Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Oct. 8, 2015 – part 2

James Newell v. State – expert testimony (Hayne overreaching) – James Newell had been married to his wife Diane for two weeks when he began to suspect that she was cheating on him which was made easier by the fact that he lived in Alabama (but worked in Columbus, Mississippi) while she lived in Columbus.   One day  Newell called Diane’s cell phone and left two voicemail messages – the first threatening to  shoot Diane and her boyfriend Tony, the second recanting that threat.  Later that evening, though, Newell drove from  Alabama to a bar in Lowndes County, Mississippi, in order to confirm that Diane was cheating on him with Tony before he went through with the divorce.  When Newell arrived at the bar, he saw Diane’s truck in the parking lot, but Diane was not there.  Newell saw Adrian Boyette, whom he did not know, standing near Diane’s truck. And he saw Boyette’s friend, Jason Colby Hollis, standing nearby.  Newell asked Boyette if he knew Diane.    Boyette replied no.  Newell pointed toward Hollis and asked who he was. Boyette responded that Hollis was his friend and warned  Newell not to mess with Hollis. Harsh words were exchanged between Newell and Boyette, and Newell turned around and walked back toward his own truck followed by Boyette who began shouting and beating on the truck as Newell got into it.  Newell testified that Boyette stated that he was going to “[mess] [Newell] up!” At some point, Boyette shut the truck door on Newell’s leg.  Once Newell got the door closed, Boyette continued beating on the truck and yelling “I’m fixing to get you — [mess] up your world. I’m fixing to — get [yourself] out of that truck.” At this point, Newell began backing up the truck. But,  Newell testified,  he still feared for his life because: [Boyette] come around there, come around and grabbed on the door, like opening the door, like he was either — from the look in his eyes, he was either going to — you know, he was going to try to open that door, just stand there beat — hitting on me when I was sitting in the door, or he was trying to snatch me out of the truck. Then, Newell pushed on the door from the inside, and Boyette backed up just enough for Newell to step out of the truck. Next, according to Newell, “[Boyette] said ‘I’m fixing to cut you up,’” and “when he grabbed at his pocket, that’s when [Newell] reached under the . . . seat of the truck, pulled the pistol out, and shot him.”  Newell then jumped back into his truck and fled to his home in Alabama. Although Boyette never displayed a knife or any other weapon, a pocket knife later was found in his pocket. Boyette died from the gunshot.  The first trial was reversed on appeal for failure to give an instruction under the castle doctrine. Newell v. State, 49 So. 3d 66, 74 (Miss. 2010).  This time the case is reversed because the state had Dr. Steven Hayne testify that Boyette’s wounds were consistent with him having been in a “guarded position.”   Newell filed for cert asking the Miss.S.Ct. to address his speedy trial and insufficient evidence issues that, if granted, would have required vacating the conviction.  The Court rejects Newell’s arguments but agrees with the COA that Newell is entitled to trial number 3.

Denise Irle v. Patty Foster and Lavirl Foster – custody  – “In this custody battle between a child’s mother and grandparents, the chancellor heard evidence that the child’s mother was sexually promiscuous, that she had failed drug tests, and that she planned to move with the child to Chicago to live with a convicted sex-offender. The chancellor also heard evidence to the contrary. Based on this evidence, and judging the credibility of the witnesses before him, the chancellor found that the natural-parent presumption had been overcome and, after conducting a proper Albright analysis, that the best interests of the child would be served by granting custody to the grandparents.  We affirm.”

Ernest Lane III v. Ronald Lampkin –   corporate dissolution –  Ronnie Lampkin and J.O. Lane  were 50/50 shareholders in a corporation that supplied rock. When Smith died, the corporation’s line of credit,  which was necessary for the business to continue to operate, was terminated.  Smith’s estate refused to sign on to an extension of the guarantee for the line of credit.  Lampkin did what he could to wind up the business but started his own rock supply business.  The chancellor divvied up the corporation.  The estate appealed on the grounds that the chancellor erred in assessing damages for the estate given that Lampkin usurped a corporate opportunity in starting a new rock supply business. This Court  affirmed the chancellor’s decision  agreeing that while Lamkpin usurped a corporate opportunity, Lampkin had no choice when the estate refused to assist with extending the credit line which the company  required in order to keep doing business.  The Miss.S.Ct. granted cert. and reverses finding that the chancellor used the wrong formula to assess damages.

The chancellor’s assessment of “historical lost net profits” in his damages calculation did not take into account Lampkin’s post-breach rock-price increase. And while the chancellor considered “historical lost net profits” on the basis of Lovett, which ultimately concluded that use of past profits to determine future profits was misleading, the chancellor offered no explanation for why his assessment of lost profits took into account only the years 2008 through 2012, especially in light of the fact that Delta Stone began operating in January 2007.

William Painter and John Chalk v. Regions Insurance Coappeal of arbitration award –  Painter, Chalk, Angie Strickland, and Jamie White  worked for Regions Insurance until July 2013 when they quit to work for Alliant.  Regions sued all four  claiming that they  breached contractual provisions precluding solicitation of customers they had served at Regions within the preceding two years.  Regions also contended that Painter and Chalk violated an agreement not to compete in the insurance business for a period of two years after termination of employment.  The trial court  ordered injunctive relief prohibiting Painter and Chalk from soliciting, accepting, or servicing customers they had serviced in the prior two years working for Regions but allowed them to continue servicing the clients they had already taken from Regions. Pursuant to the employment agreements, the parties submitted the issue of damages to an arbitrator.   The arbitrator ultimately ordered that Painter and Chalk  pay Regions twice the amount of any compensation they would receive in the next two years from customers they had served at Regions. The Circuit Court affirmed the award.  Painter and Chalk raise two main issues:  1) that the arbitrator violated the agreement by exercising equitable powers and 2) that after the close of evidence, the arbitrator contacted  Painter’s former lawyer.  The Miss. S. Ct. affirms.

Charlie Reddin et al v. Manchester Educational Foundation –   SOL/discovery rule for intentional torts  – Five former students of Manchester Educational Foundation sued the school after  the dean of students, Richard Darden, admitted to viewing male students while they showered in his home.   The trial court granted summary judgment for the defendants based on the statute of limitations. The plaintiffs had all been students from 1997 to 2003.  They filed suit in 2010 after Darden was busted for viewing students in the shower.  Their complaint, though, alleged mostly intentional torts with a 1 year SOL.  The court held that the discovery rule did not apply to these torts. The plaintiffs  admitted that they were aware they were being touched during the wrestling matches and physical exams; therefore, they all had knowledge that physical contact was occurring.  The Miss.S.Ct. affirms. “Because all alleged intentional torts occurred more than one year prior to Plaintiffs filing suit and all alleged negligence claims occurred more than three years before Plaintiffs filed suit, the trial court properly granted summary judgment in favor of Manchester and Dr. Thompson based on the claims being time-barred.”

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