Decisions – Miss.S.Ct. – Aug. 24, 2017

Ralph Arnold Smith, Jr. v. The State of Mississippi and The Office of the District Attorney for the Fourth Circuit Court District of Mississippi –  involuntary commitment – The Court issues a per curiam affirmance (no opinion).  Smith was implicated in a conspiracy to kill a Delta lawyer.   In January  2015, the Chancery Court of Leflore County ruled that Dr.  Smith should be involuntarily civilly committed to the Mississippi State Hospital for
inpatient treatment of his mental illness. In March, the Hinds County Chancery Court
conducted a “20 day hearing” because Dr. Smith was housed at Whitfield.  The Leflore County Chancery Court ruled that future proceedings should be done in Hinds County and  entered a final judgment on July 30, 2015 denying all of Dr. Smith’s pending motions, and Dr. Smith perfected this appeal.  The Miss.S.Ct. affirms.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center, Syrone McBeath and David Stewart v. Enoch Olivermalicious prosecution – Enoch Oliver was arrested for various offenses committed when law enforcement tried to apprehend him after he  allegedly hit his wife while she was at UMC having just given birth.   The charges all ended up being dismissed (this being Hinds County).  Oliver, not satisfied, then sued UMMC, an investigator and officers  for malicious prosecution.  The defendants moved for summary judgment which was denied.  It then requested an interlocutory appeal which the Miss.S.Ct. granted. On appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court holds that summary judgment should have been granted to the defendants.  First of all, it holds for the first time that the Tort Claims Act does not apply to malicious prosecution claims because “torts in which malice is an essential element “are not within the course and scope of employment.” While Oliver also sued the individuals, those claims do not survive.   “[W]hen suing a law-enforcement officer for malicious prosecution, a plaintiff like Oliver has to show the officer instituted criminal proceeding with a purpose other than doing his or her job, which includes bringing criminal offenders to justice.”  He cannot show that here and, thus, summary judgment should have been granted.

Continental Casualty Company v. Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Companyinsurance  – Mike Williams injured his eye while helping his friend  position his  fishing boat on its trailer.  The  truck and trailer were insured by Allstate and the  boat was insured by Continental Casualty Company.  The insurers settled with Williams for $460,000, each paying $230,000 toward the total settlement.  Prior to settlement, however, the insurers had not agreed on apportionment. Continental  filed  declaratory judgment action claiming indemnity from Allstate and also reimbursement for the defense costs it had incurred investigating the claim. Allstate responded with a motion to dismiss, in which it sought indemnity and sanctions against Continental for having made its defense costs and expenses claim. The circuit court  granted summary judgment in Allstate’s favor, but declined to award sanctions to Allstate. Allstate then filed a motion for summary judgment on Continental’s remaining indemnity claim, which the circuit court granted. Continental appeals the grant of summary judgment on its indemnity claim. Allstate cross-appeals the denial of sanctions. “As to Continental’s indemnity claim, we reverse the grant of summary judgment to Allstate and render judgment in favor of Continental. As to Continental’s claim of entitlement to defense costs, we affirm the grant
of summary judgment for Allstate. Finally, we affirm the denial of sanctions to Allstate.”

T & W Homes Etc, LLC v. James Kendall Crotwell and Terry Crotwellproperty – In 1973, Gilbert Lum conveyed a forty-acre tract of land by warranty deed to his daughter, Lucille Crotwell, reserving unto himself a life estate in the lands and all mineral interests owned by him.  In  1998, Lum executed a warranty deed for one acre of the forty-acre tract
to Richard Prestage, subject to his life estate for the mineral interests of that one acre, in
addition to excepting all prior mineral rights. Prestage deeded the same to himself and his wife via special warranty deed.  They then  executed a deed of trust in favor of American Title Company, Inc., as trustee for Hurricane Mortgage Company,
Inc.  The  deed of trust was ultimately assigned to HSBC Bank.  There was a foreclosure sale and  T&W Homes, Etc, LLC was the successful bidder.  Thereafter the the Crotwells filed to quiet title.  The chancellor granted summary judgment to the Crotwells.  T&W appeals.  The Miss.S.Ct. affirms.  “We agree with the chancellor that Lum retained an ownership interest in the property—his life estate—which he retained the right to sell during his lifetime.”  He could not convey fee simple in an acre.

William Scott Ashwell  v. State of Mississippisubject matter jurisdiction in criminal case –  Ashwell filed two Waivers of Indictment and Petitions to Enter Plea
of Guilty to burglary and escape in the Circuit Court of Lawrence County.  Ashwell
pleaded guilty and the circuit judge entered orders of conviction. He later filed a pcr claiming the circuit court lacked jurisdiction or authority to accept his guilty pleas because the State never filed any charging documents.  “The circuit judge found that, even though no indictment or information charging Ashwell with a crime had been filed, such document must exist because of references to it in the plea colloquy and the prosecutor’s affidavit.” Ashwell appealed and the COA affirmed. The Miss. S.Ct.granted cert. and  reverses and renders.

Because the State never charged Ashwell with a crime, the circuit court lacked
jurisdiction and authority to accept Ashwell’s guilty pleas. So we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals, reverse the judgment of the circuit court, and vacate Ashwell’s convictions for burglary and escape.


The Court grants cert in Illinois Central Railroad Company v. Bennie Oakes, Deceased, by and through Clara Hagan, His Representative – setoff–  (the link is to the COA opinion) Oakes sued Illinois Central for asbestos-related injuries he suffered as a result of working for the railroad.  The jury found damages of $250,000 and assessed Oakes with 80% negligence and Illinois Central with 20%; the verdict against Illinois Central was for $50,000.   Illinois Central moved for a setoff of Oakes’s damages, asserting that his award should be reduced by the amounts received from asbestosis trust funds and other sources for the same injury. The trial court denied the request and Illinois Central appealed. “Because the complaint was filed under the Federal Employers’ LiabilityAct (FELA) and that act seeks to fully compensate the employee for tortious conduct, we affirm the circuit court’s denial of the setof.”

Illinois Central argues the COA opinion “is in conflict with federal common law governing the issues and abrogates the basic, fundamental rule of law that allows only one recovery for the same injury. The Opinion violates existing federal common law governing Illinois Central’s right to a set-off and grossly misconstrues the U.S.
Supreme Court case upon which it relies. The Opinion deems asbestos trusts as
collateral sources when they are in fact bankrupt tortfeasors.”

Illinois Central cert petition



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