Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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Sonya Chaffee, on behalf of her minor child, Fredrick Latham, Jr., sued the Jackson Public School District; Lonnie J. Edwards, the School District superintendent in his official capacity; and Jackson Public Schools Board of Trustees (collectively, “the School District”) alleging negligence and res ipsa loquitur. Fredrick was a student in Tracy Scott’s first grade class at Woodville Heights Elementary School. While Scott was standing at the front of the classroom readying the students for lunch, Fredrick and another boy got out of line and ran to the back of the classroom to use the single restroom. Bernice Anderson, Scott’s teaching assistant, was present at her desk in the back of the classroom nearer the restroom. Fredrick was injured when his hand slipped off the door and his finger got caught in the crack of the door as the other boy was closing it. After hearing a student scream that Fredrick had smashed his finger, Scott went to the back of the classroom, wrapped Fredrick’s finger in papers towels, and took him to the principal’s office. Fredrick’s mother was called, and he was taken by ambulance to the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Surgery was performed to reattach Fredrick’s fingertip using a skin graft. The School District defended on sovereign immunity grounds pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). After engaging in discovery, the School District moved for summary judgment which was granted. Aggrieved, Chaffee appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Chaffee v. Jackson Public School District" on Justia Law

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The Adams County, Mississippi Board of Supervisors (Board) designated Mount Airy Plantation Road as a public road, placing it on the official county road register in 2000. John Seyfarth petitioned the Board to abandon the portion of the road that dead ended into his property. He alleged that people were using the road to reach his property and trespass on it. The Board declined to abandon the road, denied Seyfarth’s request for damages, and did not address his requests that the Board take action to abate the nuisances he experienced. Seyfarth appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the Board’s decisions not to abandon the road and not to award damages. But the circuit court ordered the Board to reasonably abate any nuisances to Seyfarth. Seyfarth appealed the circuit court’s ruling to affirm the Board’s decision not to abandon the road and not to award damages, and the Board cross-appealed the order that it abate any nuisances. Because Seyfarth had no remedy on the record before the Mississippi Supreme Court, it affirmed the circuit court’s judgment affirming the Board’s decisions declining to abandon the road and declining to award damages. But because, on this record, the Board had no legal authority to abate any nuisance in the manners suggested, the Supreme Court reversed and rendered the circuit court’s order mandating that the Board abate any nuisance. View "Seyfarth v. Adams County Board of Supervisors" on Justia Law

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Genesis Hospice LLC provided outpatient hospice care to Medicaid beneficiaries in the Mississippi Delta. Claims Genesis submitted outside the norm, prompting a Mississippi Division of Medicaid audit. A statistical sample of 75 of the 808 billed claims were reviewed, and of that 75, 68 claims were not substantiated by the patients’ records and thus not eligible for payment. The auditing physicians specifically found that the patient records for the 68 rejected claims lacked sufficient documentation to support the given terminal-illness diagnosis and/or lacked documentation of disease progression. Medicaid’s statistician extrapolated that 68 of 75 unsupported claims represented a total overpayment of $1,941,285 for the 808 claims Genesis billed during the relevant time period. And Medicaid demanded Genesis repay this amount. Medicaid’s decision has been affirmed in an administrative appeal before Medicaid and by the Hinds County Chancery Court, sitting as an appellate court. On further appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, Genesis essentially argued Medicaid unfairly imposed documentation requirements not found in the federal or state Medicaid regulations. Genesis insisted the only requirement was a physician’s certification that in his or her subjective clinical judgment the patient was terminally ill, which Genesis provided. The Supreme Court found the regulations were clear: a physician’s certification of terminal illness is indeed required, but so is documentation that substantiates the physician’s certification. Because Genesis’ records failed to support 90 percent of its hospice claims, Medicaid had the administrative discretion to demand these unsupported claims be repaid. Therefore, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Genesis Hospice Care, LLC v. Mississippi Division of Medicaid" on Justia Law

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From November 2004 to January 2011, The Door Shop, Inc., utilized $36,081.86 of electricity from Alcorn County Electric Power Association (ACE). But because of a billing error, it was charged only $10,396.28. Upon discovering the error, ACE sought to recover the $25,658.58 difference via supplemental billing. The Door Shop refused to pay, which prompted ACE to file suit. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined that as a matter of law, the Door Shop had to pay, and affirmed the circuit court's order. View "The Door Shop, Inc. v. Alcorn County Electric Power Association" on Justia Law

