistrial based on Gates’s cousin Abraham Gates, a justice court judge, acting as a jury consultant in his case. View "Fairley v. Total Transportation of Mississippi, LLC" on Justia Law

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Patsy Wood, administratix of Patricia Peoples’s estate and a wrongful death beneficiary, as well as Sandra Kay Madison and Samuel Peoples, Peoples’s other children and wrongful death beneficiaries, sued Lakeland Nursing and its employees, primarily the nurses involved in caring for Peoples, for negligence. Lakeland Nursing and Nurses Brittany Spann, Mary McGowan, Patricia Rhodes, and Barbara Scott (collectively “the Nurses”) filed motions to dismiss, arguing that Wood did not comply with the presuit notice requirements provided in Mississippi Code Section 15-1-36(15) (Rev. 2012). Peoples, a resident at Lakeland Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, LLC, fell on September 12, 2011, and died from her injuries. Her children sued Lakeland Nursing and the Nurses for negligence. The issue this interlocutory appeal presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether Patsy Wood gave proper presuit notice to the Nurses pursuant to Mississippi Code Section 15-1-36(15), such that the circuit court correctly denied the Nurses’ motions to dismiss. Finding that Wood failed to do so, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s denial of the Nurses’ motion to dismiss, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Spann v. Wood" on Justia Law

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While recovering from surgery at Memorial Hospital at Gulfport, eighty-nine-year-old Lautain Scruggs fell after getting out of her hospital bed. Scruggs suffered a serious head injury that required almost immediate surgery. Several years later, Scruggs died; her death was unrelated to the head injury. Scruggs’s daughters Julia Cavalier and Jannette Scruggs McDonald and her estate (collectively Cavalier) filed a complaint against Memorial Hospital for medical negligence. Pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, the trial court conducted a bench trial, with the evidence essentially being a battle-of -the-experts on the appropriate standard of care as it related to Memorial Hospital’s fall-risk assessment tool. Ultimately, the trial court found in favor of Memorial Hospital, and Cavalier filed a motion for a new trial. The trial court denied Cavalier’s motion for a new trial, so Cavalier filed this appeal. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Cavalier v. Memorial Hospital at Gulfport" on Justia Law

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Curtis Brown petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for certiorari review of a Court of Appeals decision affirming a circuit court judgment in favor of Professional Building Services (PBS). Brown was the former clubhouse manager at Colonial Country Club in Jackson, Mississippi, which closed its doors in 2014. On September 28, 2012, Brown arrived at the clubhouse around 5 p.m. to do a monthly inventory of the “19th Hole Lounge” and “the grill”—a restaurant inside the clubhouse. That night, PBS employees also were at the clubhouse, cleaning and vacuuming the grill area. Around 8:00 p.m., the PBS staff left, leaving Brown alone in the clubhouse. Walking the grounds in relative darkness, he stumbled over a chair positioned in a doorway. He was taken to the hospital. Accounts differed as to how Brown said he was injured: he told a doctor he hit the chair; a bartender from the clubhouse says Brown told her he was chasing a mouse. Brown claimed the trial court had abused its discretion by admitting certain evidence and by instructing the jury with instructions to which Brown had objected at trial. Finding that the jury was instructed properly on this evidence and that the testimony was provided by an expert qualified under Mississippi Rule of Evidence 702, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower courts' judgments. View "Brown v. Professional Building Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Officer Michael Kelly was responding to a call that an intoxicated person was lying unconscious on the sidewalk outside the Days Inn in Clinton, Mississippi. While en route, his police vehicle collided with Patrice Tornes’s car. Tornes sued Officer Kelly and his employer, the City of Clinton, claiming Officer Kelly’s “reckless and negligent actions directly caused the subject accident.” Specifically, she alleged Officer Kelly “caused his vehicle to be driven in a careless, negligent, and reckless manner and without due regard for the safety and convenience of Patrice Tornes, and without giving any warning sign or proper signal of the approach of said vehicle.” And she asserted the City of Clinton was “vicariously liable for its employee’s careless, negligent, and reckless operation of his vehicle while acting in the course and scope of his employment as an officer for the City of Clinton Police Department.” She also claimed the City was liable for its own actions—specifically, “its negligent training of its employee in how to properly operate his motor vehicle in accordance for the safety of others” and its negligent entrustment of the subject vehicle to Officer Kelly on the day the wreck occurred. Both Officer Kelly and the City moved for summary judgment, claiming immunity from suit. This case came before the Mississippi Supreme Court on interlocutory appeal, because the trial court ruled in Tornes' favor. The Supreme Court held the municipality and the officer could not be liable for plaintiff's claims under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, reversed the denial of summary judgment and rendered judgment in defendants' favor. View "City of Clinton v. Tornes" on Justia Law

