Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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Former construction worker, Robert Lee Rankin Sr., sued American Optical Corporation (AO) alleging an injury of “lung disease and silica related conditions caused by exposure to respirable crystalline silica” while using defective respirators manufactured by AO. A jury returned a total verdict of $14 million in favor of Rankin. AO filed a motion to amend the judgment and a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV) or, alternatively, for a new trial. The trial court granted AO’s motion to amend the judgment in part and amended the noneconomic damages award from $1.8 million to $1 million to comply with the statutory cap on noneconomic damages. However, the trial court denied AO’s motion for a JNOV or, alternatively, for a new trial. AO argued the trial court erred by failing to grant its motion for a directed verdict because Rankin’s claims were barred by the three-year statute of limitations. AO contended Rankin’s claims accrued when he was diagnosed with COPD in November 2007 or, at the latest, in January 2010 when his x-ray revealed “pulmonary fibrotic pathology.” The special verdict form posed the question, “Do you find by a preponderance of the evidence that [Rankin] knew or should have known before May 13, 2010, that he had the lung injury alleged in this lawsuit?” To this, the jury answered “No.” Rankin argued that “under the unique facts of this case, [he] invoked his right to file suit even though he had not yet received a full diagnosis - only a strong suspicion he was exhibiting signs of silicosis.” The Mississippi Supreme Court found that reasonable minds could not have differed in answering the question on the special verdict form: it was undisputed that Rankin was aware of and sought treatment for lung disease, COPD, in 2007. Rankin’s experts opined that Rankin’s myriad of remaining medical conditions, of which he was aware and for which he sought treatment before May 13, 2010, were related “in part” or “exacerbated” by silica exposure. Accordingly, the Court held the trial court erred by failing to grant AO’s motion for a directed verdict because Rankin’s claims were time barred. View "American Optical Corp. v. Estate of Robert Rankin, Sr." on Justia Law

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Karla Bailey, former court administrator to Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey A. Weill Sr., filed a complaint against Judge Weill in his individual capacity, alleging that he had committed libel against her. Bailey’s complaint was based on language in a footnote contained in four orders entered by Judge Weill in separate criminal cases that were before him. The alleged libel in the orders provided that Bailey had been reprimanded by Judge Weill for engaging in improper ex parte communications while she was his court administrator and she had added a certain public defender as counsel of record in her current position as deputy clerk. Judge Weill filed a motion to dismiss Bailey’s complaint and amended complaint, raising several grounds for dismissal, including judicial immunity. The trial court denied the motion and ordered the parties to commence discovery. Judge Weill filed a petition for interlocutory appeal. After review, the Supreme Court held the trial court erred by failing to correctly apply the doctrine of judicial immunity to Bailey’s claim that Judge Weill libeled her via the underlying orders. Accordingly, the trial court’s order was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Weill v. Bailey" on Justia Law

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Cynthia Kuljis appealed the chancery court’s dismissal of her Bill of Discovery for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Bill sought discovery related to a prospective premises liability and personal-injury claim. Finding the actions of the chancery court were correct as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ judgment and the chancery court’s dismissal of this case. View "Kuljis v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC" on Justia Law

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Herman Grant Company (“Herman Grant”) filed an interlocutory appeal, asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to determine if the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Jasper County abused its discretion by denying its motion to transfer venue to the Second Judicial District of Jones County. The Court found venue was proper in the Second Judicial District of Jones County, where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred. Because the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to transfer venue, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Herman Grant Co., Inc. v. Washington" on Justia Law

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The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court’s review centered on the interplay between the wrongful-death statute and the minors savings clause. In 1999, the Court held “[t]here is no question now that the savings clause, set out in [Section] 15-1-59 of the Mississippi Code, applies to a wrongful death action” brought under Section 11-7-13 of the Mississippi Code. Three years later, the Court found reason not to apply the minors savings clause to the wrongful-death action filed in “Curry v. Turner,” (832 So. 2d 508 (Miss. 2002)). Instead, the Court found the two statutes to be “at irreconcilable odds with one another where there exists a person qualified under the wrongful death statute to bring suit.” In the present wrongful-death lawsuit, the defendants relied on “Curry” to claim the action was time-barred. They argued the minor savings clause did not apply because the minor beneficiaries had a maternal aunt who “qualified under the statute to bring suit.” Notwithstanding that, the Supreme Court found a material distinction between “Curry” and this case: in “Curry,” not only was the minor beneficiaries’ mother qualified to bring suit, but she also in fact filed a wrongful-death action. Thus, under Section 11-7-13’s “one-suit” requirement, the Supreme Court found the minor beneficiaries could not rely on the application of the minor savings clause to file what essentially would be a second wrongful-death action. But here, by contrast, the minor beneficiaries’ aunt never filed a wrongful-death action, though Section 11-7-13 authorized her to do so as the deceased’s sister. Instead, the first and only suit filed was by the deceased’s children. In this case, the Court held that only when someone who is qualified to bring a wrongful-death suit actually files a wrongful-death suit on the minor beneficiaries’ behalf will the minor savings clause not apply, because, once the suit is filed, the running of the statute of limitations is immaterial. The minor savings statute clearly applied in this case; the deceased’s oldest child had two years from when she reached the age of majority to file a wrongful-death suit based on medical negligence. Because she timely filed within this two-year period, the Supreme Court affirmed the denial of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Pioneer Community Hospital of Newton v. Roberts" on Justia Law

