Decisions – MSSC – 2/8/18

Phyllis Maness and James A. Maness v. K & A Enterprises of Mississippi, LLCoption contract –  Phyllis and James Maness  entered into an Option Agreement to sell  certain lots in a Hancock County subdivision from  K&A Enterprises, LLC  in May 2004 for $1,000,000 to be paid over a period of time with interest payments.  The contract placed a duty on Maness  to cure title defects.  A year later K & A  exercised the option.  Shortly thereafter, the parties modified the option contract and agreed that  K&A would stop making interest payments due to the lack of clear title and the fact that the Mannesses were suing to clear title.  When  K&A discovered that title was still a problem, it quit making payments and filed suit. K&A filed a Partial Motion for Summary Judgment on Liability, a Partial Motion for Summary Judgment on Damages, and a Motion to Dismiss the Mannesses Counterclaim. The trial court granted all three and the Manesses appealed.  The MSC affirms.

Benardrick C. McKinney v. Kasey Hampchild support/ signing bonus/availability of supersedeas bond for future support payments – Benardrick McKinney and Kasey Hamp had a son, K.M.,  born out of wedlock. At that time, McKinney played football for MSU.  In his junior year, McKinney signed a contract to play professional football for the Houston Texans.  Prior to his signing, Hamp sought assistance to pay for K.M.’s support.  In October 2014,  DHS filed a complaint in Tunica County against McKinney to determine paternity and child support.  McKinney was ordered to pay $150 per month but he  voluntarily increased his support obligation to $750 per month.  Hamp then moved to modify the support based on the fact that  McKinney had signed a four-year, several-million-dollar NFL contract, which included a substantial signing bonus.   The chancellor ultimately ordered monthly child-support payments of $2,410.37 and a retroactive payment of $18,264.07.  McKinney appealed.  The court finds that the court did not err in using the signing bonus in calculating gross income but the chancellor erred in finding that the contract was for five years instead of four so the child support order reversed so that child support can be recalculated. Furthermore, if retirement contributions are mandatory, they should be deducted from gross income. It was not error to order a retroactive increase. Nor was it error to exceed the child support guidelines. The chancellor ordered that the tax deduction rotate but where it would seem that Hamp would not benefit much from the deduction, the chancellor should revisit that issue.  When the chancellor ordered an increase in child support, McKinney did not pay it and Hamp moved for contempt.  McKinney’s defense was that he relied on his attorney’s advice that in lieu of the greater payments, he could secure a supersedeas bond for $28,434.73 which the clerk approved.  The chancellor determined that the child support order was not a money judgment to which MRAP 8(a) would apply and even if it did, the bond did not meet the 125% requirement which would be $36,189.65. The Miss.S.Ct acknowledges that it has never squarely addressed whether prospective, monthly, child support obligations can be stayed by a supersedeas bond under 8(1).

Turning to this case, we find the chancellor’s order modifying the monthly child support award could not be stayed by a Rule 8(a) supersedeas bond. Accordingly, McKinney was required either to apply for and be granted a supersedeas bond under Rule 8(b) or to make the increased, monthly, child-support payments. But, asto the retroactive child-support award, it was a definitive, one-time payment of a monetary sum. So a Rule 8(a) supersedeas bond would adequately protect Hamp, and ultimately K.M., during the appeal.

The Court reverses the finding of contempt since McKinney relied on his attorney’s advice in not paying the increased support payments.

Eddrick Willis Cyrus  v. State of Mississippisale of controlled substance – In July of  2014, Cyrus sold heroin to a  confidential informant.   A jury convicted him of the sale of less than two grams of a controlled substance. On appeal he argues weight and sufficiency of the evidence. The MSSC affirms.

Laqunn Gary  v. State of Mississippi admissibility of confession – Gary was found guilty of capital murder in the February 2012 killing of Vizavian Trent Darby.  On appeal he argues that the court erred in admitting his confession.  Officers picked up  Gary as a suspect a few days after the killing.  He was Mirandized and gave a couple of statements eventually admitting that he and Jamiria Travis planned to rob Darby.  They got into Darby’s car and when  Darby refused to get out, Gary shot him.  Gary moved to suppress his statement at trial on the grounds that he was 17 when it was taken and it was not voluntary.  The problem was that one of the detectives present, Eric Smith,  was later killed by another defendant.  The other detective, Wilder,  was suffering PTSD from Smith’s killing.  Gary ended up not getting a suppression hearing and in Gary 1, the MSSC remanded the case for a hearing. At the hearing, Wilder testified about the confession and the video was introduced. This time Gary did not claim he was too young but rather that he was high on marijuana. The trial court held that the confession was knowing and voluntary. The MSSC finds no error.  Nor does it find that the evidence was insufficient.  The MSSC affirms.

Joseph Patton v. State of Mississippi –  jury selection – Patton was convicted of murdering his 63-year-old uncle who was found dead with an axe to his throat. Alfred Patton was found dead a few days after he told Joseph to move out. Patton was convicted. On appeal he argues that the judge should have dismissed for cause two venirepersons who said that they knew the deceased’s son.  On appeal the court finds that there is insufficient information t o determine whether either venireperson’s relationship was so close as to render them impartial but that the failure to make a record on this issue is attributable to Patton who should have questioned them on it.

The Court grants cert in Connie Hawkins, Individually and on Behalf of the Wrongful Death Beneficiaries of George Leith Hawkins, III, Deceased v. Heck Yea Quarter Horses, LLC, Wallace Heck d/b/a Heck Yea Quarter Horses, LLC and Bruce Horn   (the link is to the COA opinion) –   wrongful death – In June  of 2013, sixty-one-year-old George Hawkins was hired as a temporary employee of Heck Yea to work on a fence-washing project. On the very first day around lunch he  began experiencing a heat stroke. He was asked if he wanted an ambulance twice; he said no.  He was taken to the shade and given a cold drink.   George left the farm between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. and was observed driving erratically.   His wife found him at home at 4:30 in distress.   George was taken to a hospital and died several days later.  His wife filed a  wrongful-death lawsuit against Heck Yea.  The trial court granted summary judgment finding that Heck Yea did not breach any duty under the  good Samaritan statute to George. The COA affirms finding that whether under the Good Samaritan statute or general negligence principles, Heck Yea twice offered to call an ambulance.  Furthermore, it took the wife two hours to call an  ambulance. “We find that Heck Yea rendered reasonable first aid to George and that its duty ended after George left its premises and Hawkins assumed his care. ” Hawkins filed a cert petition arguing that there was an issue of fact with regard to how much stress George was in and that Connie presented evidence in her favor in the form of an affidavit of someone other than herself.

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