Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – March 9, 201

Richard Rylee and Beth Rylee v. Progressive Gulf Insurance Company and USAA Casualty Insurance Company – “each person” policy limit – Richard was on a motorcycle when he collided with a vehicle driven by Jessica Brashier.  Brashier had a policy with State Farm, which provided a liability limit of $25,000 per person.  Richard had a  policy with Progressive which covered his motorcycle and provided uninsured-motorist coverage with a $25,000 per-person and $50,000 per-accident limit.  Richard also had a policy with USAA  which covered two other vehicles and provided uninsured-motorist coverage for each vehicle with a $25,000 per-person and $50,000 per-accident limit.   State Farm tendered Richard the $25,000 per-person policy limit.  USAA also tendered Richard $50,000 in uninsured-motorist coverage—$25,000 per person for each of the two vehicles covered. But Progressive, as the primary insurer, tendered no uninsured-motorist coverage. Instead, because Brashier’s insurer had paid $25,000 in liability coverage, Progressive claimed the right to offset completely its policy’s $25,000 per-person uninsured-motorist coverage.  In 2013  Beth filed a loss-of-consortium action against Brashier, Progressive, and USAA. Progressive and USAA filed for summary judgment arguing that  Beth’s derivative loss-of-consortium claim fell under the $25,000 policy limit for “each person,” which had been offset by the State Farm payment in Progressive’s case and already tendered in USAA’s case. Richard also filed suit against Brashier, Progressive, and USAA and Progressive and USAA filed motions for summary judgment.  The cases were  consolidated and the circuit court granted summary judgment to both Progressive and USAA.  The plaintiffs appealed with regard to Beth’s claim.  The trial court held that  Beth is not entitled to any additional payments from either insurer, because her loss-of-consortium claim was included in the “each person” policy limit already received. The Supreme Court affirms.

 

 

 

 

 

Eugene Martin  v. State of Mississippi – requirements for sentencing as an habitual – Martin was convicted of shooting into a dwelling and sentenced as an habitual.  On appeal he argues that while he had two prior sentences, one of them did not result in a sentence of a year or more which is what Section 99-19-81 requires.  Martin did not object below but on plain error review, the Supreme Court finds that his  1994 federal bank-fraud conviction from California resulted in a sentence of only three months’ imprisonment, with three years of supervised release.  “And when Martin violated the terms of that release, he was sentenced to only an additional five months’ imprisonment.”  All in all, the state could not prove two prior sentences of one year.  Martin’s conviction is affirmed but his sentence reversed.

Greg Spore v. State of Mississippicontempt – Spore is an assistant public defender on Hinds County.  He was arguing on behalf of a client who had been found in violation of probation trying to convince the court to show leniency.  Judge Weill sentenced the client to ten years with three suspended whereupon Spore said that he needed to make one more point.  The court cut him off stating that Spore had been given ample opportunity to speak. Spore continued to make an argument that his client could not be sentenced.  The court found him in direct criminal contempt and ordered him to pay $100.  Spore appeals.  The case is affirmed with Justices Dickinson, Kitchens and King dissenting.

Here, Spore’s post-ruling conduct provides what may be interpreted as an example of an advocate’s attempt to “protect the record for subseqent review . . . by patient firmness” in the complete absence of “belligerence or theatrics” in a manner consistent with the letter and spirit of Rule 3.5 and its comment.

Ground Control, LLC d/b/a Ground Control of Alabama, LLC and Frank Beaton v. Capsco Industries, Inc., W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., and Christopher Killion –  construction contract – This case involves the construction of the Magaritaville Hotel in Biloxi.  In 2009, sub-subcontractor Ground Control sued subcontractor Capsco and the project’s general contractor, Yates, and the owner, Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc. The trial court discovered Ground Control’s subcontract with Capsco was void by statute, because neither party had a certificate of responsibility. (MCA. § 31-3-15 ). The trial court granted the defendants summary judgment on all of Ground Control’s claims, because they stemmed from the void subcontract. . On interlocutory appeal, the Miss.S.Ct.  reversed in part. Ground Control I, 120 So. 3d at 367. The contracts may have been void but Ground Control could request relief under unjust enrichment and quantum meruit.  Summary judgment in favor of Harrah’s and Yates was reversed on procedural grounds because Ground Control was not given proper notice that a Rule 12 motion would be considered under summary judgment.  On remand the court allowed Ground Control to amend its complaint to add many new claims including contract and tort claims. Nonetheless, the jury was instructed that any recovery by Ground Control from Capsco, Yates, and/or Harrah’s would be based on quantum meruit only and limited to the value of unpaid labor and services rendered. The jury found Ground Control was entitled to $862,228 assessing  95.75% liability($825,583.31) to Capsco, 4.25% liability($36,644.69) to Yates, and 0% liability ($0) to Harrah’s.  On appeal  Ground Control  challenges the limitation of its recovery to quantum meruit damages, the special verdict form apportioning liability, and the denial of pre-judgment interest.  Capsco and Yates cross appeal. The Miss.S.Ct. reverses the award against Yates since the “services were rendered under the reasonable expectation that they would be paid for by” Capsco, and not “the person sought to be charged,” Yates. It also finds that the trial court erred n not directing a remittitur for Capsco.

The jury had been instructed “that any recovery by Ground Control, LLC based in quantum meruit, is limited to the value of the labor and services rendered byGround Control, LLC to the defendants for which payment has not been tendered yet.” And the jury heard Beaton concede that, after subtracting the half-million dollars in payments Capsco had already tendered to his company, Ground Control’s claim for unpaid labor and services was only $199,096. Thus, the jury had no evidentiary basis for finding Capsco liable for more than four times that amount.

“On remand, we instruct the trial court to grant Capsco a $626,407.31 remittitur, making the damages award $199,096. If Ground Control and Capsco do not agree to remittitur, then the trial court should proceed with a new trial on damages against Capsco.”

 

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