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The chancery court examined the principles underlying quantum meruit and found that Vincent Castigliola and David Kiyhet, attorneys for the estate of Dane Eubanks, should have been awarded attorneys’ fees from two minors out of a settlement they, and only they, obtained. After remand from the Mississippi Supreme Court, the chancery court again heard arguments as to whether Castigliola and Kiyhet should be awarded attorneys’ fees from the two minors based on quantum meruit out of the settlement they obtained. The remand required that the chancery court make specific findings of fact. This time, without making any findings of fact and without any contradictory evidence being introduced, the chancery court reversed course and found that the factors for quantum meruit were not met. Because the chancery court failed to follow remand instructions by failing to make findings of fact, and, because no contradictory evidence was adduced suggesting the factors for quantum meruit were suddenly not met, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for a further determination of attorneys’ fees. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Dane Richard Eubanks, Deceased" on Justia Law

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A log truck driven by Royce Sullivan collided with the rear of an automobile being driven by Harry Schroeder, who had just pulled his car onto a highway in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Harry died as a result of the accident, and his wife, Helen (a passenger in her husband’s car) suffered severe injuries, permanent disability, and diminished capacity. Helen, individually, and as one of Harry’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, sued Sullivan in federal court, alleging that Sullivan’s negligence had caused Harry’s death and her permanent disability. Sullivan moved for summary judgment at the close of discovery, arguing that the uncontradicted evidence established Harry’s negligence as the sole cause of the accident. In denying summary judgment, the federal judge stated that the evidence created a jury question as to Sullivan’s fault, and that “plaintiffs do not appear to dispute Harry Schroeder’s potential contributory negligence.” The parties settled and agreed to a release of claims, and the district court dismissed the case. Following the settlement agreement, release, and subsequent dismissal of the action against Sullivan, Helen filed suit against Harry in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, alleging Harry negligently had failed to yield the right of way and pulled in front of Sullivan’s log truck at an extremely slow rate of speed, causing the accident which resulted in Helen’s permanent disability. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Harry and found that Helen was judicially estopped from bringing a claim against Harry. Helen appealed that order. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the basis of the release agreement between Helen and Sullivan because Harry was not a signatory to it. View "Clark v. Neese" on Justia Law

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In 2013, Tarinika Smith and twelve minor children (collectively Plaintiffs) were involved in an automobile accident with a vehicle driven by Adlai Johnson. Smith was operating a passenger van owned by Mount Vernon Missionary Baptist Church (Mt. Vernon), located in Rossville, Tennessee, which was transporting the children. The accident occurred in Marshall County, Mississippi. At the time of the collision, Smith was pregnant. Plaintiffs and Johnson were all Tennessee residents. The Marshall County Circuit Court entered an order dismissing Johnson from the suit for Plaintiffs’ failure to timely serve him. Church Mutual Insurance Company (“Church Mutual”), Mt. Vernon's insurer, moved to have the trial court declare that Tennessee substantive law controlled the case. After the trial court so declared, Church Mutual moved for summary judgment based on Tennessee law prohibiting direct actions against insurers for uninsured motorist (“UM”) claims. The trial court then entered summary judgment in favor of Church Mutual. Plaintiffs sought interlocutory review of all three rulings. The Mississippi Supreme Court found no error in the dismissal of Johnson for Plaintiffs’ failure to serve. Furthermore, the Supreme Court found no error with the trial court applying Tennessee law to determine whether the contract provided UM coverage to Plaintiffs. However, the Court determined the trial court erred in applying Tennessee substantive law. Therefore, the Court reversed those judgments of the Marshall County Circuit Court and remand for further proceedings. View "Smith v. Church Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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On June 19, 2013, George “Leith” Hawkins (Hawkins), suffered a stroke while working at Heck Yea Quarter Horses, LLC (Heck Yea). Hawkins was hired to wash a wooden fence. After lunch he complained of feeling ill, but declined having an ambulance called. Hawkins slowly drove himself home. Connie Hawkins found her husband in bed with the covers pulled over his head. When she went to his truck to retrieve some Tylenol, Hawkins had moved from the bed to the living room couch. He fell off the couch "shaking and jerking." Connie called emergency dispatch, but her husband died at the hospital having suffered a stroke. Connie sued Heck Yea and other defendants for wrongful death, alleging Hawkins had been left alone “to tend to the fence, at which time he, due to the extreme heat, passed out in the field.” The trial court granted summary judgment to Heck Yea, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Connie's petition for certiorari review to address whether the trial court and the Mississippi Court of Appeals erred in failing to take into account affidavits which created genuine issues of material fact with regard to the care Hawkins received at Heck Yea. Because the Supreme Court found summary judgment to have been proper, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals’ analysis on the matter to have been correct, it affirmed the lower courts' judgments in this case. View "Hawkins v. Heck Yea Quarter Horses, LLC" on Justia Law