Articles Posted in Mississippi Supreme Court

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Levon Flowers made a workers' compensation claim against his former employer Crown Cork & Seal USA. The Supreme Court granted Crown’s petition for certiorari to review the compensability of a foot injury Flowers sustained in 2007. The Workers’ Compensation Commission denied Flowers’s request for permanent disability benefits for this injury and awarded temporary total disability benefits for the period between the injury and the date Flowers was cleared by his doctor to return to work. The Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Flowers was entitled to receive temporary total disability benefits until he reached maximum medical improvement (MMI) for his foot injury, which had not yet been determined by his doctors. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Court of Appeals reached the correct result in this case, but the Supreme Court reached that conclusion based on different precedent. The record in this case reflected that Crown refused to reinstate or rehire Flowers after his doctors released him to return to work. There was also evidence that Flowers underwent an unsuccessful search for alternative employment after Crown refused to rehire him. However, the ALJ and the Commission did not determine when Flowers reached MMI for his foot injury. From the testimony of Flowers' doctor, Flowers had not yet reached MMI as of January 14, 2008. Therefore, this case was not controlled by the Court's holding in "Jordan:" "[the Court] reiterate[d] that it is a primary duty of the Commission to analyze the evidence and determine whether and when a claimant has reached MMI. [. . .] After determining when Flowers reached MMI for his foot injury, the Commission must decide from the evidence presented whether Flowers is entitled to permanent disability benefits." View "Flowers v. Crown Cork & Seal USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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After suffering a severe electrical shock while working as a lineman for Tippah Electric Power Association, Lonnie Smith filed a petition to controvert with the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission. Tippah denied that Smith's claim was compensable and raised the affirmative defense that Smith had intentionally injured himself. The administrative judge (AJ) found that Smith had intentionally injured himself and that his injury was not compensable; the Commission affirmed the AJ's denial of the claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission's decision. The Supreme Court granted certiorari because it found that the Commission's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court reversed and remanded this case to the Commission for a determination of benefits. View "Smith v. Tippah Electric Power Association" on Justia Law

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George Dukes and Joe Jordan sued Union Insurance Company Inc. as surety on the public official bond of Newton County Circuit Clerk Rodney Bounds. Union filed a crossclaim against Bounds for indemnity. The Circuit Court dismissed the case against Bounds, but found Union liable to Dukes and Jordan. However, it also found Bounds liable to Union for indemnity. Union appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Union was not liable to Dukes and Jordan, and that Bounds was not liable to Union for indemnity. The Supreme Court granted Union’s petition for certiorari. Union argued the Court of Appeals erred by finding that Bounds was not liable to Union for indemnity for its attorneys fees and costs incurred in defending the lawsuits filed on Bounds’s public official bond. The Supreme Court affirmed in part, and reversed in part. The Court of Appeals erred to the extent it found that Bounds was not obligated to indemnify Union for reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs. View "Newton County v. Mississippi" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Department of Employment Security determined that distributors for Sara Lee Bakery Group, Inc. (now Earthgrains Bakery Group, Inc.) were agent drivers and commission drivers for Sara Lee, rather than independent contractors, such that Sara Lee was required to pay unemployment insurance taxes for the distributors. The circuit court affirmed, and Sara Lee appealed. Finding that MDES failed to apply the law correctly and that its decision was not supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Earthgrains Bakery Group, Inc. v. Mississippi Dept. of Employment Security" on Justia Law

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The Workers' Compensation Commission dismissed applicant Matthew Ladner's petition to controvert and motion for payment of benefits because it found the statute of limitations had expired. Ladner appealed that decision to the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the Commission's decision. View "Ladner v. Zachry Construction" on Justia Law

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Defendants Phillips Brothers, Kilby Brake Fisheries, LLC, and Harry Simmons appealed a judgment entered in favor of Ray Winstead on numerous shareholder and employment claims. In September 2009, Winstead filed a complaint against Kilby Brake, Harry Simmons, Chat Phillips, Simmons Farm Raised Catfish, Inc., Five Mile Fisheries, Inc., and H.D. Simmons Corp. and Phillips Brothers, LP. Winstead alleged that Simmons and Phillips Brothers had failed to pay him his agreed-upon salary, asserting claims of fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, corporate freeze-out, conversion, slander, slander per se, and tortious interference with business relations. He also requested an accounting and dissolution of the LLC. The issues raised by the three remaining defendants in this appeal fell into six categories: (1) whether the admission of testimony regarding an oral agreement for cash contributions violated the parol evidence rule; (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to support Winstead’s award for fraud; (3) whether there was sufficient evidence to support Winstead’s award for corporate freeze-out; (4) whether there was sufficient evidence to support Winstead’s award for breach of fiduciary duty; (5) whether Kilby Brake was entitled to a new trial; (6) whether Winstead met the requisite elements of slander per se. Finding multiple errors, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded in part; and remanded in part. View "Phillips Brothers v. Winstead" on Justia Law

