Decisions – COA – 3/26/2019

Hand down list

Marion Chuck Easterling v. State of Mississippi challenge to guilty plea –  On  August 24, 2015, Easterling, who is deaf, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault. He got into an argument with his sister and got into the car and drove backward hitting her and crushing her pelvis. Two years later he filed a motion to vacate claiming that he was  not afforded a translator until the hearing on the guilty pleas and that due to his disability and limited education, Easterling did not understand the proceedings. At the hearing, though, Easterling called no witnesses and presented no other testimony or documents to support the allegations in his motion. The trial court denied the motion and the COA affirms.

Joe Rucker v. Mississippi Department of Revenue –  tax appeal – In  2010, Rucker purchased a building in Tupelo to start a restaurant but never did.  He ended up leasing the property to other restaurant owners.  In March 2014, Rucker received an audit-closing notice from MDOR. Rucker checked the option stating, “I am in disagreement with the audit findings. I will likely execute my rights to appeal,” and after signing and dating the form on “April 25, 2014,” he returned the closing notice to MDOR.  MDOC mailed Rucker’s audit assessment dated June 5, 2014. Rucker claims he never got it.
A year later,  Rucker made a written appeal to the Board of Review. It was denied as untimely.  Rucker filed a petition for review in the Lee County Chancery Court. MDOC filed to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies. The chancellor granted the motion. On appeal, the COA affirms.

Christopher Paul Vandenbrook v. Charlotte Emma (McKinney) Vandenbrookchild support where parent making over $100,000 – Emma and Chris married in  2000 and had three kids, all boys. In April 2014, Emma filed a complaint for divorce and temporary relief on the grounds of habitual cruel and inhuman treatment, constructive desertion, or irreconcilable differences.  A temporary order was entered that, among other things, prohibited removal of property from the marital home. The chancellor ended up denying Emma a divorce, granted the couple joint legal custody, with Emma having physical custody and Chris having  visitation.  Chris was  to pay Emma $3,690 per month in child support, pay $49,730 in retroactive child support, and attorney’s fees in the amount of $29,346.06. He also found Chris in contempt for selling stock without permission and granted Emma $2,500 in attorney’s fees for the contempt action. On appeal the COA affirms all but the award of child support and retroactive child support and the finding of contempt. Where the spouse making child support makes over $100,000 a year, the chancellor must make findings as to why the award of support is reasonable and the chancellor here did not. As for the contempt, the order prevented the parties from dissipating assets and Chris saved $40,000 in selling the stock. Since the chancellor found that he did not dissipate assets, he was not in contempt.

AquaSeal Resurfacing LLC v. Jefcoat Recreation and Construction Inc. and Doyle Jefcoatenrollment of foreign judgment –   Jefcoat purchased water safety surfacing material from Polysoft.  The parties had been introduced by Aquaseal which distributes Polysoft but Jefcoat ended up purchasing the material from the Poysoft. Jefcaot contracted with AquaSeal only to train Jefcoat employees in the installation of material. The negotiations and ultimate contract were accomplished through phone, email, and facsimile and ended up being memorialized in a one-page contract. Jefcoat signed the contract in Mississippi; AquaSeal signed in Ohio.  AquaSeal’s trainers made three trips to Biloxi to train Jefcoat employees. It sent three invoices for these sessions but Jefcoat paid only one. AquaSeal sued Jefcoat in Ohio for the unpaid invoices.  AquaSeal obtained a default
judgment for $34,017.43.  AquaSeal then  enrolled its judgment in the Rankin County court. Jefcoat responded and argued that the judgment was void for lack of personal jurisdiction.  The county court ultimately held that Jefcoat did not have sufficient contacts with AquaSeal to be haled into an Ohio court and  set the default judgment aside and struck it from the circuit clerk’s records.  . AquaSeal appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the county court’s judgment. On appeal to the COA, it also affirms.

James Foster v. State of Mississippiinsufficient evidence of burglary – Foster entered the open back door of a unoccupied rental property in South Jackson and helped himself to a stove and dishwasher. He was apprehended shortly thereafter and admitted that he had taken them to sell for scrap. Foster was charged with business burglary. The COA reverses and renders. “Foster claims that he entered the house through an open door, and therefore this action does not constitute ‘breaking’ as it pertains to the crime of burglary. We agree.”

Robert Sheffield v. S.J. Louis Construction Inc. and Zurich American Insurance Company –  workers comp –  Sheffield suffered an injury to his back in  June of 2015 while working for S.J. Louis.  He had previously had two other work related injuries.  In 1990, Sheffield
fell while moving a dolly loaded with fifty-pound bags of sand and injured his lower back and ultimately got  a lumbar fusion. He was released to come back to work  about a year and a half after surgery. In 2010,   Sheffield injured his neck during a work
related automobile accident. Sheffield underwent surgery to fuse the C6 and C7 vertebrae in his neck. In October  2011, he was returned to work with  an 8% impairment rating to the body as a whole. For the 2015 injury, the AJ found Sheffield had suffered a 60% loss of wage-earning capacity and was entitled to $359.26 a week
in permanent-partial disability benefits for 450 weeks. The Commission reversed the AJ’s finding that Sheffield suffered a loss of wage-earning capacity due to his 2015 back injury, Sheffield appealed.  The COA reverses the Commission and reinstates the AJ’s ruling. “The AJ’s finding that Sheffield experienced an additional loss of wage-earning
capacity was supported by substantial credible evidence.”

Pro se PCR appeals affirmed:

Herman Saunders v. State of Mississippi

Eric Denorris Kennedy v. State of Mississippi

Alfred Brooks v. State of Mississippi

James Charles Funchess v. State of Mississippi

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