Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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After Natchez Regional Medical Center (“NRMC”) filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy, H. Kenneth Lefoldt, who had been appointed trustee for the NRMC Liquidation Trust, sued NRMC’s former directors and officers in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, alleging breach of fiduciary duties of care, good faith, and loyalty. The directors and officers sought dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) and argued that they were immune under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (“MTCA”). The district court agreed and granted dismissal to the directors and officers. Lefoldt appealed, and the Fifth Circuit certified questions of Mississippi Law to the Mississippi Supreme Court pertaining to the MTCA as the exclusive remedy for a bankruptcy trustee standing in the shoes of a public hospital corporation against the employees or directors of that public corporation. If indeed the MTCA was the exclusive remedy, then did the MTCA permit the trustee to pursue any claims against the officers and directors in their personal capacity? The Mississippi Supreme Court answered the first question in the negative: the MTCA did not furnish the exclusive remedy for the bankruptcy trustee. View "Lefoldt v. Rentfro" on Justia Law

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The Board of Supervisors of Tunica County, Mississippi (the Board), ordered an ad valorem tax levy for fiscal year 2014-15 and increased the millage rate from the previous year. After entering the order, the Board advertised a public hearing of the proposed ad valorem tax levy in the Tunica Times. The hearing took place and various taxpayers appeared to voice objections and concerns. Aggrieved by the actions of the Board, one taxpayer, HWCC-Tunica, LLC (HWCC), which owned and operates Hollywood Casino-Tunica, filed a bill of exceptions with the Circuit Court of Tunica County and paid the taxes under protest. The trial court, finding that the failure of the Board to comply with statutory notice and public hearing requirements rendered the tax levy unlawful, ordered a refund. Finding no reversible error in that decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Tunica County Board of Supervisors v. HWCC-Tunica, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals reversed and rendered a final judgment entered by the Harrison County Chancery Court, in which the chancery court held that: (1) Gulf Publishing’s (GP) records request under the Mississippi Public Records Act (MPRA) was not subject to any exemptions contained in the act; (2) the Department of Marine Research (DMR) acted in bad faith by asserting defenses for the purpose of delay in violation of the Mississippi Litigation Accountability Act (MLAA); (3) DMR willfully and wrongfully denied GP’s records requests; (4) the State Auditor acted in bad faith and willfully and wrongfully denied GP’s requests; (5) the State Auditor was in civil contempt from November 4, 2013, until it purged itself on December 5, 2013, when it filed a motion with the federal district court, seeking permission to release the records requested by GP, which were then in the custody of a federal grand jury; therefore, the State Auditor was liable for attorney’s fees and expenses resulting from the contempt; (6) GP was entitled to attorney’s fees under the MPRA, the MLAA, and relevant caselaw for contempt and monetary sanctions for bad faith; (7) DMR and the State Auditor were jointly and severally liable for attorney’s fees and other expenses; and (8) certain individuals were fined $100 each pursuant to the MPRA, for their participation in the willful and wrongful denial of GP’s public-records request. After granting GP's request for certiorari review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the Court of Appeals should not have reached the question of whether the investigative-report exemption under the MPRA applied in this instance: that claim was waived. Therefore, that portion of the Court of Appeals’ judgment holding that the public records sought by GP were exempt under the MPRA’s investigative-report exemption was overruled. The Court found the Department of Audit, as a public body defined by Mississippi Code Section 25-61-3(a), was liable to GP for the civil penalty prescribed Mississippi Code Section 25-61-15, along with reasonable expenses and attorney’s fees as found by the chancery court, for denying GP access to public records not exempt from the provisions of the MPRA. View "Mississippi Department of Audit v. Gulf Publishing Company, Inc." on Justia Law

