Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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Richard Howarth, Jr. died in an airplane crash in 2012. Howarth was piloting the plane, which was the property of M&H Ventures, LLC. Howarth was also the sole member of the M&H. In 2013, Howarth’s widow, Cyndy, as executrix of Howarth’s estate, wrongful death beneficiary of Howarth, and next friend of minor daughter Cynthia Howarth, along with adult daughter Juliet Howarth McDonald (the wrongful death beneficiaries), filed suit against the LLC, alleging that Howarth’s death had been caused by the negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness of M&H Ventures and others. M&H Ventures filed a motion to dismiss, and, subsequently, a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the wrongful death beneficiaries could not recover because the success of their claims depended on proving that Howarth’s own negligence had caused his death. In response, the wrongful death beneficiaries argued that, because M&H Ventures, as an LLC, owned the aircraft and all of Howarth’s negligent actions had been performed as a member of this LLC, they could recover from M&H Ventures for Howarth’s negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of M&H Ventures. Because the comparative negligence statute prevented a plaintiff from recovering for negligence attributable to the injured person, and Howarth’s wrongful death beneficiaries were seeking recovery for Howarth’s own negligence, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Howarth v. M & H Ventures, LLC" on Justia Law

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This products liability lawsuit centered on Risperdal. Louise Taylor began suffering psychotic episodes when she was seventy-one years old, in early 1998. From March 1998 to January 2001, Psychiatrist Richard Rhoden prescribed Risperdal to Taylor for the treatment of her recurrent psychotic manifestations. In February 2001, Taylor developed tardive dyskinesia, a syndrome of potentially irreversible, involuntary, dyskinetic movements in patients treated with antipsychotic drugs. In 2002, Taylor filed a complaint against Ortho-McNeil Janssen Pharmaceuticals, the manufacturer, seller, and distributer of Risperdal, and its parent company Johnson & Johnson (collectively “Janssen”), claiming that Risperdal caused her to develop tardive dyskinesia. Taylor also named her treating physician, Dr. Richard Rhoden, as a defendant in her complaint. Taylor settled her claims against Dr. Rhoden prior to trial. The case went to trial oin 2014. The jury, in a nine to three decision, found that Taylor was harmed by Risperdal due to: (1) Janssen’s “failure to provide adequate warnings/instructions” and (2) Janssen’s “negligent marketing/misrepresentation.” The jury awarded Taylor $650,000 in actual economic damages and $1.3 million in noneconomic damages, for a total damages award of $1,950,000. On review, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that, as a matter of law, the Risperdal in question contained an adequate warning; the Court reversed and rendered the statutory inadequate warning judgment. Furthermore, the Court held that various errors in the jury instructions required reversal of the plaintiff’s verdict that sounded in negligent misrepresentation, and the Court reversed and remanded the negligent misrepresentation claim. View "Johnson & Johnson, Inc. v. Fortenberry" on Justia Law

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Paula Hathorn appealed a circuit court judgment granting summary judgment in favor of the Louisville Utilities Commission (Commission). Hathorn sued the Commission along with the City of Louisville and the O’Reilly Auto Parts store for injuries she claimed resulted from a fall that occurred after she stepped into a sunken utility box set into a sidewalk in front of O’Reilly’s Auto Parts. Hathorn dismissed O’Reilly Auto Parts and the City from the suit after entering into a settlement agreement with each separately. The Commission thereafter moved for summary judgment, which was granted based on the court’s findings that: (1) the Commission was a subsidiary of the City, and according to the settlement agreement, Hathorn had released all claims against the City and its subsidiaries; (2) the Commission was immune from liability in this instance under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) because it did not have a ministerial duty to maintain the water meter at a level even with the ground; and (3) Hathorn could not maintain a premises liability claim against the Commission because the City owned the Commission’s assets including its water meter boxes. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that Hathorn released her claim against the Commission when she entered into a settlement agreement with the City. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the Commission. This issue being dispositive, the Court limited its decision in this case to that assignment of error. View "Hathorn v. Louisville Utilities Commission" on Justia Law

