Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Mississippi Supreme Court
Vaughn & Bowden, PA v. Young
In an interlocutory appeal from the trial court's denial of defendant Vaughn Bowden, PA's motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. Plaintiffs Cherie Blackmore and Diane Young sued their former employer, Vaughn Bowden, regarding the presence of toxic mold in two of the firm's offices in which they worked. They also argued they were exposed to sewer gas and a natural gas leak. Plaintiffs also sued Lowry Development and its owner who owned a second building in which Blackmore and Young claimed they were injured. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that plaintiffs failed to allege any facts by defendants' which rose to the level of intent that would remove their claims from the exclusivity of the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act. Plaintiffs' only avenue for relief against the firm was in workers' compensation. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court in dismissing plaintiffs' complaint. View "Vaughn & Bowden, PA v. Young" on Justia Law
Wilkerson v. Goss
Ronnie and Pamela Goss filed suit against defendants Rickey Wilkerson and Phenix Transportation, Inc. alleging that "Rickey Wilkerson fraudulently induced the plaintiffs to settle their workers' compensation claims and to release all claims against Phenix Transportation, Inc." in return for $65,000. The Gosses further alleged that Wilkerson knew, or should have known, that the checks would not clear due to insufficient funds. The Gosses did not allege any specific facts in their complaint nor did they present any cognizable evidence to establish venue in Smith County. Defendants timely answered the complaint, including in their answer a motion to dismiss or, alternatively, to transfer jurisdiction and venue. Defendants argued that the Gosses' claims were legal in nature and were improperly brought in chancery court. Defendants also argued that venue was not proper in Smith County because Wilkerson resides in Scott County and Phenix has its principal place of business in Scott County. Defendants further argued that venue was not proper because no substantial act or omission or substantial event that allegedly caused the injury occurred in Smith County. The Gosses never filed a response to Defendants' motion. The chancery court heard oral argument on Defendants' motion. No transcript exists of the hearing. The chancery court found that the settlement checks and other documents were sent to the Gosses in Smith County, and the Gosses attempted to negotiate the checks in Smith County. Therefore, the chancery court concluded that venue was proper in Smith County because the "cause of action occurred/accrued in Smith County." The chancery court also found that the Gosses' claims were "more legal than equitable in nature" and transferred the case to the Circuit Court of Smith County. On appeal, Defendants argued that the chancery court erred in denying their motion to transfer venue. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Chancery Court of Smith County erred in its interpretation of Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3 and in denying Defendants' motion to transfer venue. View "Wilkerson v. Goss" on Justia Law
Felter v. Floorserv, Inc.
After an administrative judge (AJ) ruled on a claimant's petition to controvert a workers' compensation claim, the claimant had twenty days to file a notice of appeal with the full Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission. In this case, the issue before the Supreme Court was whether an AJ's order, handed down more than twenty days after the AJ's ruling and granting a claimant thirty additional days in which to prosecute her claim, should be given legal effect by the Commission so that the claimant's notice of appeal, filed within the additional thirty days, would be considered timely. Upon review, the Court found that, under the facts and circumstances presented, such an appeal was timely. View "Felter v. Floorserv, Inc." on Justia Law
Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Shoemake
The issue before the Supreme Court in this case concerned the proper procedure by which a workers' compensation insurer may enforce a subrogation claim arising under Mississippi Code Section 71-3-71. Richard Shoemake was injured in Alabama but received workers' compensation benefits from Liberty Mutual Insurance Company under Mississippi law. He brought and settled a third-party action in Alabama state court and reimbursed Liberty Mutual only the amount it was entitled to under Alabama law. Liberty Mutual, which knew of but did not join or intervene in the Alabama lawsuit, then sued Shoemake in the Circuit Court of Newton County, seeking full reimbursement as allowed under Section 71-3-71. In granting Shoemake summary judgment, the circuit court held that Alabama law applied and further concluded that res judicata and Liberty Mutual's failure to intervene in the Alabama action barred Liberty Mutual's claim. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Mississippi law governed the amount of Liberty Mutual's subrogation claim and that Liberty Mutual was not required to intervene in the Alabama action to become entitled to reimbursement under Mississippi law. Because the Mississippi Supreme Court found that 71-3-71 requires a workers' compensation insurer to join or intervene in a third-party action to become entitled to reimbursement, it reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the circuit court. View "Liberty Mutual Insurance Company v. Shoemake" on Justia Law
Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company v. Travis
