Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
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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 City of Grenada appealed a Circuit Court’s judgment affirming the findings of the Mississippi Department of Employment Security Board of Review (Board of Review) that a terminated police officer was entitled to unemployment benefits. The Board of Review found that Stefan Sanders failed a fitness-for-duty exam due to psychological problems and that the City of Grenada had acted reasonably by discharging Sanders. But because Sanders’s mental condition was outside his control, the Board of Review found that he was entitled to receive unemployment compensation. The Mississippi Supreme Court found that the Board of Review’s decision that Sanders was entitled to unemployment benefits was supported by substantial evidence, thus it affirmed the circuit court’s judgment affirming the Board of Review’s decision. View "City of Grenada v. Mississippi Department of Employment Security" on Justia Law

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Robert Sharp shot and killed John Gorman during a firearm-training exercise ("a multitude of lapses in safety protocols"). Sharp and Gorman were employees of the Mississippi Gaming Commission and were acting in the course and scope of their employment. The Commission Shooting Review Board concluded that the incident “was an accidental discharge of an agency weapon,” it also concluded that the “failure to follow the prescribed policies, procedures and lesson plans” was the most significant contributing factor. After the incident, Gorman’s heirs began receiving automatic workers’ compensation payments. Each heir brought independent actions against the Commission that were later consolidated. Once consolidated, the Commission filed a joint motion for summary judgment in August 2017, stating the exclusivity of Mississippi Workers’ Compensation law barred further remedy. Gorman’s heirs opposed the motion by way of a pleading, memorandum, and a supplement with affidavits and admissions purportedly deemed admitted. The circuit court later granted summary judgment for the Commission. On appeal, the heirs argued: (1) the circuit court erred in determining the Workers' Compensation Act was the exclusive remedy to recover for the wrongful death of John Gorman; and (2) the circuit court erred in determining complete immunity applied regarding the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. Finding no triable issues of material fact in the record, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Estate of Gorman v. Mississippi Gaming Commission" on Justia Law

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Quality Choice Correctional Healthcare entered a contract with Hinds County, Mississippi to provide comprehensive medical care to inmates. Delorise Rollins was hired by Quality Choice as a nurse at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond and was injured in the course of her duties. At that time, Quality Choice did not carry workers’ compensation coverage. As a result, Rollins filed a petition to controvert with the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission found that the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department (HCSD) was not Rollins’s statutory employer and denied workers’ compensation benefits. Rollins then appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission’s decision. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Rollins’s petition for writ of certiorari, and found that because the HCSD was not Rollins' statutory employer, workers’ compensation benefits were not available. The Court therefore affirmed decisions of the Court of Appeals and the Commission. View "Rollins v. Hinds County Sheriff's Department et al." on Justia Law

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Brian Carver was employed by the Jackson Police Department as a patrolman for twenty years. In 2004, Carver was involved in an officer-involved shooting in which he shot and killed a suspect. In 2011, Brian Carver applied for non-duty-related and duty-related disability benefits due to his suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder relating ot that 2004 shooting. The Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi “granted [Carver] non-duty related disability benefits but denied his request for duty-related disability benefits.” The denial by PERS was affirmed by the Disability Appeals Committee, the PERS Board of Trustees, the Hinds County Circuit Court, and the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals determined that “[a] plain-language reading of [Mississippi Code S]ection 25-11-114(7)(b) clearly distinguishes mental and physical disabilities.” The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, finding that the plain language of Section 25-11-114(6) required, at the time Carver applied for benefits, a physical injury arising from an accident or traumatic event occurring in the line of duty. "Post-traumatic stress disorder may cause physiological changes to the brain and manifest in physiological symptoms; however, no physical injury occurred in the line of duty in the case sub judice. The PERS Board’s decision was not arbitrary or capricious, and it was based on substantial evidence." View "Carver v. Public Employees' Retirement System of Mississippi" on Justia Law

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After suffering two work-related injuries, Sheree Cleveland settled her workers’ compensation claims with Advance Auto Parts and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, Indemnity Insurance Company of North America. The Workers’ Compensation Commission approved the settlement. Approximately one month later, the Employer/Carrier filed a Form B-31 indicating the last payment had been made. More than a year after that, Cleveland filed a motion asserting that the Employer/Carrier had not paid all compensation due under the settlement and that two medical bills remained outstanding. The Commission found that, because a one-year statute of limitations had expired, it lacked jurisdiction to enforce its order approving the settlement agreement. Cleveland appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed, questioning whether the one-year statute of limitations applied to the claim. But instead of answering that question, the Court of Appeals found that the Employer/Carrier had been estopped from asserting a statute of limitations defense because it had agreed to pay the outstanding bills and had represented to the administrative law judge that it would do so. Further, the Court of Appeals also found Cleveland's contact with the Employer/Carrier within the limitations period tolled the statute of limitations, if, in fact, it applied. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed, but for different reasons than the appellate court. The Supreme Court determined the statute of limitations did not apply to Cleveland's motion for enforcement of the settlement order, therefore, her motion was timely filed. View "Cleveland v. Advance Auto Parts" on Justia Law

