Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
Peak v. Cohee
An insurance adjuster was injured while performing the specific task he was hired to do: identify and distinguish preexisting roof damage from storm damage. While the adjuster recovered workers’ compensation benefits, he also filed suit against the homeowner for failing to make the premises safe and for not warning him about the roof’s condition. The homeowner filed two summary judgment motions, arguing the "intimately connected" doctrine barred the adjuster’s suit as a matter of law. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred by denying summary judgment. "The homeowner exercised no control over the adjuster. And absent some exercise of control over a contractor, Mississippi law does not impose liability on property owners for injuries suffered by independent contractors arising from or intimately connected to the work they were contracted to perform." The Court therefore reversed the trial court's denial fo summary judgment and rendered judgment I the homeowner's favor. View "Peak v. Cohee" on Justia Law
Leal v. University of So. Miss.
Dr. Sandra Leal appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment to the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) and the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions of Higher Learning (IHL). Leal brought suit against USM and the IHL for breach of contract and disability discrimination. Dr. Sandra Leal was a junior faculty member at USM. After spending several years at USM, Leal applied for tenure and promotion in 2012, but, at the recommendation of faculty members, she deferred her application for one year. In September of 2013, she resubmitted her application and materials. On October 4, 2013, her department voted not to recommend her application. Leal was notified of this on October 7, 2013. Each review of her application cited an insufficient number of publications as the primary reason for not recommending Leal’s application. Following these reviews, in March of 2014, Leal wrote to USM’s then-provost. Leal had suffered from rheumatoid arthritis throughout her time at USM, but, for the first time, she claimed it as a disability. She requested an additional year to remedy her insufficient number of publications. Both the provost and USM’s president recommended that Leal’s application be denied. Leal was notified of these determinations on March 24, 2014, and April 30, 2014, respectively. Leal sought review of her application by the IHL, and the IHL considered her request and ultimately rejected her application too. Because Leal has failed to demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact and failed to demonstrate that USM and the IHL were not entitled to judgment as a matter of law, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment. View "Leal v. University of So. Miss." on Justia Law
Mississippi Department of Public Safety v. Herrington
Justin Herrington, a law-enforcement officer with the Columbia Police Department, was convicted of violating Mississippi Code Section 97-3-104, which prohibited sexual activity between a law-enforcement employee and an offender on correctional supervision. The trial court ordered Herrington to register as a sex offender under Mississippi Code Sections 45-33-21 through 45-33-51. The trial court then amended its order and removed Herrington’s registration requirement. The Mississippi Department of Public Safety (MDPS) appealed and argued that the trial court erred by removing Herrington’s requirement to register as a sex offender. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and reversed the trial court’s order dispensing with Herrington’s registration requirement. View "Mississippi Department of Public Safety v. Herrington" on Justia Law
Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc.
Robert Sheffield was injured on the job while working for S.J. Louis Construction (S.J. Louis). Sheffield filed a petition to contravert, and the administrative law judge (AJ) awarded Sheffield permanent-partial disability benefits. S.J. Louis appealed the decision to the full Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission (Commission), and the Commission reversed this finding, concluding that Sheffield did not suffer any additional disability from the 2015 injury than that caused by a 2010 injury. Sheffield appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission’s decision. S.J. Louis filed a petition for writ of certiorari with the Mississippi Supreme Court. Because the Supreme Court found, after review, that the Commission’s decision was supported by substantial evidence, it reinstated and affirmed that decision. View "Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc." on Justia Law
Gulfport OB-GYN, P.A. v. Dukes, Dukes, Keating & Faneca, P.A.
