Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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This appeal stemmed from damages that Pine Belt Oil Co. (Pine Belt) incurred for the remediation of a September 2008 gasoline leak that originated on property Walter and Tammy Cooley (the Cooleys) had sold to Pine Belt four months prior to discovery of the leak. In 2009, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued an administrative order demanding that Pine Belt, the owners of Pine Belt, Robert and Melissa Morgan, and the Cooleys pay remediation costs, including future costs, for the properties afflicted by the gasoline leak. Since October 2008, Pine Belt maintained that the Cooleys were responsible for the gasoline leak, not Pine Belt. After initially refusing to pay the remediation costs, Pine Belt did begin paying them in July 2009. In April 2016, six years and nine months after its first remediation payment, Pine Belt filed a complaint seeking indemnification from the Cooleys for Pine Belt’s past and future expenses incurred due to its remediation damage caused by the gasoline leak. The Cooleys moved for summary judgment, arguing that the claim was barred by the statute of limitations. The trial judge denied the summary judgment motion. The Cooleys then filed a petition for interlocutory appeal, arguing that the statute of limitations barred Pine Belt’s implied indemnity claim. The Cooleys argued alternatively that Pine Belt could not prove that it did not actively participate in the underlying wrong, i.e., the gasoline leak. The Mississippi Supreme Court held that the applicable three-year statute of limitations ran on Pine Belt’s claim on March 5, 2012. Pine Belt’s claim was thus time barred, and all other arguments were moot. View "Cooley v. Pine Belt Oil Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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The Workers’ Compensation Commission and an Administrative Judge (AJ) had ordered Gamma Healthcare and Employers Insurance Company of Wausau (Employer/Carrier) to replace Sharon Grantham’s septic and HVAC systems and to pay for insurance on a handicapped-accessible van. The Commission, sua sponte, issued a separate order sanctioning the Employer/Carrier for causing an unnecessary delay by appealing the AJ’s order to the full Commission without reasonable grounds. The Employer/Carrier appealed. While this case was pending before the Court of Appeals, Sharon Grantham died. Thereafter, the Court of Appeals dismissed the case as moot. The Court of Appeals applied the general rule followed by federal courts by vacating the outstanding Commission and AJ orders. The appeals court reversed and rendered the Commission’s sanctions order against the Employer/Carrier, determining that the Commission had abused its discretion by its imposition of the sanction, reasoning that the Employer/Carrier had a reasonable legal argument for its appeal. Grantham’s estate filed a petition for a writ of certiorari, which the Mississippi Supreme Court granted. The Supreme Court concluded that in light of Grantham’s untimely death and the concession by her estate, it agreed with the Court of Appeals that this case was moot. "However, the main issue is not whether the case is moot. Rather it is whether the Court of Appeals erred by vacating the Commission’s and the AJ’s valid orders to replace the septic and HVAC systems in a case that became moot on appeal due to circumstances beyond the control of the parties. Additionally, did the court err by following federal vacatur law instead of existing Mississippi law?" These were issues of first impression. the Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals did not err and that the federal vacatur rule was appropriate. The Commission’s orders were vacated properly. Furthermore, the Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals’ reversing and rendering of the Commission’s sanctions award. View "Gamma Healthcare Inc., et al. v. Estate of Sharon Burrell Grantham" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Employment Security (MDES) appeals from the circuit court’s order reversing the MDES Board of Review’s determination that Danny Leeton was an employee of Dover Trucking, LLC (Dover). Because the agency’s decision was supported by substantial evidence and was not arbitrary or capricious, the Mississippi Supreme Court concluded the circuit judge erred by reversing it. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and MDES' decision was reinstated. View "Mississippi Department of Employment Security v. Dover Trucking, LLC" on Justia Law

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The City of Gautier granted David Vindich a permit to build a 1,410 square foot garage/workshop on his .76 acre lot. When the building was almost completed, Vindich’s neighbor, Martin Wheelan, filed a lawsuit arguing the City’s decision was unlawful because Vindich actually sought a variance, which required a public hearing rather than a building permit. Thus, Wheelan said he was denied due process. Wheelan also claimed the City’s decision was arbitrary and capricious and that the workshop “completely overwhelm[ed]” the neighborhood and created a nuisance. After a trial, the chancellor dismissed Wheelan’s claims, finding that the City’s interpretation of the applicable ordinance was not manifestly unreasonable. The chancellor also found that the building was not a nuisance. Wheelan appealed, but the Court of Appeals affirmed. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed with the appellate court's dissenting opinion, finding the City erred in its interpretation of the ordinance at issue here. The Court therefore reversed the Court of appeals and the chancery court, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Wheelan v. City of Gautier, et al." on Justia Law

