Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

by
The issue this case presented for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review centered on whether Appellant Marilyn Newsome's claims could survive summary judgment against Appellees, People’s Bank and Chris Dunn. The claims addressed the issuance of cashier’s checks by People’s Bank and Chris Dunn without Newsome's signature or approval, the conservatorship account holder. Victoria Newsome had settled a medical malpractice case, but she was unable to manage her affairs. The trial court appointed Newsome, Victoria's mother, as conservator. A trial court denied a request to purchase a home for Victoria, and instead, ordered that a house be built for her. In the interim, the trial court ordered a mobile home to be purchased. With the help of Dunn, a Bank employee, Newsome opened a checking account for the conservatorship with the Bank. When Newsome opened the conservatorship account, she signed a Deposit Agreement as the sole authorized signor on the account. Newsome testified that she did not have any discussions with the Bank about who would be authorized to sign on the account. The Deposit Agreement also provided that Newsome had thirty days to review her statements for errors or unauthorized activity. The estate attorneys prepared court orders for release of funds to pay for construction of the house; the trial court would in turn approve the orders, and the attorney would deliver the orders to the Bank for release of funds. The Orders did not provide any guidance, particularly whether cashier's checks could be issued to disburse the money. Despite frequent visits to the bank herself, Newsome allegedly never sought monthly accounting of the conservator account. Newsome filed suit, alleging the Bank and Dunn were liable for failing to require Newsome's signature on any checks negotiated on the conservatorship account. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Newsome's case could indeed survive summary judgment, reversed the trial court in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Newsome v. Peoples Bancshares" on Justia Law

by
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

by
Brian Cole was killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2001. Brian Cole’s Estate had a court-approved contingency fee contract with Eugene Tullos, and only Eugene Tullos, to represent the Estate in wrongful death litigation. The Ferrell Group claimed this contract rendered it an interested party entitled to notice of the Estate’s final accounting under Mississippi Code Section 91-7-295. The trial court found that the Ferrell Group was not an interested party pursuant to the notice statute. Because the Ferrell Group did not probate a claim or have a contract with the Estate, or otherwise show a direct pecuniary interest in the Estate, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Brian K. Cole, Deceased" on Justia Law

by
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

by
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

by
This interlocutory appeal arose from a 2010 civil suit filed by Carol Clement against Russell Puckett. After Puckett’s death in 2014, Clement substituted the Estate of Russell Puckett (the “Estate”) as the defendant in the suit and served the Estate. The Estate moved to dismiss the suit due to failure to timely serve process under Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 4(h). The Estate argued that the statute of limitations had expired before Clement perfected service. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss. The Estate appealed the trial court’s denial of the motion to dismiss. Because the trial court erred when it denied the motion to dismiss, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment in favor of the Estate. View "Estate of Russell Puckett v. Clement" on Justia Law

by
The central issue at issue in this case involved a dispute between a mother and son, Carolyn Ware (“Carolyn”) and Richard Ware (“Richard”), regarding the distribution of shares of stock of three closely held corporations. The shares were being held by the estate of the deceased husband/father, Frankie Don Ware (“Frankie”). Frankie’s will directed that the shares be distributed to a testamentary trust. The bylaws of the corporations (in which Frankie, Carolyn, and Richard were the sole shareholders) required any outstanding shares of stock be offered to the corporations prior to any transfer. Carolyn, the executrix, filed a petition to close Frankie’s estate and to distribute Frankie’s assets (including the shares) to the trust. Richard filed an objection to the closing of the estate, asserting the corporate bylaws of the three corporations. Carolyn responded, arguing that Richard lacked standing to object. The chancellor found for Richard and required Carolyn to offer the shares back to each corporation prior to transferring the shares to the trust. Carolyn subsequently appealed. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Richard lacked standing to object to the closing of Frankie’s estate because the injury for which he sought relief pertained to the corporations only. Therefore, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Matter of the Estate of Frankie Don Ware" on Justia Law

by
This appeal stemmed from a Chancery Court judgment setting aside inter vivos gifts made by Sheila West. Acting through a durable power of attorney granted by her mother, Dorothy Johnson, Sheila West removed her brother’s, niece’s, and nephew’s names from certificates of deposit originally created by Dorothy Johnson, and replaced them with her own name and the names of her two daughters. Sheila’s brother, Ron Johnson, petitioned the chancery court to set aside these amendments as an improper transfer of an inter vivos gift. Following a trial on the matter, the chancellor found that Sheila did not overcome a presumption of undue influence in making what amounted to inter vivos gifts and thereby reverted ownership of the CDs to their original form. THe Mississippi Supreme Court found that because Dorothy Johnson retained an ownership interest in all of the CDs at issue, neither the original conveyance nor Sheila’s subsequent transfers could be considered inter vivos gifts. Therefore, the chancellor erred in his analysis of the issue. Also at issue in this matter was whether Sheila West engaged in self-dealing under the durable power of attorney granted to her by Dorothy Johnson. Finding that Sheila failed to overcome the burden of undue influence created by the confidential relationship between herself and Dorothy, the Supreme Court affirmed the chancellor’s decision to revert the CDs to their status prior to Sheila’s 2010 amendments. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Dorothy Johnson" on Justia Law

by
This appeal stemmed from a January 2016 order by the Lincoln County Chancery Court adjudicating minor Kevin Moore the heir of Travis Lynn Weems, who died in an automobile accident in July 2014. Dauwanna Mitchell, Weems’s mother, appealed that judgment, claiming it was invalid because Weems was never adjudicated to be Moore’s natural father due to a paternity action filed in 2007 that was dismissed and, as Mitchell claimed, never reinstated. Mitchell also claimed a final judgment entered in February 2011 terminating Weems’s parental rights was improperly revised by the chancery court in October 2015 under Rule 60 of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure. Consolidated with this appeal was another appeal by Mitchell concerning the chancery court’s 2014 judgment granting letters of administration based on an administrative-letters petition filed by the Chancery Clerk of Lincoln County. Both appealed raised the same claims of error: that the chancery court’s order adjudicating heirship was invalid because paternity never was adjudicated, and the chancery court erred in revising the February 2011 termination judgment. Finding no merit in Mitchell’s assignments of error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the chancery court’s judgment adjudicating Kevin Moore the heir of Travis Weems. View "Mitchell v. Moore" on Justia Law

by
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