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Twenty-one public school districts claimed the Mississippi Legislature’s appropriations for public education during fiscal years 2010-2015 were statutorily inadequate. The districts contended Mississippi Code Section 37-151-6 mandated the Legislature fully fund the Mississippi Adequate Education Program (MAEP), but the Legislature failed to follow this mandate. They sought judicial enforcement of this statute in Hinds County Chancery Court, requesting more than $235 million in State funds - the difference between what they received and what they claim they should have received had the Legislature fully funded MAEP. The chancellor found the school districts were not entitled to relief because he determined that Section 37-151-6 was not a binding mandate. The chancellor, therefore, ​dismissed the school districts’ claim. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found that Section 37-151-6 was not mandatory, it affirmed. View "Clarksdale Municipal School District et al. v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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Sheriel Perkins lost the 2013 Greenwood mayoral race by 206 votes. She filed an election contest against the winner, Mayor Carolyn McAdams. In her complaint, Perkins alleged illegal voting and fraud. But at trial, the only evidence she produced was that fifty-two absentee ballots were wrongly counted and one absentee ballot and nine affidavit ballots were wrongly rejected. Her other claims of illegal voting and fraud had no evidentiary support. Thus, the trial court granted McAdams’s motion for a directed verdict and entered a judgment in McAdams’s favor. Perkins appealed; however, the contested mayoral term ended June 30, 2017. So her appeal was made moot by the time of this opinion. Conceding mootness, Perkins still insisted the Mississippi Supreme Court should consider the merits of her illegal-voting claim under the public-interest exception to the mootness doctrine. The Supreme Court found Perkins presented no evidence that anyone voted illegally in a precinct outside of his or her residence. Rather, according to her own witnesses, it was the election materials - not the voters - that ended up in the wrong precincts. And Mississippi statutory law was clear that misdelivery of election materials would not prevent the holding of an election. "Instead, poll managers should provide a suitable substitute procedure, which is exactly what occurred here." The Court therefore dismissed Perkins' appeal as moot. View "Perkins v. McAdams" 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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The Mayor and the Columbus City Council members held four pairs of prearranged, nonsocial and subquorum gatherings over the course of two months. For each pair of gatherings, the Mayor first met with three Council members, and then later the same day, he met with the remaining three Council members on the same topic. Because all of the gatherings were just shy of a quorum (four Council members would have constituted a quorum), the gatherings were not open to the public. A reporter for The Commercial Dispatch received notice of the meetings, and filed an Open Meetings Act Complaint against the Mayor and the City of Columbus. The Ethics Commission found that the Mayor and the City of Columbus had violated the Open Meetings Act. The Mayor and the City of Columbus appealed to the chancery court. The chancery court affirmed the Commission’s judgment on de novo review. The Mayor and the City of Columbus appealed to this Court. Finding no reversible error in the chancery court's judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "City of Columbus v. Commercial Dispatch" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Group Self-Insurer Guaranty Association (“Guaranty Association”) was ordered by the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (“Commission”) to assess former members of the Mississippi Comp Choice Workers’ Compensation Self-Insurers Fund (“Comp Choice”). In 2010, the Commission found that “a careful evaluation of the remaining assets and outstanding claims unfortunately shows an insufficient amount of Comp Choice assets to cover the projected claim payout.” The Commission ordered an assessment of the former members of Comp Choice for the last four years showing losses. The former members did not pay their assessments, and the Guaranty Association sued. The former members of Comp Choice filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the Guaranty Association ignored their right of appeal and that the action was not ripe for consideration, was improper, and/or was premature and should be dismissed. The Circuit Court denied Comp Choice’s motion to dismiss, and ultimately ruled against the former members. Finding no reversible error in the judgment, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Scott Penn, Inc. v. Mississippi Workers' Compensation Group Self-Insurer Guaranty Association" on Justia Law

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The circuit court ruled Enoch Oliver could proceed to trial with his malicious-prosecution claim against University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and two of its law-enforcement officers, Syrone McBeath and David Stewart. Oliver was charged with three misdemeanors: disorderly conduct for failure to comply with the commands of a police officer, resisting arrest, and carrying a concealed weapon. A nol-pros order was signed by the trial court and charges were ultimately dropped against Oliver. Oliver sued civilly, and UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart were served with process; several other officers were not. UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart filed a motion to dismiss, which was joined by the unserved defendants, who specially appeared. The served defendants argued Oliver’s claims were governed by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) and its one-year statute of limitations. The lone exception was the malicious prosecution of the felony claim, because the one-year statute of limitations did not begin to run until that charge was nol-prossed. The unserved defendants’ motion was granted, leaving the remaining claim against the served defendants as the malicious-prosecution claim based on the felony charge. Three-and-a-half years later, UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart filed a motion for summary judgment. UMMC argued, as a state agency, it had not waived sovereign immunity for a malice-based claim; McBeath and Stewart argued Oliver lacked proof they maliciously prosecuted him. Alternatively, all defendants cited the MTCA’s police-protection and discretionary-function immunity. The circuit court denied the defendants’ motion. UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart filed this interlocutory appeal, claiming they were entitled to summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined as a matter of law, malice-based torts did not fall under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act’s sovereign-immunity waiver. So Oliver had no malicious-prosecution claim against UMMC or its employees in their official capacity. Oliver also brought malicious-prosecution claims against the UMMC officers in their individual capacity, but the record showed Oliver failed to put forth any evidence the officers acted with malice or lacked probable cause. The Court thus reversed the circuit court’s denial of summary judgment and rendered a final judgment in defendants’ favor. View "University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Oliver" on Justia Law

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The Madison County Board of Supervisors (the Board) found Arlin George Hatfield, III (who raised “chickens, guinea fowl, and ducks”) violated a Madison County Zoning Ordinance (the Ordinance) section, which did not expressly permit raising and keeping fowl in residential neighborhoods. The Board’s decision was consistent with an earlier interpretation and application of the Ordinance section. Hatfield was sued in October 2013 a little over a year after purchasing a lot in the Deer Haven Subdivision, by the Deer Haven Owners Association (DHOA). The claim stemmed from his supposed violation of subdivision covenants that prohibited keeping or raising fowl4 and constructing structures—such as pens and coops—without DHOA approval. Hatfield alleges that while this lawsuit was pending, DHOA contacted and involved Scott Weeks, an administrator with the Madison County Planning and Zoning Department. Weeks inspected Hatfield’s property on February 18, 2015, and found Hatfield was violating the “R-1 Residential District” section of the Madison County Zoning Ordinance. Hatfield filed a Notice of Appeal and Intent to File Bill of Exceptions, arguing the Board’s decision was arbitrary and capricious, not supported by substantial evidence, and was based on an unconstitutionally vague Ordinance section. After review, based on the Board’s prior treatment of a similar matter and its construction of the applicable zoning law, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the Board’s decision was neither arbitrary nor capricious. The Court also found that, in light of the entire Ordinance, Hatfield had sufficient notice that keeping or raising fowl on residential property was prohibited. View "Hatfield v. Board of Supervisors of Madison County" on Justia Law