Gulfport OB-GYN was a professional association of physicians specializing in obstetrical and gynecological care. In 2008, it hired the law firm Dukes, Dukes, Keating & Faneca, P.A., to assist in negotiating the hiring of Dr. Donielle Daigle and to prepare an employment agreement for her. Five years later, Dr. Daigle and another physician left Gulfport OB-GYN to establish their own practice. They sued Gulfport OB-GYN for unpaid compensation and sought a declaratory judgment that the noncompetition covenant was unenforceable. The departing physicians ultimately prevailed, with the chancery court holding the noncompetition covenant not applicable to Dr. Daigle because she left voluntarily and was not “terminated by the Employer.” The chancery court decision was initially appealed, but the dispute was later settled through mediation when Gulfport OB-GYN agreed to pay Dr. Daigle $425,000. Gulfport OB-GYN then filed this legal-malpractice suit against the attorney who drafted the employment agreement and her firm. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the defendants after finding Gulfport OB-GYN had failed to produce sufficient evidence that it would have received a better deal but for the attorneys’ alleged negligence, i.e., Gulfport OB-GYN failed to prove that the alleged negligence caused it damages. The Mississippi Supreme Court agreed and affirmed. View "Gulfport OB-GYN, P.A. v. Dukes, Dukes, Keating & Faneca, P.A." on Justia Law
Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC v. Love
Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC (Mar-Jac), appealed the denial of its motion for summary judgment on the Plaintiffs’ claims for negligence, negligence per se, and wrongful death under the theory of respondeat superior after a Mar-Jac employee’s vehicle collided with a school bus on the way to work, killing his two passengers, who were also Mar-Jac employees. Based on the evidence presented, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in denying Mar-Jac’s motion for summary judgment, because it was undisputed that the driver was not acting in the course and scope of his employment with Mar-Jac when the accident occurred. Thus, the Court reversed and entered judgment in favor of Mar-Jac. View "Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC v. Love" on Justia Law
Waltman v. Engineering Plus, Inc.
In 2013, Lauderdale County contracted with roofing company Norman Enterprises, Inc. to repair the roof of the Ulmer Building in Meridian, Mississippi. George Waltman, a Norman employee, fell through the roof while performing work. Waltman sued Engineering Plus, Inc., the project engineer, claiming it should have warned him of the dangerous condition of the roof. Engineering Plus moved for summary judgment, arguing it had no duty to warn Waltman. The Circuit Court agreed and granted summary judgment to Engineering Plus. Finding no reversible error, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed. View "Waltman v. Engineering Plus, Inc." on Justia Law
Webster v. Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Parks
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
King v. Mississippi Military Department
In 2016, the Adjutant General of the Mississippi Military Department (Department) terminated Cindy King’s employment with the Department after conducting an investigation into some of King’s activities. King began working for the Department approximately twenty years ago, and her role was that of a supervisor in the Environmental Office at Camp Shelby. However, in late 2015, an officer was tasked with investigating whether King “utilized information garnered through her position as the Camp Shelby Environmental Officer to front run the Army Compatible Use Buffer Program for personal gain” by purchasing a specific piece of property located near Camp Shelby. King denied the claim against her, but after concluding the investigation, the Adjutant General terminated King’s employment with the Department. Aggrieved, King appealed her termination to the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board (Board); however, the Department challenged the Board’s jurisdiction to hear King’s appeal. The chief hearing officer assigned to King’s appeal agreed with the Department and dismissed King’s appeal. King then appealed for full Board review, and the Board affirmed the chief hearing officer’s determination. Next, King appealed to the Forrest County Circuit Court. The circuit court heard arguments and issued an opinion and judgment affirming the Board. Finally, King filed this appeal. The Mississippi Supreme Court held that, while King may be considered a state service employee as defined by the Legislature, the Adjutant General, by virtue of three statutory provisions, was not subject to review by the Board. View "King v. Mississippi Military Department" on Justia Law
Miss. Dept. of Public Safety v. Smith
The dispositive issue before the Mississippi Supreme Court in this matter was whether the Employee Appeals Board properly dismissed the Appellees’ claims for lack of jurisdiction due to the untimely filing of the appeal. After review, the Supreme Court held that it properly dismissed the Appellees’ claims for lack of jurisdiction. "In essence, we simply cannot ignore the gross procedural errors to accord the requested relief. Therefore, we reverse the circuit court’s decision to grant the summary-judgment motion and dismiss the appeal petition because the EAB lacked jurisdiction." View "Miss. Dept. of Public Safety v. Smith" on Justia Law