Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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The Chancery Court set aside an interviews gift of about forty acres of land fronting Highway 6 near Oxford, Mississippi. Ninety-year-old grantor Mary Saunders Waller, hard of hearing and legally blind, allegedly granted the land to Waller’s daughter and son-in-law, Brenda and Craig Gordon. A conservator for Waller’s estate petitioned the probate court to set aside the deed to the Gordons. The chancellor found the Gordons were unable to rebut the presumption of undue influence. On appeal, the Gordons contended the Chancery Court erred in excluding certain testimony of Waller’s attorney and her physicians. The Mississippi Supreme Court found, however, the Gordons failed to make an offer of proof: since the Supreme Court would have no way of knowing what the physicians would have said had they testified, the Court could not conclude excluding their testimony was an error. The Court determined the Chancery Court did not abuse its discretion denying the Gordons’ motion for a new trial “based on arguments that could have, and should have, been raised at trial.” View "In The Matter of The Last Will & Testament of Mary Saunders Waller" on Justia Law

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Larry Seward worked for Illinois Central Railroad Company from 1961 to 2004. In 2005, Seward settled an asbestosis claim with Illinois Central. He subsequently developed and passed away from anaplastic oligodendroglioma, a type of brain cancer. In 2012, Andrew L. Ward sued Illinois Central on behalf of Seward. Ward alleged that Illinois Central breached its duty of care and failed to provide Seward with a safe place to work. The complaint detailed specific issues with the work environment, including Seward’s exposure to chemicals and hazardous conditions. The complaint alleged that the working environment “caused, in whole or in part,” Seward’s brain cancer. Illinois Central filed a motion for summary judgment based on a previous settlement and release that Seward had entered into with Illinois Central before his death. The trial court granted Illinois Central’s motion for summary judgment. Ward appealed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined there were no remaining issues of material fact, therefore, affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Ward v. Illinois Central Railroad Company" on Justia Law

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Marquan Stover moved to contest the second codicil to his great aunt Tamora Robinson’s last will and testament, alleging that the second codicil was the product of undue influence by Robinson’s sister Elaine Davis. After a hearing, the Chancery Court found no undue influence and dismissed Stover’s motion to contest. Stover appealed, arguing that the chancellor had erred by not requiring Davis to rebut the presumption of undue influence and that the decision was not supported by substantial, credible evidence. The Court of Appeals issued a plurality decision, affirming the ruling of the chancellor. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Stover’s petition for a writ of certiorari, and held that the court must find by clear and convincing evidence that a presumption of undue influence, which arises when a confidential relationship is coupled with suspicious circumstances, is rebutted. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the decisions of the Court of Appeals and of the chancery court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Stover v. Davis" on Justia Law

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Claire Clements Flowers (Claire) and Brenda Jane Flowers Paixao (Jane) appealed a chancery court judgment denying their request for an accounting of the estate and testamentary trust of their mother, Brenda Bargas Flowers. The chancery court concluded that the daughters did not have a current interest in their mother’s estate. On appeal, the daughters argued that they were specifically named in the will to be remainder beneficiaries and thus have standing to request an accounting. The Court of Appeals found that Claire and Jane had standing to request an accounting from limited rights as holders of a shifting executory interest to prevent future waste. The estate petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, claiming that the daughters’ appeal was untimely and that the Court of Appeals misapplied caselaw related to shifting executory interests and standing to request an accounting. The Court granted certiorari not to determine whether the sisters have standing (because it agreed that they did), but to determine whether the chancellor abused his discretion in denying the sisters’ accounting request. The Court found no manifest error in the chancery court’s decision to deny Claire and Jane’s request for an accounting, and reversed that portion of Court of Appeals’ judgment. The Court reinstated the chancery court’s decision denying Claire and Jane’s request for an accounting. View "In the Matter of the Estate of Brenda Louise Bargas Flowers" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose after Matthew DeForest petitioned for a Determination of Heirs-At-Law and Wrongful Death Beneficiaries following the death of his natural father, Jeff Underhill. Joe Alexander, Underhill’s brother, filed a responsive pleading to DeForest’s petition raising numerous affirmative defenses; however, the Chancery Court held in favor of DeForest. The Chancery Court entered a judgment declaring DeForest to be sole heir at law for the purpose of the pending wrongful death action. Finding no reversible error in the Chancery Court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Alexander v. DeForest" on Justia Law

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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

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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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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

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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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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