Articles Posted in Mississippi Supreme Court

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Charles Blackmon and Dexter Booth sued Malaco, Inc.; N.J. Pockets, Inc.; and Callop Hampton (owner of Hamp’s Place Night Club) on a premises-liability claim. Plaintiffs settled with Malaco. At trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Hampton. Hampton filed a post-trial motion, requesting the trial court to impose sanctions against Blackmon, Booth, and their attorney for filing a frivolous lawsuit and to award attorney fees. The motion was denied, and Hampton appealed that judgment to the Supreme Court. Finding no abuse of discretion, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hampton v. Blackmon" on Justia Law

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James Forbes settled a personal-injury action while he was represented by Louis St. Martin. Forbes later sued St. Martin, challenging the validity of his contingency-fee arrangement and the associated attorneys’ fees. The Chancery Court granted summary judgment to St. Martin; the Court of Appeals reversed the chancery court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals’ judgment, finding that summary judgment in favor of St. Martin was proper. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Louis St. Martin, Deceased: Forbes v. Hixson" on Justia Law

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This case arose out of a fee dispute between associated attorneys arising out of mass-tort cases in Copiah County between 2005 and 2010. The first appeal arose out of a joint-venture agreement between Don Mitchell and the law firm of Sweet & Freeese, PLLC. The second appeal stemmed from an alleged oral referral agreement between McHugh Fuller Law Group, PLLC, and the members of the joint venture. The appellants in this consolidated appeal challenged the County Chancery Court’s denial of their motions to compel arbitration of claims brought against them by Mitchell and the McHugh Fuller Law Group, PLLC. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Freese v. Mitchell" on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, thirty-two plaintiffs who signed delayed-deposit check agreements with Zippy Check Advance agreed that Zippy Check could pursue judicial remedies against them to collect the debt, while any and all of their claims would be relegated to arbitration. The circuit courts found the arbitration agreements to be unconscionable and denied Zippy Check’s motions to compel arbitration. The Court of Appeals affirmed as to one version of the agreement and reversed as to the other. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that both versions of the arbitration agreement were so one-sided that they were substantively unconscionable and unenforceable. The Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals and affirmed the judgments of the Circuit Court of Clarke County and the Circuit Court of Newton County. View "Caplin Enterprises, Inc. v. Arrington" on Justia Law

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Machon Lyons suffered severe injuries as the result of an automobile accident. The accident occurred when a vehicle operated by Roderick Holliday left the road and collided with a tree. As a result, Lyons obtained a default judgment of $72,500 against Holliday. Holliday's mother, Daisy Lang, insured the vehicle through Direct General Insurance Company of Mississippi. Lang's policy included a provision specifically excluding Holliday from any coverage under the policy. Accordingly, Direct denied coverage for the judgment. Lyons sought a declaratory judgment, asking the Circuit Court to hold that Lang's policy covered the judgment against Holliday. Lyons acknowledged the policy exclusion, but argued that Lang's policy covered the judgment against Holliday because Mississippi law required minimum-liability coverage for all permissive drivers, and because Lang's insurance card failed to mention any permissive-driver exclusions. The circuit court granted summary judgment in favor of Direct, finding that the policy clearly and specifically excluded coverage of Holliday. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that 63-15-4(2)(a) required liability insurance for all vehicles operated in Mississippi and that Mississippi Code Section 63-15-43 required that the liability insurance policy "pay on behalf of the named insured and any other person, as insured, using any such motor vehicle or motor vehicles with the express or implied permission of such named insured." Although the Court of Appeals reached the right result, it cited as its authority the incorrect statute, so the Supreme Court granted certiorari. The Court concluded the policy exclusion violated Mississippi law: even though Holliday was an excluded driver under the Direct General policy issued to Daisy Lang, the exclusion did not operate to eliminate liability coverage in the minimum amounts required by statute. The trial court's grant of summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Lyons v. Direct General Insurance Company of Mississippi " on Justia Law