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After a sinkhole formed on the leasehold of Jad Khalaf, the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District (District) filed a complaint against Khalaf to recoup the costs of repairing the sinkhole and for other relief. Khalaf moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim, which the chancery court granted. The District appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed dismissal. View "Pearl River Valley Water Supply District v. Khalaf" on Justia Law

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Two cases were consolidated for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review. In the first appeal, Singing River MOB, LLC (MOB), argued that the leases between itself and Singing River Health System (SRHS) and the lease between Jackson County, Mississippi (County), and SRHS were valid and that the chancery court erred by finding the leases invalid under Mississippi’s “minutes rule.” In the second appeal, Jackson County and SRHS contended the chancery court erred by fashioning its own equitable relief as a result of the first ruling. MOB also raised its own objection as to the manner in which the equitable relief was fashioned. After careful review, the Supreme Court affirmed and remanded the partial summary-judgment order as to the first appeal (No. 2019-IA-01630-SCT); however, the Court reversed and remanded that order as to the second appeal (No. 2019-IA-01653-SCT). View "Singing River MOB, LLC v. Jackson County" on Justia Law

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Tillman Infrastructure, LLC, sought to build a 290-foot tower in Marshall County, Mississippi on a plot designated an agricultural zone. Tillman applied for a special exception through the Marshall County Planning Commission, and the request was approved. American Tower Corporation owns an existing wireless-telecommunications tower that is approximately a quarter of a mile from Tillman’s proposed tower. American Tower opposed Tillman’s request for a special exception. Tillman’s application was considered at the November 18, 2019 meeting of the Marshall County Board of Supervisors. American Tower argued that Tillman could not satisfy the standards for a special exception. The board unanimously approved Tillman’s request for a special exception. American Tower appealed to the Marshall County Circuit Court. Marshall County filed a motion to dismiss the appeal and argued that the circuit court lacked jurisdiction. Marshall County claimed that American Tower failed to provide notice to the board president of the board of supervisors as required by Mississippi Code Section 11-51-75. Tillman joined the motion and also argued that American Tower lacked standing to prosecute its appeal. The circuit court entered an order granting the motion to dismiss. In this appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court considered the dismissal of an appeal of a decision by a board of supervisors under Mississippi Code Section 11-51-75 (Rev. 2019), and whether American Tower properly perfected its appeal. The Supreme Court found that under Section 11-51-75, as revised, it was the filing of the notice of appeal that established appellate jurisdiction to the circuit court. "We acknowledge that American Tower did not deliver a copy of the notice of appeal to the president of the board of supervisors. However, we find this defect is procedural and may be remedied." Judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "American Tower Asset Sub, LLC d/b/a American Tower Corporation v. Tillman Infrastructure, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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At issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this case was whether the Civil Service Commission for the City of Jackson (Commission) sufficiently and clearly certified its findings when it affirmed the Jackson Police Department’s termination of Officer Justin Roberts. The Supreme Court found that because the Commission failed to set forth with sufficient clarity and specificity its reasons for affirming Roberts’s termination, the decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Circuit Court were reversed, and the matter remanded to the Commission to comply with the Supreme Court's directive to certify in writing and to set forth with sufficient clarity and specificity its factual findings. View "Roberts v. City of Jackson" on Justia Law

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The crux of this interlocutory appeal was whether Plaintiffs, complaining of personal injury and property damage as a result of the alleged improper use of an oil-disposal well, had to exhaust their administrative remedies before the Mississippi State Oil and Gas Board (MSOGB) prior to proceeding on their common-law claims in the circuit court. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court determined the MSOGB could provide no adequate remedy for the Baucums’ personal-injury and property-damage claims, the Baucums were not required to exhaust administrative remedies before proceeding in the circuit court. View "Petro Harvester Oil & Gas Co., LLC, et al. v. Baucum" on Justia Law

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Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company issued two public-official bonds as surety for Eddie Carthan, a member of the Holmes County, Mississippi Board of Supervisors. On appeal, the State Auditor claimed Nationwide was liable under both bonds. The undisputed facts showed the Board never paid the premium for the first bond, which was only for a year. Instead, the Board asked if the first bond could be “converted” to a four-year bond that would cover Carthan’s entire term. Nationwide complied with the Board’s request. It cancelled the first bond and issued a second bond covering Carthan’s entire term for which the Board paid the premium. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found no evidence that Carthan was actually secured simultaneously by two separate bonds. Rather, the Court found the undisputed facts showed the Board intended to procure and did in fact obtain one public-official bond in the amount of $100,000 as surety for Carthan. Because Nationwide paid $100,000 under the second, paid-for bond, the chancellor did not err by granting Nationwide summary judgment on all claims based on the first bond. View "White v. Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law