Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – July 23, 2015

Toccara Williams v. Memorial Hospital at Gulfport and Nikkita Barr  –  defendant’s right to discovery regarding reasonableness of medical billsThis is an interlocutory appeal  of a car wreck case asking the question of whether “a defendant may depose a hospital regarding its medical charges to the plaintiff in order to establish whether those bills were reasonable and necessary in order to overcome the rebuttable presumption that medical bills are reasonable and necessary as provided by Miss. Code Ann. §41-9-119.”   The defendant  describes the accident as a fender bender and wants to explore why the emergency room bill amounted to $31,964.70.  The trial court quashed the subpoena.  The Miss.S.Ct. granted the interlocutory appeal and reverses the trial court’s order granting the motion to quash.

David T. Huntington v. Margaret F. Huntington  and David T. Huntington v. William T. Huntington – children’s right to sue father to pay for college –  The court dismisses this interlocutory appeal on its own motion finding that “there is no need to further review” the case.

John Lee Franklin v. State –  restitution/admissibility of confession – Franklin was found guilty of arson and sentenced to eighteen years and make restitution to the homeowners in the amount of $10,000 and to the victim in the amount of $3,000. Franklin and his girlfriend, Amanda Ormond, lived together with their children in a house they rented from the Johnsons in  Forest.  Franklin and Ormond started having relationship problems.  One day in September 2012, Amanda and a male friend her a banging sound coming from the back door.  The laundry room was on fire and Amanda and her friend  saw Franklin running from behind the house.   Franklin was questioned and confessed to soaking a pair of longjohns in gas, igniting them and throwing them into the attic. On appeal, Franklin claims the court erred in ordering restitution and in  admitting Franklin’s confession into evidence.   The COA affirms. Franklin’s argument that the  trial court did not meet the requirements set forth in M C A  99-37-3 for setting restitution is waived for failure to object.  Franklin argues that the confession was inadmissible because he told the investigator that he needed help and “because Investigator Rigby failed to inquire further what help Franklin needed, the State failed to meet its burden of proof that his confession was voluntary.”   The court finds the trial court did not abuse its discretion in letting the confession in.  Franklin was read his Miranda rights. “We also agree with the trial court that Franklin’s statement that he needed ‘help’ was insufficient to invoke his right to counsel.”

Timothy Lee Carr v. State –   retroactivity – Carr was indicted for  capital murder, and convicted him of  manslaughter in May 2005.  Following his conviction, the trial court allowed the State to amend Carr’s indictment, charging him as an habitual offender under M.C.A. Sect.  99-19-81 and the court sentenced him to 20 years.   His case was affirmed on appeal and Carr filed two post-conviction motions.  In 2013, the Court granted Carr’s  third application to file a pcr in the trial court arguing that the habitual-offender portion of his sentence should be vacated for two reasons: (1) because this Court’s intervening decision in Gowdy prohibited post-conviction indictment amendments; and (2) because the prosecution failed to reintroduce evidence of his prior convictions during the sentencing phase of his trial.  The trial court denied relief citing Newberry v. State, 85 So. 3d 884, 890–91 (Miss. Ct. App. 2011) (holding that Gowdy did not “establish an absolute, indispensable rule that a trial judge’s decision to withhold ruling on the State’s  request to amend an indictment to allege habitual-offender status creates an unfair surprise”).   The Court of Appeals affirmed and the Miss.S.Ct. granted cert. only to affirm the COA.  “We limit the question on review to whether our decision in Gowdy applies retroactively. See M.R.A.P. 17(h). We hold that it does not, and we write here to make explicit what our holding in McCain implied: the rule we announced in Gowdy does not apply retroactively to cases that were final before April 7, 2011, the date the mandate issued in Gowdy.”

The Service Companies, Inc. d/b/a FSS v. The Estate of Maurice Vaughn. workers comp‘s “intent to injure”  exception – Maurice Vaughn was a housekeeper who worked for FSS which  had a contract to clean hotel rooms on certain floors at at the Gold Strike Casino.  Vaughn reported to work on May 28, 2010, Vaughn reported to  work and gave her supervisor a doctor’s note explaining why she was out on May 26.  A couple of hours later she called her sister to tell her that she was in pain and asked her to come pick her up. Before her sister made it to the casino, Vaughn was found nearly passed out having suffered a heart attack. She was taken to a hospital but was dead before she got there.  Vaughn’s estate sued FSS and Gold Strike for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The Estate alleges that Vaughn was told she could not leave  work because it was  Memorial Day weekend.  The estate did not pursue a remedy under workers comp. on the grounds that her case was exempt under the “intent to injure” exception to the exclusive remedy of workers comp.  FSS moved for summary judgment  which was denied.   The Miss. S. Ct. granted FSS’s interloc. and reverses and renders.

Here, the plaintiffs fail to satisfy the first element of false imprisonment. Plaintiffs fail to submit evidence of willful detention by a tortfeasor. If the plaintiffs’ allegations and depositions (regarding Vaughn’s hearsay testimony) are taken as true, then Vaughn’s supervisor told her she could not leave work without accumulating “double points” under the employee point system. None of the parties has alleged Gholam or FSS would have fired Vaughn, and the plaintiffs’ counsel has not sufficiently evidenced, through case law or otherwise, that such an action would amount to willful detention in any event.

Franklin Fitzpatrick v. State –  the case against bath salts – Franklin Fitzpatrick murdered Sheriff’s Deputy Dewayne Crenshaw in December 2010.  This happened after he and a friend taking bath salts and Fitzpatrick ended up acting crazy necessitating a call to 911.  When deputies attempted to handcuff Fitzpatrick, a scuffle ensued during which Fitzpatrick got Crenshaw’s gun and shot him.  Fitzpatrick was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. “Three issues are raised on appeal: (1) whether the jury instruction allowed for conviction without a proper showing of the requisite mental state, (2) whether the trial court erred when it overruled Fitzpatrick’s motion for new trial based on the weight of the evidence, and (3) whether Fitzpatrick is procedurally barred from challenging the elements jury instruction on appeal because he did not object to it at trial. Because the jury instruction was a correct statement of the law, and Fitzpatrick’s arguments are otherwise without merit, we affirm Fitzpatrick’s conviction and sentence.”

Fitzpatrick argues the statute requires the State to prove malice aforethought, but the jury instruction allowed conviction without such a showing. This Court agrees that the elements instruction allowed Fitzpatrick to be convicted of capital murder of a police officer without a showing of malice aforethought; however, no such showing is required under the statute. See Miss. Code Ann. § 97-3-19(2)(a) (Rev. 2014).

2 thoughts on “Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – July 23, 2015

  1. Jane,

    Don’t have to tell you that bath salts are a bad idea! Thanks for the cool case.

    BTW, I’m fascinated by the Toccara Williams vs. Memorial Hospital Gulfport case. I too would wonder why the ER bill would be $31,000, and I am an ER physician. Was there anything in the actual case that describes why the ED bills were so high?

    • Mostly CT scans.
      CT-Head without contrast $3,888.40
      CT-Chest $4,662.80
      CT-Cervical Spine without contrast $5,919.80
      CT-Abdomen $8,757.10
      There’s only $25,000 in insurance.

      We have an ER doc friend who says the same thing about spice. He told us that they were visited by some guy suffering from too much pot (which I did not know was possible) and even the super-religious nurse was saying “at least it’s natural.”

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