Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Aug. 13, 2015

N.C. Leasing Center, LLC dba The Nichols Center v. Nilene Junkerarbitration agreement – Nilene Junker was admitted to the Nichols Center nursing facility for rehabilitation after surgery. Her daughter had power of attorney and signed an admission agreement containing an arbitration clause  on Junker’s behalf.  While she was being put in a room, Junker fell and sustained injuries. Junker sued the Nichols Center which moved to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion, finding that the arbitration agreement was unenforceable because  the  agreement did  not make provision for an arbitrator in the event the parties could not agree. The Miss.S.Ct. reverses.  “Without any attempt by the parties to select an arbitrator, it is mere speculation to conclude that no arbitrator will ever be mutually agreeable. And, if the parties reached that point, the court would be called upon to appoint an arbitrator pursuant to Section 5 of the FAA.”

Drake Lewis v. Tonia Lewis Pagelchild support and property division –  Drake and Tonia married in 1991.  Tonia filed for divorce in 2006 citing Drake;s adultery.  They had three kids under 18.  At issue here is the property division.  In 1996, the Lewises  entered into real estate ventures with Drake’s father, a property developer based in Louisiana. Drake’s father established a trust in Drake’s name that included real property. Later, the trust distributed Drake’s trust property to Drake and it was titled in his name. In 2001, Drake and Tonia formed Legacy Holdings, Inc.  a general contracting business constructing residential homes.  Tonia and Drake each owned fifty percent.

The chancellor awarded Tonia assets totaling $865,733, and awarded Drake assets totaling $1,807,882, including Legacy, which the chancellor valued at $1,148,270. Drake’s allotment of assets also included the repayment of a loan that the parties had made to Legacy, totaling $156,555.  Drake appealed, arguing that the equitable distribution was erroneous because the chancellor had made errors in classifying and valuing certain assets.  The COA reversed finding that even Tonia admitted that the value of Legacy had been misstated. Tonia filed a petition for certiorari, arguing that the Court of Appeals had erred in its remand order by requiring the chancellor to include goodwill in the valuation of Legacy.

On remand, there were additional issues because stuff happened:  Tonia moved, one of the kids went to live with Tonia’s sister and Drake closed Legacy.  On appeal, the Court uphold the property division and the award of lump sum alimony. The Court reverses and remands on the child support issue because the  chancellor failed to address the fact that Drake’s monthly income no longer included repayments from the Legacy loan.

Hattiesburg Health and Rehab v. Emma Brown as Executor of the Estate of Leo Brown arbitration agreement –  Emma Brown signed a nursing home admission agreement on behalf of her husband.  It  contained an arbitration provision. Her husband died soon after his discharge, and she brought a wrongful-death suit against the nursing home which moved to compel  arbitration. The trial judge denied the motion.  On appeal, the Miss.S.Ct. affirms finding that Leo was not a third party beneficiary; Emma was not Leo’s heatth care surrogate and Leo was not bound by the doctrine of direct benefit estoppel.

Tonya Sanderson v.  Hobson Sanderson, Jr.  –  prenup – The Court denies rehearing but modifies the opinion in this  case wherein the court reversed for further findings  on whether the prenuptial agreement is substantively unconscionable. “We also hold that certain funds, used for familial purposes, kept in a joint bank account created after the marriage began, do not fall within the parameters of the prenuptial agreement.”

Sammy William Ray v. Miss. Department of Public  Safety –  termination from state employment/ due process – Ray was fired for writing and then voiding four warning tickets. He claims this was a practice he learned during MDPS training and that almost all troopers do it. MDPS claims this was the writing of “ghost tickets” done merely to bolster the officer’s work performance.  The Court of Appeals issued an en banc opinion reversing the dismissal.  The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert. and reverses the Court of Appeals.  “The Department of Public Safety (“Department”) appeals to this Court, asserting that the Court of Appeals improperly reweighed the evidence and failed to give sufficient deference to the EAB’s findings. We agree and now reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and reinstate and affirm the judgment of the trial court.”

Michael Jackson v. Rosie Jackson –   division of marital property – Rosie Jackson was granted  a divorce  on the ground of cruel and inhuman treatment in 2012. The Court of Appeals affirmed the chancellor’s judgment.  The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert. and finds that the  chancellor manifestly erred in his calculation of the marital assets and liabilities (the court  miscalculated  the value of the parties’ equitable distributions by erroneously counting the mortgage debt against Rosie twice) and, thus, affirms in part and reverses in part and remands.

The Court grants cert in Moseley v. Smith which presents an interesting issue regarding whether there is a discovery rule (tolling the statute of limitations ) for violations of a divorce agreement.  The COA found that there is a discovery rule.  Here’s the COA opinion.  Here’s the cert. petition.

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