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The Mississippi Supreme Court accepted this case on certiorari review from the Court of Appeals. Shaun Seals worked for the Pearl River Resort; he alleged he was terminated for reasons relating to a work-related injury. Donna Brolick, Pearl River Resort’s director of employment compliance, was called as a witness at the hearing before an administrative judge (AJ). Brolick testified that she was previously vice president of human resources at Pearl River Resort at the time Seals’s position was phased out and he was let go in January of 2013. Brolick further testified that in 2012 the resort changed its management. Multiple upper-level positions were eliminated or consolidated. Seals’s position as director of transportation was one of several positions that were eliminated. The Workers' Compensation Commission reversed the AJ’s order. The Commission found that Seals had reached maximum medical improvement on November 13, 2015, but failed to prove any permanent disability or loss of wage-earning capacity for two reasons. The Commission found that Seals was let go for unrelated economic reasons, noting his receipt of severance pay and other benefits as well as the testimony and evidence adduced by the Resort. Seals appealed the Commission's decision to the Court of Appeals. The appellate court held the Commission was correct in its assessment of the date of maximum medical improvement but that the Commission erred by finding Seals failed to prove any loss of wage-earning capacity. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the decision of the Commission and directed the Commission to calculate Seals’s loss of wage-earning capacity and to award corresponding compensation. The Resort petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which was granted. The Supreme Court adopted "the well-reasoned analysis of the opinion concerning maximum medical improvement," but was "constrained to reverse the Court of Appeals’ majority regarding loss of wage-earning capacity. Sufficient evidence supported the Commission’s decision that Seals had not suffered loss of wage-earning capacity." The Commission's decision was reinstated in toto. View "Seals v. Pearl River Resort & Casino" on Justia Law

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Former Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Company employees Regina Thomas and Pam Pilgrim filed suit against the company claiming they were wrongfully discharged. While recognizing Mississippi is an at-will-employment state, the former employees alleged Southern Farm Bureau’s employee handbook altered their at-will status. They insisted the handbook conferred certain substantive and procedural rights, including the right not to be discriminated against based on gender and age, which they suggest they were denied. But upon review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the employee handbook expressly disclaimed the formation of any employment contract. "So under Mississippi law, Thomas and Pilgrim remained at-will employees. This meant they could be fired for good reason, bad reason, or no reason at all, except for reasons independently declared legally impermissible." Rather than having exhausted their administrative remedies, as was required when bringing a gender-discrimination claim, they asked the Supreme Court to create an exception to an already existing exception to the at-will doctrine, which would have allowed them to avoid the express procedural requirements for federal discrimination claims. But the Mississippi Supreme Court has recognized that creating exceptions to the at-will doctrine was a legislative concern, not a judicial task. "Because Congress has already created a discrimination-based exception to the at-will doctrine—which Thomas and Pilgrim failed to pursue - we reject their request." View "Southern Farm Bureau Life Ins. Co. v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Vernon Walters was injured in a work-related incident in October 2006; the vehicle he was driving was struck by an oncoming train. After receiving workers’ compensation benefits, he and his wife, Donyell Walters, filed a third-party claim against the company operating the train involved in the collision, Kansas City Southern Railway Company (KCSR). The Walterses hired the Parsons Law Firm to represent them in their suit, and Tadd Parsons took the case. The Walterses’ lawsuit against KCSR was ultimately dismissed with prejudice in September 2010 for, among other reasons, failure to prosecute, failure to comply with discovery obligations and fraud upon the court. Tadd never told the Walterses that their case had been dismissed and led them to believe their case was ongoing. Three years after the case had been dismissed, Tadd admitted he fabricated a settlement offer from KCSR in the amount of $104,000 and advised the Walterses to accept the offer, which they did. When eight months passed after Tadd informed the Walterses about the fabricated settlement, the Walterses demanded to meet with Jack Parsons, the other general partner at the Parsons Law Firm. Jack offered the Walterses $50,000 to settle any claims they may have had against Tadd based on his conduct in representing them in the KCSR lawsuit. The Walterses refused Jack’s offer and then filed a claim against Tadd, Jack and the Parsons Law Firm, alleging claims of fraud, defamation, negligent representation, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress and punitive damages. The trial court granted partial summary judgment for the Walterses on the matter of liability, finding that Tadd and the Parsons Law Firm were liable for fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court then held a jury trial on damages. The jury verdict awarded the Walterses $2,850,002 in compensatory damages, which exceeded what the Walterses had demanded in compensatory damages in their complaint and in their motion to set damages. Finding the jury’s verdict shocked the conscience, the court remitted the damages to $1,034,666.67 in a second amended final judgment. Parsons appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, and the Walterses cross-appealed. The Supreme Court determined the trial court did not abuse its discretion by excluding irrelevant evidence about the underlying KCSR lawsuit because the value of the lawsuit had no bearing on the damages the Walterses sustained due to Tadd Parsons’s and the Parsons Law Firm’s fraud and IIED. Further, the Court determined the remitted verdict’s award of damages was excessive and not supported by substantial evidence. The trial court was therefore affirmed in part, reversed in part, and the matter remanded for a new trial on damages. View "Parsons v. Walters" on Justia Law

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Angela Jones alleged she sustained a compensable back injury while working as a registered nurse at Baptist Hospital. A Workers’ Compensation Commission administrative judge determined that Jones sustained a compensable work-related injury. Baptist appealed the administrative judge’s decision to the full Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission, and the Commission reversed, determining Jones did not sustain a compensable work-related injury. Jones appealed, and the Court of Appeals reversed the Commission's decision. Baptist then petitioned for the Mississippi Supreme Court's review. Finding the Commission's decision was supported by substantial evidence, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and reinstated the Commission's decision. View "Jones v. Mississippi Baptist Health Systems Inc." on Justia Law