Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Nov. 6, 2014

 Dr. Charles Brent v. Vennit B. Mathis, II – children cannot claim alienation of affections – . Venn and Nicole were married for five years (2005 to 2010) and had two children. At some point, Nicole had a “brief romantic relationship” with Dr. Brent. Venn has sued Dr. Brent for alienation of affections and intentional infliction emotional distress on behalf of himself and the two minor children. Dr. Brent moved for summary judgment on the children’s claims contending that they had no standing to sue for alienation of affection and no evidence on the intentional infliction of emotional distress claim. The Circuit Court of Jones County denied the motion. Dr. Brent filed an interlocutory appeal which the Court granted and reverses finding that children cannot sue for alienation of affections or intentional interference with the marriage contract.  While they might be able to sue for intentional infliction of emotional distress, the plaintiffs failed to meet the standard in this case and even that claims should be dismissed.

Minn. Life ins. v. Columbia Casualty –   insurer’s duty to defend – In 1998 and 1999, several lawsuits were filed against  Minn. Life and some former agents of Minn. Life and  Gulley, a general agent for Minn. Life, alleging that Gulley misappropriated money from investors.   Cross claims were filed between  the former agents and Minn. Life.  Columbia Casualty refused to defend the former agents or Minn. Life and Columbia Casualty and CNA Financial were brought in as third party defendants.  Minn. Life then filed a cross claim against the CNA defendants.  The litigation spanned years (Minn. Life and the former agents ended up settling the lawsuits that spawned the litigation) with the trial court eventually granting motions for summary judgment for CNA.  The former agents and Minn. Life appealed arguing that CNA had a duty to defend the former agents under either the ERP Provision or the Excess Coverage provision and a duty to defend Minn. Life under the Vicarious Liability Provision.

The court affirms in part and reverses in part.

“Coverage” is not broadly defined as a mere policy but instead applies to protection afforded by an insurance policy. The Ex-Agents did not have coverage under the AIG policy for the wrongful acts alleged in the underlying complaints, thus triggering the Extended The Ex-Agents cannot recover the same damages twice and can recover only if  damages are proven in excess of the amounts they already have been paid. “It is well known that this state does not endorse double recovery. . . . Double recovery . . . prevents unjust enrichment by precluding a recovery of the same damages multiple times. . . .” R.K. v. J.K., 946 So. 2d 764, 777 (Miss. 2007) (citing Medlin v. Hazlehurst Emergency Physicians, 889 So. 2d 496, 499 (Miss. 2005)).
Minnesota Life does not fare as well. It is clear from the underlying claims that independent wrongdoing on the part of Minnesota Life was alleged, negating its vicarious liability coverage. Columbia did not breach its duty to defend Minnesota Life, as no duty to defend was ever triggered. Additionally, the policy strictly prohibits voluntary payments. On its own, Minnesota Life chose voluntarily to settle all of the claims against it by the underlying claims and the Ex-Agents without the consent of Columbia. Columbia is not liable for those voluntary payments. As such, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Columbia as to Minnesota Life’s claims. . We affirm the trial court’s order denying the motion to strike and its order granting summary judgment in favor of Columbia as to Minnesota Life’s claim; however, we reverse the trial court’s order granting summary judgment in favor of Columbia as to the Ex-Agents’ claims and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Dianne Truddle v. Baptist Memorial Hospital Desoto, Inc. – med mal. for suicide –  In June 2008, Eric  Carmichael was admitted to the hospital after being diagnosed with a gastric ulcer, gastritis, esophagitis, questionable pericarditis, and normal coronary arteries following a heart catheterization.  A few days later, the night before he was discharged he became disoriented  and ran out of his room saying something about being raped. Four days after he was discharged, he complained at a followup appointment that the drugs were making him crazy. The next day he killed him himself using a gun.  His mother filed suit against the hospital and the doctor.  The trial court granted summary judgment.

Nothing in Mississippi caselaw, save the irresistible-impulse doctrine, however, abrogates the general rule that suicide constitutes “an independent, intervening and superseding event that severs the causal nexus between any wrongful action on the part of the defendant.” Shamburger, 84 F. Supp. 2d at 798 (citing Nicholson on Behalf of Gollott v. State, 672 So. 2d 744, 753 (Miss. 1996)). The Edgeworth Court specifically stated that the irresistible-impulse doctrine applied as an exception to the general rule regarding suicide because “[a] higher degree of responsibility is imposed upon a wrongdoer whose conduct was intended to cause harm than upon one whose conduct was negligent.” Edgeworth, 214 So. 2d at 586.

Furthermore, this principle extends to medical-malpractice claims.

To recover under the irresistible impulse doctrine, the plaintiff would have to “plead and prove: (1) the decedent was under an ‘irresistible impulse’ rendering him or her unable to discern the nature or consequences of suicide, and (2) the “irresistible impulse” was proximately caused by the defendant’s intentional conduct.”

Conley v. Epps –  eligibility for parole for  murder/ ex post facto  –   Glen Conley was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.  The murder for which he was convicted was committed on May 23, 1994. At that time, there were only two penalties for capital murder under MCA Sect.  99-19-101:  death and life with the possibility of parole. Before he was convicted,  the statute  was amended to include life without parole.  On direct appeal, Conley claimed that his sentence of lwop violated the doctrine against ex post facto. The Miss.S.Ct. affirmed.   Conley v. State, 790 So. 2d 773, 779 (¶1) (Miss. 2001).