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The Jackson County Board of Supervisors terminated June Seaman, and she applied to the Mississippi Employment Security Commission (MESC) for unemployment benefits. A claims examiner, an administrative-law judge, and the Board of Review all determined that Seaman was entitled to unemployment benefits because Jackson County had failed to prove by clear and convincing, substantial evidence that Seaman had been terminated for misconduct. The circuit court affirmed the agency’s decision, but the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that the employer had proven misconduct by substantial evidence. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals improperly reweighed the evidence before the MESC. Therefore, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated and affirmed the circuit court's judgment. View "Jackson County Board of Supervisors v. Mississippi Employment Security Commission" on Justia Law

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Sherry Walker was denied disability benefits by the Public Employees’ Retirement System (PERS). The Circuit Court reversed PERS’s decision. The Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court, reinstating PERS’ denial of benefits. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded PERS’ decision to deny Walker’s request for regular disability benefits was unsupported by substantial evidence. Accordingly, the Court reversed part of the appellate court's decision and reversed the Circuit Court's decision, and remanded the case with instructions to enter judgment in Walker’s favor on her regular disability benefits claim. View "Public Employees' Retirement System v. Walker" on Justia Law

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Dr. Adolfo P. Morales sued Jackson HMA, LLC., d/b/a Central Mississippi Medical Center (Jackson HMA) for breach of contract. A jury awarded Morales substantial damages. Jackson HMA filed a "Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict, and, in the alternative, For a New Trial" and a "Motion for Amendment of Judgment." The Circuit Court denied the post-trial motions and Jackson HMA filed this appeal. In 2004, a recruiter for Jacksom HMA sent Morales a "letter of intent" outlining Jackson HMA's proposed offer. The letter twice stated that the proposed offer required "preapproval" by "Corporate" (HMA). Although not requested or provided for, Morales signed and returned the letter. On it he wrote "I agree to all and accept the terms of your offer." At trial, Morales acknowledged that this letter was not a contract, as it "no doubt" required preapproval from the corporate office. Subsequently, Jackson HMA sought approval from corporate HMA, but corporate did not approve the terms. Jackson HMA's CEO impressed upon corporate the need for an ophthalmologist and suggested new terms to corporate which reduced the guaranteed amount and period by half. The CEO received approval of these reduced terms from an HMA vice-president for the eastern part of the United States. Thereafter, the recruiter sent Morales a second letter detailing the new "terms of our offer" which reflected the reduced guarantees approved by corporate HMA. The letter lacked the phrase "letter of intent" and also made no reference to a requirement of corporate approval of the terms. The letter included the language, "[b]y signing and returning this letter, you will confirm your commitment to entering into a contractual agreement . . . . Accordingly we will begin the process of assimilating contract documents for your review." Morales signed the document, but approval never arrived. In early March 2005, the recruiter informed Morales that the contract had not been approved. In late 2005, Morales filed suit alleging that Jackson HMA had breached its contract with him. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Morales. Jackson HMA appealed. After its review, the Supreme Court concluded that Morales presented sufficient evidence for the jury to find that a contract existed. However, Morales presented insufficient evidence to support the jury's damages award. The Court affirmed the judgment for Dr. Morales, but reversed on the issue of damages and remanded this case to the Circuit Court for a new trial solely on damages. View "Jackson HMA, LLC v. Morales" on Justia Law

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Kathy Allegrezza filed separate workers' compensation claims against her employer Greenville Manufacturing, alleging injury to her upper extremities (carpal tunnel syndroms) in 1997, and a separate injury to ber back in 1998. An administrative law judge granted disability benefits for the carpal tunnel claim, but denied benefits on the back injury claim. The Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission affirmed the ALJ's findings on carpal tunnel, but found Allegrezza sustained some loss of wage-earning capacity due to her back injury. Allegrezza appealed the Commission's decision to the circuit court, which affirmed the Commission in all respects. The case was appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the Commission. Finding no error in the Commission's judgment or the appellate courts' decicions affirming the Commission, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Allegrezza v. Greenville Manufacturing Company" on Justia Law