Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – March 30, 2017

Cleveland Smith v. Kansas City Southern Railway Companyvenue where defendant a foreign corporation –  Cleveland Smith filed suit against his employer Kansas City R.R. for an on-the-job injury he suffered in Sibley, LA.   He filed suit in Lowndes County where he resided (pursuant to 11-11-3(1)(b) allowing suit to be filed where the plaintiff lives if the defendant is a nonresident and does not have a principal place of business in Mississippi).  Kansas City moved for a change of venue and the trial court granted it holding that, although Kansas City’s  national principal place of business was in Kansas City, Missouri, it also did business in Mississippi and that its principal place of business in Mississippi was Rankin County.  Smith filed an interlocutory appeal which was granted.  The Court reverses.

We now find that a corporation may have only one principal place of business. Holding that the Legislature intended the venue statute to apply to a corporation’s principal place of business inside Mississippi would require analyzing in each case how much of a presence a foreign business has to have in Mississippi to have a principal place of business both inside Mississippi and nationally. Additionally, if any business with an office in Mississippi can be considered to have a principal place of business inside the state, that interpretation would render Section 11-11-3(1)(b) venue in the county of the plaintiff’s residence or domicile, virtually irrelevant. If the Legislature had intended for a foreign corporation to have a principal place of business inside the state, it easily could have clearly stated that in the statute.

Herman Grant Co., Inc. v. Jo Ann Washington, Administrator of the Estate of Carl W. Washington, Jo Ann Washington, Individually and Derrick Frontrell Jones and James R. “Rusty” Bradford – venue – Carl Washington and James Rusty Bradford were injured on the job when  a Load Cell Pod assembly collapsed.  Washington died.  Bradford and Washington’s estate filed a products liability  suit against the manufacturer of the Weigh Pod System,   Herman Grant, a Tennessee Corporation, and Coti, an Alabama Corporation.  They filed it where the plaintiffs resided on the basis that neither Herman Grant nor Coti had a principal place of business in Mississippi.  The defendants moved for a change of venue to Jones County where the accident happened. Bradford and Washington argued that venue was proper in  Jasper County because the substantial alleged act or omissions, namely the product defects, occurred in Tennessee and Alabama, not in Mississippi. The trial court denied the motion to change venue and the defendants filed an interlocutory appeal.  The Miss. S. Ct. reverses and remands.

The location where the accident giving rise to this suit occurred is in Laurel, Mississippi, which is in the Second Judicial District of Jones County. The Complaint specifically alleged that Bradford and Washington were injured when the weigh pod system broke loose and fell on them at Dunn Road Builder’s plant in Laurel, Mississippi. Therefore, under Section 11-11-3(1)(a)(i) of the venue statute, venue is proper in the Second Judicial District of Jones County. The First Judicial District of Jasper County is not among the permissible venues that Bradford and Washington could select for this action under Section 11-11-3(1)(a)(i).

 

Cynthia Kuljis v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC – bill of discovery –   Kuljis was shopping at  Winn Dixie when  she tripped over a piece of protruding rubber which was intended to hold down the carpet. Kuljis claims that she suffered permanent injuries as a result of the fall. She  filed a complaint for discovery in the chancery court requesting  incident reports, photographs, video surveillance, investigation reports, work orders, witness statements, etc.  Winn Dixie filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by the chancery court.  The COA affirmed.  Kuljis filed for cert. which was granted.  The Miss.S.Ct. also affirms.  Kuljis can file negligence case in circuit court.  While she argues that she may be opening herself to sanctions for filing a frivolous lawsuit, the fact that she wrote to Winn Dixie asking for this information and Winn Dixie never responded would insulate her from Rule 11 sanctions.   This does not mean that a bill of discovery no longer exists, only that it may be resorted to only where there is no other means available for discovery.

Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto, Inc. d/b/a Baptist Memorial Hospital-Desoto v. Mississippi State Department of Health and Methodist Healthcare-Olive Branch Hospital – certificate of need – Olive Branch Hospital applied for a certificate of need seeking approval to perform percutaneous coronary intervention(s), a type of cardiac procedure, at its Olive Branch hospital.  Baptist Memorial Hospital in  DeSoto opposed the application.  MSDH approved the application and Baptist appeals.  The chancellor affirmed MDSH’s decision. On appeal, the Miss.S.Ct. does likewise.  “On appeal, we give great deference to MSDH’s decisions. And we affirm those decisions if supported by substantial evidence. Here, we find substantial evidence that Methodist’s application substantially complied with the State Health Plan and was consistent with its requirements.”

 

Buffalo Services, INC. d/b/a B-Kwik Food Mart, Buffalo Services, Inc., Clifton Van Cleave and Lane McCarty v. Brander Smith premises liability –  Smith was in a clothing store when a car crashed into into it.  The clothing store was in a building that housed it and a convenience store.  The convenience store owned the premises and leased the space  to the clothing store. Smith sued the convenience store alleging it had a duty to  make their premises reasonably safe for pedestrians  from the risk of being struck by a moving vehicle. She claimed Buffalo Services failed in its duty to erect vertical bollards, “parking stops,” “and/or other physical barriers.  The convenience store moved for summary judgment which was denied.  It then filed an interlocutory appeal.  The Miss.S.Ct. reverses and renders. “Mississippi unequivocally holds that ‘no duty is owed by a convenience store owner, to persons inside the store, to erect barriers in order to prevent vehicles from driving through the store’s plate glass window.’”

The Court grants cert in Greg Estes and Jeff Estes, Co-Executors of the Estate of Joe Howard Estes, Deceased v. Sarah Young Estes involving the right of spouse to inherit where the parties are divorcing – Right after Sarah and Joe married, Joe experienced severe health problems requiring amputation of one leg.  Sarah moved out and filed for divorce. Nine months after the wedding but before a divorce could be granted, Joe died.  His will left nothing to Sarah.   Sarah contested  the  will and the Lee County Chancery Court granted Young a widow’s allowance and a child’s share of the estate. On appeal, the COA  reversed and rendered the widow’s allowance and reversed and remanded the child’s-share inheritance for further analysis as to whether Young had abandoned the marriage as a matter of law. On remand, the chancery court determined that Young had not abandoned the marriage as a matter of law and again granted her a child’s share of the inheritance.  Joe’s family appeals.  The COA again reversed and rendered.   “Regardless of any other factors present in this case, the most glaring  evidence of Young’s abandonment of the marriage was her petition for divorce.”  Joe’s family filed for cert which was granted.

 

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