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The Chancery Court of Coahoma County granted in part the petition of the City of Clarksdale, Mississippi, to annex land situated in Coahoma County that surrounded the city. Coahoma County appealed, arguing that the chancellor manifestly erred by finding that the annexation was reasonable. Clarksdale cross-appealed, arguing that the chancellor manifestly erred by finding that its annexation of certain land situated north of the city was unreasonable. Finding that the chancellor’s decision was supported by substantial, credible evidence and was not manifestly wrong, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "In the Matter of the Enlarging, Extending and Defining the Corporate Limits and Boundaries of the City of Clarksdale, Coahoma County, Mississippi v. City of Clarksdale" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association (Association) petitioned the Mississippi Supreme Court for interlocutory review of a circuit court judgment denying its motions to participate as a respondent-appellee in the appeals filed by RW Development, LLC (RW), and Diamondhead Real Estate, LLC (Diamondhead) after the Mississippi Gaming Commission denied their applications for gaming site approval. The circuit court instead allowed the Association to participate as “friend[] of the court” under the Mississippi Gaming Control Act. Finding nothing improper with the circuit court's decision to allow the Association to participate as amicus curiae, the Court affirmed the circuit court’s decision. View "Mississippi Gaming & Hospitality Association v. Diamondhead Real Estate, LLC" on Justia Law

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In a contract dispute between film producer Adam Rosenfelt and the Mississippi Development Authority ("MDA"), Rosenfelt claimed the MDA promised loan guarantees so he could make movies in Mississippi. He made one film, which was not financially successful, and the MDA refused to guarantee the loan for his next project. Rosenfelt claimed the MDA breached a contract with him, personally. The Mississippi Supreme Court concluded Rosenfelt lacked standing to file suit: the actual documents showed any agreement was between the MDA and one or more LLCs, not Rosenfelt personally. Furthermore, the Court determined no error has been shown as to the dismissal of one of those LLCs, Element Studios, LLC, for want of standing. View "Rosenfelt v. Mississippi Development Authority" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case was whether NRG Wholesale Generation’s proffered expert used an acceptable method to determine the “true value” of its power plant in computing ad valorem tax. The expert used a mixture of the sales-comparison approach, the income approach, and the cost approach to determine the true value of the facility. Lori Kerr, the tax assessor for Choctaw County, and Choctaw County, Mississippi (collectively, the “County”), contended that Mississippi law mandates a trended historical cost-less-depreciation approach to calculate the true value of industrial personal property. The circuit court found in favor of the County and excluded NRG’s proffered expert testimony. NRG argued the circuit court abused its discretion. In addition, NRG also argued the circuit court erred in denying its motion to change venue because because many of the jurors knew the county officials named as defendants in this case, a fair trial in Choctaw County was impossible. The Supreme Court held the Mississippi Department of Revenue (the “DOR”) regulation controlled and that NRG’s expert applied an unacceptable method to determine true value. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in excluding NRG’s proffered expert testimony. Additionally, because NRG was afforded a fair and impartial jury, the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion to change venue. View "NRG Wholesale Generation LP v. Kerr" on Justia Law

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Michael and Vickie Kansler moved to Mississippi from New York for Michael’s job and, over the following years, exercised stock options stemming from that employment. The Kanslers took the position that the stock options’ income was taxable only in Mississippi, which reduced their tax burden significantly. New York saw things differently and found a substantial portion of the income taxable by New York. This liability to another state would have entitled the Kanslers to a credit on their Mississippi taxes worth more than $250,000. However, by the time the New York audit was finished, the Mississippi statute of limitations barred the Kanslers from amending their Mississippi returns. They argued the Mississippi statute of limitations unconstitutionally discriminated against interstate commerce. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined Mississippi’s treatment of the statute of limitations for amending tax returns was "unremarkable" and appeared to be shared with many other states. The Kanslers’ dormant Commerce Clause argument, on the other hand, was novel, and depended on an unprecedented and erroneous attempt to apply the “internal consistency test,” intended to evaluate the apportionment of taxes, to the collateral effects of a statute of limitations. The Court held that the challenge was instead governed by the discrimination/Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. 397 U.S. 137 (1070) balancing test employed by the United States Supreme Court in Bendix Autolite Corp. v. Midwesco Enterprises Inc., 486 U.S. 888 (1988), the only United States Supreme Court case to scrutinize a statute of limitations under the dormant Commerce Clause. The Court affirmed the Mississippi Department of Revenue’s decision to refuse the refund request. View "Kansler v. Mississippi Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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When Tammy Webster completed her National Guard training, she requested the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) renew her contract as a part-time dispatcher. When MDWFP refused to rehire her, Webster filed a Uniformed Services Employment and Remployment Rights Act (USERRA) claim in state court, successfully proving MDWFP violated her federal statutory right to reemployment. Though the prevailing party, Webster appealed, challenging both her compensation award of one year’s worth of lost part-time wages, and her attorney-fee award. The Mississippi Supreme Court held the trial court did not err in limiting Webster’s compensation to one year of lost wages: Webster had been employed under yearly contracts that were not automatically renewable, and MDWFP was under no statutory obligation to employ her indefinitely. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the remainder of the judgment because: (1) the trial court failed to rule on Webster’s liquidated-damages claim, even though Webster presented evidence MDWFP’s USERRA violation was “willful,” as that term is used in the statute; (2) the trial court arbitrarily assigned $2,800 as a reasonable attorney fee, without considering the time spent by or hourly rate of Webster’s counsel or any other relevant factor; and (3) the trial court taxed Webster her respective court costs, even though USERRA prohibits claimants from being taxed with costs. View "Webster v. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks" on Justia Law