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In an effort to increase chances of conception, Lacy Dodd underwent surgery to remove ovarian cysts and, potentially, one fallopian tube. During the surgery, Lacy’s physician, Dr. Randall Hines, discovered that both of Lacy’s ovaries appeared abnormal to the extent that they seemed cancerous. Dr. Hines consulted, intraoperatively, with his colleague, Dr. Paul Seago. Dr. Seago concluded that both ovaries lacked any appreciable amount of normal tissue and were highly suspicious for malignancy; he recommended that it was in Lacy’s best interest to remove both ovaries. Dr. Hines agreed and removed both ovaries. A biopsy later revealed that Lacy’s ovaries were not cancerous. Lacy and her husband, Charles Dodd, filed a pro se complaint against Dr. Hines, Dr. Seago, and Mississippi Reproductive Medicine, PLLC, claiming that her ovaries were removed without consent. Lacy also alleged defendants were negligent in failing to obtain informed consent from the patient and/or her family to proceed with the procedure, failing to test tissues and analyze the results; and misdiagnosing Lacy’s condition as malignant. The trial court found that Lacy had consented to the removal of her ovaries based on a consent form executed by Lacy prior to the surgery and granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants. Despite the sole issue of consent before the trial court, it entered a final judgment with respect to all of Lacy’s claims alleged in her complaint. On appeal, the Court of Appeals determined that Lacy’s claim was “battery-based” and held that Lacy did not give express consent for the removal of her ovaries and the consent form did not summarily provide consent to remove her ovaries. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the result reached by the Court of Appeals, holding that there is a genuine issue of material fact precluding summary judgment as to whether Lacy consented to the removal of her ovaries in accordance with the Court’s decisions in Cole v. Wiggins, 487 So. 2d 203 (Miss. 1986), and Fox v. Smith, 594 So. 2d 596 (Miss. 1992). The trial court’s judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings for reasons different than those of the Court of Appeals. View "Dodd v. Hines" on Justia Law

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Shelia Regan filed her first medical-malpractice claim against South Central Regional Medical Center in 2005. Three lawsuits, two appeals, and more than ten years later, there was no trial. Her present lawsuit was reinstated in 2010. But since then, it languished for more than five years. During this time, Regan took only one deposition. Based on her inactivity, the trial judge granted South Central’s motion to dismiss her case without prejudice for failure to prosecute, finding lesser sanctions insufficient. Finding no error, this Court affirms the trial court’s dismissal without prejudice. Regan appealed, arguing: (1) the trial court failed to consider her lawyer’s communications with defense counsel; (2) the trial judge did not consider lesser sanctions; and (3) dismissal without prejudice here is tantamount to a dismissal with prejudice. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Regan v. South Central Regional Medical Center" on Justia Law

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Jimmy Kinard died in 2012. In 2014, Teresa Hamlet, Kinard’s sister, filed suit against Graceland Care Center of New Albany, LLC; Advanced Healthcare Management, Inc.; Karen Clayton, in her official capacity as administrator of Graceland Care Center of New Albany; W. Larry Overstreet; Sharon Windham; and John Does 1-10, jointly and individually (collectively referred to as “Graceland”). Hamlet alleged that Graceland’s negligence was the proximate cause of Kinard’s death. Hamlet filed a motion for an extension of time to serve process, prior to the expiration of a 120-day deadline provided by Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h). The trial judge granted the motion and signed an order, yet the order was not filed with the circuit clerk until the day before the granted extension expired, well after the expiration of the original, 120-day deadline. Hamlet served process on three defendants during the extension. On the same day the order was filed, Hamlet filed a second motion for time, which the trial court also granted. While Hamlet served process on the remaining defendants within the second extension period, the order granting the second extension was not filed with the clerk until three months after it was signed by the judge. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss Hamlet’s complaint, arguing that the statute of limitations had run before the court’s order granting additional time to serve process had been entered by the clerk of court. The defendants further argued that Hamlet’s suit could not be revived by the untimely filed order. The trial court denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Because Hamlet was the only party to the action, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial judge’s order granting her motion for extension of time to serve process became effective once the order had been signed and had left the trial judge’s control. Accordingly, it affirmed the trial court. However, in cases where more than one party is involved, notice becomes essential. Therefore, in cases involving multiple parties, the Court adopted the holding of the majority of states that required the entry of an interlocutory order before it becomes effective. View "Graceland Care Center of New Albany, LLC v. Hamlet" on Justia Law

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A patron of the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton, Mississippi, slipped, fell, and suffered injuries when stepping into the Healthplex therapy pool. He sued, alleging, inter alia, that the Healthplex had failed to maintain its premises in a reasonably safe condition. The Circuit Court granted summary judgment to Baptist, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed. Finding that genuine issues of material fact exist, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Vivians v. Baptist HealthPlex" on Justia Law

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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