Decisions – Miss-S.Ct.- March 24, 2016

City of Gulfport v. Dedeaux Utility Co. – condemnation –  This is the third appeal (after three trials) arising out of Gulfport’s  1996 filing  petitions for condemnation against Orange Grove Utilities, Inc. and Dedeaux Utility Company, Inc. At the first trial, Dedeaux’s expert valued Dedeaux’s utility system at $9,025,500.00, and Gulfport’s expert valued the system at $2,140,000.00. The jury returned a for $3,634,757.00.  Both sides appealed and the Court reversed.  City of Gulfport I, 938 So.2d 840 (Miss. 2006).

At the second trial, Dedeaux’s expert valued Dedeaux’s utility system at $9,846,288.00, and Gulfport’s expert valued the system at $3,691,328.00. The jury awarded Dedeaux $5,131,676.00. Both sides appealed.  City of Gulfport II, 63 So.3d 514 (Miss. 2011).

At the third trial, the jury awarded $8,063,981.00.  Again, both sides appealed. The City has thirteen issues with the trial including : 1) whether the trial court erred as a matter of law by requiring the parties to use different dates for valuing the assets existing on the date the Petition was filed (December 3, 1996) and valuing the assets added between the date the Petition was filed and the date the utility system was actually transferred to the City (December 20, 2004); 2) whether the trial court erred as a matter of law in denying the City’s Motion in Limine to Exclude Facilities Dedicated to the Public, causing the City to pay Dedeaux millions of dollars for facilities which were not owned by Dedeaux; 3) whether the trial court erred as a matter of law in limiting the setoff to which the City is entitled to the revenues produced by the assets added after December 3, 1996.   Dedeaux argues that the trial court erred in admitting certain testimony by the City’s expert and excluding certain testimony by Dedeaux’s expert.

The Miss.S.Ct. affirms affirms the final judgment but  reverses and remands “for the trial judge to determine the rate of interest to be applied to the final judgment and to enter an order requiring payment of that interest.n part and reverses in part.”

 

 

Robert Swindol v. Aurora Flight Sciences Corporationemployee may not be fired for having gun locked in car on employer’s parking lot  This is a certified question from the Fifth Circuit.

Whether in Mississippi an employer may be liable for a wrongful discharge of an employee for storing a firearm in a locked vehicle on company property in a manner that is consistent with Section 45-9-55.

Robert Swindol worked for Aurora Flight Sciences in Lowndes County.  On May 31, 2013,  his employer learned he had a firearm in his locked car in the parking lot and fired him.  He sued for wrongful discharge and defamation.

The district court dismissed  Swindol’s wrongful discharge and defamation claims under FRCP 12(b)(6) holding that Mississippi’s employment-at-will doctrine barred the wrongful discharge claim and that falsity had not been adequately alleged for the defamation claim. The Fifth Circuit, noting that the “wrongful discharge claim presents an important and determinative question of state law that has not been addressed by Mississippi courts” has certified the issue asking the Mississippi Supreme Court to tell them what Mississippi law is.  The Miss.S.Ct. answers the question “yes.” “The Legislature has ‘independently declared’ via Section 45-9-55 that terminating an employee for having a firearm inside his locked vehicle is ‘legally impermissible.'” Aurora may be liable for firing Swindol in contravention of state law.

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