This appeal arose after Conley asked MDOC for a parole-eligibility date and was denied. Conley utilized the MDOC Administrative Remedies Program to ask for a parole-eligibility date. This request was also denied. Conley appealed this decision to the circuit court which  dismissed his appeal. On appeal to the Ct of App., it held that “Because the Mississippi Supreme Court already reviewed and affirmed the trial court’s decision in Conley, 790 So. 2d at 804 (¶123), Conley is barred from relitigating the issue  under the doctrine of res judicata”  The Miss. Sc. Ct. granted cert. and affirms on different grounds that the trial court erred as treating the petition as a pcr.  FIrst of all, he lost this claim on direct appeal. Secondly, he brought his claim before the wrong body.    Conley correctly contends that, when a trial judge’s parole limitation is illegal, the parole board may strike the parole limitation language as mere surplusage and affirm the remainder. However, a court – such as the Mississippi Supreme Court – must first determine that the parole limitation is illegal.”  “In Conley’s 2001 appeal, the Court did not find the language of the trial judge’s sentence to be illegal; therefore, the instant case is without merit.”

Tammy Davenport v. Richard Davenport –  equitable division of property in divorce – Apparently he was a highway patrolman and she was a physical therapist who made a boatload of money.  She is upset about the trial court’s division of the martial assets.  The Miss.S.Ct affirms.

In re the Matter of the Estate of Norma Crowell an estate/two sisters/undue influence – Two sisters, Caron Crowell and Jackie Trotter, have been fighting over their mother’s estate before she died. Norma, known as Allene, died in 2006. Before her death, Caron was taking care of her mother and in 2000 Caron was given power of attorney over her mother’s estate. Jackie lived in North Carolina. After Allene’s death, Jackie claimed that Caron had used her confidential relationship with Allene to loot the estate. At some point Jackie died and her estate has been substituted. In the end, the chancellor divided the estate equally but Caron was found to have taken $305,854 to which she was not entitled. So Caron appeals. Jackie cross appeals.  The  Court affirms except for the post-judgment award of $100,000 in attorneys fees to Norma.  There was insufficient evidence that  Caron spent $100,000 of the estate’s money in hiring some 42 attorneys.

Heflin v. Merrill and or the Estate of Merrill and Nationwide – mention of insurance –  “The plaintiff in this automobile-accident lawsuit sued her underinsured-motorist insurance carrier. Even though the UM carrier admitted liability and agreed to pay any damages awarded at trial that exceeded available liability coverage, the plaintiff insisted on  informing the jury of the insurance company’s status as a defendant. The trial judge refused to allow it. We affirm.”

In the Matter of the Estate of Boyce ElmoreSOL for paternity with regard to estate – Boyce ELmore died in 2000.  Ten years later Cedric Williams filed a paternity action claiming to be Boyce’s son.   Because Boyce’s widow failed to provide Cedric with notice of the estate, the chancellor allowed it. On appeal the Court of Appeals reversed. “The Court of Appeals stated it was ‘inclined to find that the one-year statute of limitations applie[d],” and that “Cedric is barred from seeking relief because he filed outside of this time period . . . .” But because the estate did not argue to the chancellor that the one- year statute of limitations applied, the Court of Appeals refused to apply it. The Court cited the familiar rule that ‘a trial court will not be put in error on appeal for a matter not presented to it for decision.’ However, the ‘matter’ the estate raised was the running of  the statute of limitations under Section 91-1-15. Thus, the matter was presented squarely for the chancellor’s decision.” The  Miss. S. Ct reverses the trial court for a different reason. “The Court of Appeals correctly reversed the chancellor’s judgment but failed to apply Section 91-1-15(3)(c)’s one-year period of limitations. Under Mississippi law, failure to bring a timely
paternity claim bars the nonmarital child’s right to inherit as an heir under our statute.”

Two cert. grants (the links below take you to the COA opinion)

Cofield v. Imperial Palace –  Cofield filed a slip and fall case arguing that she slipped on an unidentified liquid while walking toward the elevators at a casino. The trial court granted summary judgment to the casino because Cofield had no evidence as to how the substance got there. She had an expert opine that the liquid was from guests using the pool but that opinion was mere speculation. Cofield also argued that the casino erred in not saving more security footage of the incident instead of the mere 26 seconds prior to the fall and the fall and aftermath. The Court of Appeals finds no error and affirms.

Lovett v. Delta Regional Medical Center and MHA Solutions – Lovett filed two workers comp. claims – the first from a slip and fall which occurred on March 8, 2006, while she was working as a security guard at Delta Regional Medical Center.  This injured her back and knee.   The second was for a stroke that happened seven months after she returned to work.  The AJ found that she suffered a 30% loss of wage earning capacity due to the slip and fall, her stroke was non-compensable, that her treatments by Drs. Shah, Aziz and Jenkins were within the chain of referral and her employer was liable for paying them, and that treatments by her neurologist were not for work related injuries.  The Commission reversed holding that Lovett failed to establish a loss of wage earning capacity because she received an 18 cents an hour wage after she returned to work and that the medical treatments of the the doctors were outside the chain of referral.  The Commission agreed with the Aj that the stroke was non-compensable.  On appeal, the Ct. of Appeals affirmed the Commission finding that it was supported by substantial evidence.

One thought on “Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Nov. 6, 2014

  1. Pingback: Can the Children of a Mississippi Marriage Have a Cause of Action for Alienation of Affection? | The Better Chancery Practice Blog

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