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Beth Rylee’s husband, Richard Rylee, was injured in a motorcycle accident. After the Rylees received the full "each person" policy limit for damages resulting from Richard’s bodily injury, the Rylees sued their two insurers. They claimed Beth was entitled to her own each-person policy limit for her "separate and distinct" loss-of-consortium claim. But both the language of the relevant policies and the Mississippi Supreme Court’s precedent were clear: if there was only one person who suffered bodily injury in an accident, then all claims based on that person’s bodily injury are included in the each-person policy limit. Only Richard was injured in the accident, so Beth's loss-of-consortium claim fell under the each-person policy limit for damages arising from Richard’s bodily injury, which the two defendant insurance companies already satisfied. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary judgment to the two insurers. View "Rylee v. Progressive Gulf Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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After Enrique Myles’s death, his mother, Vivian Myles. filed this wrongful-death suit. Later, the parties became aware Enrique was survived by a minor child, LJW. Rather than dismissing the case for lack of standing, as requested by the defendant, the circuit judge allowed LJW to be substituted as the plaintiff. This interlocutory appeal of that decision followed, raising two related questions: (1) when a decedent is survived by his child, does the decedent’s mother have standing to file a wrongful-death action; and (2) if not, must the circuit judge dismiss the complaint, or may the circuit judge remedy the lack of standing by substituting the child as plaintiff? The Supreme Court found that Mississippi’s wrongful-death statute specifically granted the decedent’s mother standing to file the wrongful-death suit, even where a surviving child exists. As such, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "TRK, LLC v. Myles" on Justia Law

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In 1989, Marcus Moore slipped and fell in a grocery store owned by the defendant, Roberts Company, Inc. (“RCI”). Moore was three years old at the time, and he allegedly struck his head when he fell. After he reached the age of majority, Moore filed suit against RCI, claiming that RCI was negligent in allowing the floor to be slick. Moore also alleged that the fall had caused “marked and significant traumatic and permanent injuries to his brain,” leaving him with “permanent and profound deficits” in several areas. The jury returned a verdict in the defendant’s favor, and the trial court entered judgment in accordance with that verdict. Moore filed a post-trial motion arguing, among other things, that one of the jurors was a convicted felon and therefore, statutorily disqualified. The trial judge agreed and granted Moore a new trial. The Supreme Court granted the defendant’s petition for an interlocutory appeal, and reversed the trial court’s order granting a new trial. View "Roberts Company, Inc. v. Moore" on Justia Law

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This case was an interlocutory appeal of the Lincoln County Circuit court’s Order Denying the Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment. Although the plaintiff’s overarching claim was framed in negligence, it factually sounded in intentional tort and was subsequently barred by the one-year statute of limitations under Mississippi Code Section 15-1-49. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s Order Denying Summary Judgement and rendered a verdict in favor of the Defendant. View "Sanderson Farms, Inc. v. McCullough" on Justia Law

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Quindon Thomas, an employee of a contractor at Chevron’s petroleum refinery plant in Pascagoula, was injured on the job. Thomas accepted workers’ compensation benefits provided by Chevron for his injuries. Thomas then sued Chevron and one of its employees for the same injuries. Chevron asserted the exclusive-remedy defense under the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Act and the circuit court granted summary judgment to Chevron. Thomas appealed, arguing the trial court erred in granting summary judgment. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that Chevron was not a statutory employer of Thomas and therefore was not immune from tort liability. Accordingly, the Court reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Chevron, reversed the trial court’s denial of Thomas’s cross-motion for summary judgment, and remanded for a trial on the merits. View "Thomas v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc." on Justia Law