Michael Travis died in 1997 when a train struck his vehicle at a railroad crossing. His mother, Mary Travis, filed a wrongful-death suit against Illinois Central Railroad Company and its employees (collectively "Illinois Central") in Circuit Court. Trial was held in October 2009, and the jury assessed damages in the amount of $6.5 million. Based on the jury's allocation of fault, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of Travis in the amount of $4,875,000. Illinois Central filed this appeal. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings, finding that the trial court erred in denying Illinois Central's motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, because the evidence did not support the jury’s verdict. View "Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Company v. Travis" on Justia Law
Mollaghan v. Varnell
In this sexual-harassment, due-process, gender-discrimination, and retaliation case, the issue before the Supreme Court centered on whether the Circuit Court of Forrest County properly ruled on a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). The Court found that the circuit court properly granted JNOV on the due-process, gender-discrimination, and retaliation claims, but improperly denied JNOV on the sexual-harassment claims. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part, and reversed and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Mollaghan v. Varnell" on Justia Law
Bailey Lumber & Supply Co. v. Dwight Robinson
Dwight Robinson filed suit against Bailey Lumber & Supply Company for injuries and damages he allegedly sustained as a result of a fall on Bailey Lumber's premises. A jury returned a general verdict in favor of Robinson in the amount of $1,500,000. The trial court reduced the award to $1,070,341.42 in economic and noneconomic damages. Bailey Lumber appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the trial court erred in allowing expert testimony regarding the cause of Robinson's need for hip-replacement surgery and future medical treatment. View "Bailey Lumber & Supply Co. v. Dwight Robinson" on Justia Law
D.P. Holmes Trucking, LLC v. Butler
In 2006, Lester Butler filed a personal-injury action against David Holmes and John Does 1-5. Later, he moved to amend his complaint to substitute a trucking company, D.P. Holmes Trucking, LLC, for Holmes or, in the alternative, to be allowed to file an amended complaint to add Holmes Trucking as a defendant. Both the circuit court and Holmes permitted Butler to amend his original complaint to add Holmes Trucking as a defendant; however, when filed, Butler had substituted Holmes Trucking for Holmes. After a responsive pleading had been filed, Butler filed a second amended complaint without leave of court and without permission of Holmes Trucking, identifying both Holmes and Holmes Trucking as defendants. Holmes Trucking responded with a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, but the circuit court allowed Butler to proceed, finding that the mistaken party name was a misnomer. Holmes Trucking filed notice of interlocutory appeal, requesting that the Supreme Court grant a dismissal with prejudice. The Supreme Court found misnomer did not apply in this case, and the circuit court erred in applying that doctrine. However, the court did not err in allowing Butler to amend his complaint. View "D.P. Holmes Trucking, LLC v. Butler" on Justia Law
Business Communications, Inc. v. Banks
Business Communications, Inc. (BCI) asserted two breach-of-contract claims against its former employee, Albert Banks: breach of BCI's business-protection agreement (BPA), which included a noncompetition provision, and breach of BCI's reimbursement-of-costs agreement (RCA). At trial, the jury awarded BCI $1,000 for breach of the BPA and $9,000 for breach of the RCA. Thereafter, the Circuit Court of Madison County granted Banks’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV). Subsequently, the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court's grant of JNOV as to the RCA, but reversed regarding the BPA, "reinstat[ing] the jury's verdict [of $1,000], and remand[ing the] case to the trial court to consider BCI's motion for attorney's fees." The Supreme Court granted Banks's petition for writ of certiorari to address the elements of a breach-of-contract claim involving a noncompete agreement and the nature of the damages to which BCI was entitled. Regarding the elements of a breach-of-contract claim, the Court held that monetary damages were a remedy for breach of contract, not an element of the claim. As to damages for breach of the BPA, BCI acknowledged it had sustained no identifiable loss. But because (1) the jury was instructed on both compensatory and nominal damages, (2) the special-verdict form did not specify the type of damages awarded, and (3) the jury's award of $1,000 was well within the continuum of legitimate nominal damage awards, the Court affirmed the Court of Appeals' reinstatement of that jury verdict. The Court also affirmed the Court of Appeals' decision to remand to the circuit court to consider BCI's motion for attorney's fees.
Smith County Sch. Dist. v. Barnes
Laura Shontelle Barnes was employed as an elementary school teacher with the Taylorsville Elementary School in the Smith County School District (District) for eleven years before she was terminated in 2009. Barnes was terminated for refusing to take a drug test, which was a violation of the District’s drug and alcohol policy. The Smith County School Board (Board) held a hearing and later affirmed the District’s Superintendent of Education’s decision to terminate Barnes’s employment. Aggrieved, Barnes appealed the Board’s decision to the chancery court. The chancery court reversed the Board’s decision and reinstated Barnes’s employment, finding that the Board’s decision was arbitrary or capricious and was not supported by substantial evidence. The Board appealed. In a six-four decision, the Court of Appeals reversed and rendered the chancery court’s holding, finding that the Board’s decision to affirm the superintendent’s termination of Barnes based on her refusal to submit to a drug test was not arbitrary or capricious. Barnes filed a motion for rehearing, which was denied. Barnes appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the Court of Appeals failed to properly consider all relevant evidence that would have precluded termination of Barnes. Finding no error, the Supreme Court affirmed.