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In 2007, Plaintiff Chris Snopek proposed working on the concept of a multi-use sports complex to be built on land in Madison. The parties collaborated over the designs and plans for the complex, and entered into a letter of intent. The letter of intent expired, but Snopek alleged that the parties continued to move forward with the project. Years later, Snopek contacted D1 TN, a Tennessee company, with regard to working on the project. Snopek introduced D1 TN to St. Dominic. In late 2011, D1 TN published its collaboration with D1 TN in the building of the facility in Madison, with no mention of Snopek (or his companies, Joshua Properties, LLC and Performance Sports Academy, LLC). Snopek filed suit against St. Dominic, D1 TN, alleging breach of fiduciary duties, misappropriation of trade secrets, tortious interference with prospective advantage, unfair competition, civil conspiracy and usurpation of business opportunity. On interlocutory appeal to the Supreme Court, Snopek argued the trial court erred in dismissing D1 TN for lack of personal jurisdiction. Finding that personal jurisdiction existed over D1 TN, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order. View "Joshua Properties, LLC v. D1 Sports Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dr. Adolfo P. Morales sued Jackson HMA, LLC., d/b/a Central Mississippi Medical Center (Jackson HMA) for breach of contract. A jury awarded Morales substantial damages. Jackson HMA filed a "Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, and, in the alternative, For a New Trial" and a "Motion for Amendment of Judgment." The Circuit Court denied the post-trial motions and Jackson HMA filed this appeal. In 2004, a recruiter for Jacksom HMA sent Morales a "letter of intent" outlining Jackson HMA's proposed offer. The letter twice stated that the proposed offer required "preapproval" by "Corporate" (HMA). Although not requested or provided for, Morales signed and returned the letter. On it he wrote "I agree to all and accept the terms of your offer." At trial, Morales acknowledged that this letter was not a contract, as it "no doubt" required preapproval from the corporate office. Subsequently, Jackson HMA sought approval from corporate HMA, but corporate did not approve the terms. Jackson HMA's CEO impressed upon corporate the need for an ophthalmologist and suggested new terms to corporate which reduced the guaranteed amount and period by half. The CEO received approval of these reduced terms from an HMA vice-president for the eastern part of the United States. Thereafter, the recruiter sent Morales a second letter detailing the new "terms of our offer" which reflected the reduced guarantees approved by corporate HMA. The letter lacked the phrase "letter of intent" and also made no reference to a requirement of corporate approval of the terms. The letter included the language, "[b]y signing and returning this letter, you will confirm your commitment to entering into a contractual agreement . . . . Accordingly we will begin the process of assimilating contract documents for your review." Morales signed the document, but approval never arrived. In early March 2005, the recruiter informed Morales that the contract had not been approved. In late 2005, Morales filed suit alleging that Jackson HMA had breached its contract with him. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Morales. Jackson HMA appealed. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that Morales presented sufficient evidence for the jury to find that a contract existed. However, Morales presented insufficient evidence to support the jury's damages award. The Court affirmed the judgment for Dr. Morales, but reversed on the issue of damages and remanded this case to the Circuit Court for a new trial solely on damages. View "Jackson HMA, LLC v. Morales" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Supreme Court in this case arose from an alleged breach of contract and bad-faith denial of Dr. Jack and Margaret Hoover’s homeowner’s insurance claim against United Services Automobile Association (USAA) following Hurricane Katrina. The trial judge granted USAA’s motion for directed verdict as to the Hoovers’ claims for: (1) the unpaid portion of losses; (2) mental anguish and emotional distress; and (3) punitive damages. The trial court further determined that there were issues of fact for the jury as to whether the Hoovers’ roof structure was damaged, and as to the Hoovers’ claim for additional living expenses. The jury found for the Hoovers and granted compensatory damages. The Hoovers appealed and USAA cross-appealed. After its review of the record, the Supreme Court found that trial court applied an incorrect legal standard and improperly shifted a burden of proof to the Hoovers. Therefore the Court reversed the directed verdict as to the unpaid damages, and remanded the case for a jury to determine whether USAA proved by a preponderance of the evidence that the unpaid loss was caused by an excluded storm surge. The trial court did not err, however, in directing a verdict for USAA as to the Hoovers’ claims for mental anguish, emotional distress, and punitive damages. View "Hoover v. United Services Automobile Association" on Justia Law

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Sweet Valley Missionary Baptist Church filed a complaint against its insurance carrier, Alfa Insurance Corporation. Based on Sweet Valley’s failure to cooperate in discovery, the trial court entered an order of dismissal. Sweet Valley then filed a motion to set aside judgment, or, in the alternative, a motion for new trial. The trial court denied the motion, and, in response, Sweet Valley filed a second complaint against Alfa the same day. The trial court dismissed the second claim based on the expiration of the statute of limitations. Sweet Valley appealed. On rehearing, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded for further proceedings. Alfa filed a petition for writ of certiorari, and the Supreme Court granted it. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that a motion filed pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) tolls the applicable statute of limitations, and it reversed the decision of the trial court. View "Sweet Valley Missionary Baptist Church v. Alfa Insurance Corporation" on Justia Law

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John Stubbs, Jr., d/b/a Mississippi Polysteel Stubbs was awarded damages for breach of contract after he sued Martin and Valerie Falkner to enforce a construction lien on their home. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s judgment, but reversed its award of attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest, finding that Stubbs’s recovery was based in quantum meruit and thus, attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest were unavailable remedies. Stubbs petitioned for certiorari, arguing that the Court of Appeals failed to consider various statutory grounds for an award of attorney’s fees and prejudgment interest and requested that the Supreme Court reinstate the circuit court’s award. Upon review, the Court found the statutes Stubbs raised were an insufficient basis for an award of either prejudgment interest or attorney’s fees in this case and affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision. View "Falkner v. Stubbs, Jr." on Justia Law