Justia Civil Rights Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi
Spiers v. Oak Grove Credit, LLC, et al.
A circuit court denied Brittany Spiers leave to amend her complaint, and granted a motion to dismiss brought by Oak Grove Credit, LLC (OGC), and other companies, including, Columbia Credit, LLC, Pine Belt Credit, LLC, and “John Does Business 1-5” (collectively, “the Creditor Companies”). Spiers worked for OGC, a creditor business located just outside Hattiesburg, Mississippi, until February 2019. At that time, OGC terminated Spiers for reasons Spiers alleged were discriminatory. According to Spiers, OGC terminated her because of her gender and her pregnancy. Specifically, Spiers alleged that her supervisor raised concerns about her pregnancy in regards to work and childcare and even called her pregnancy a “disease.” Spiers also alleged that her supervisor declined to hire another person because that person was pregnant. In February 2020, Spiers filed her complaint primarily alleging pregnancy and sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Even though Spiers only worked for OGC, she brought her lawsuit collectively against OGC and the Creditor Companies because she alleged that these companies “constitute an integrated enterprise/joint employer in relation to Spiers as employees from each location are fluid and work for and between the sister companies.” Alternatively, Spiers alleged that “the Defendant’s actions constitute the torts of negligence, negligent infliction of emotional distress, intentional infliction of emotional distress, termination in violation of public policy, gross negligence, and negligent supervision.” OGC and the Creditor Companies removed the case to federal district court, which issued an order as to Spiers’s Title VII claim, finding that Spiers “did not plead sufficient facts for the Court to infer that Defendants meet Title VII’s definition of an employer.” The district court “dismiss[ed] Plaintiff’s Title VII claims without prejudice.” The district court, however, “declin[ed] to exercise pendent jurisdiction over Plaintiff’s remaining state-law claims and remand[ed] the case [back] to the Circuit Court of Lamar County, Mississippi.” Upon remand to the circuit court, Spiers filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint. The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the state circuit court's order dismissing the state-law claims, but reversed to the extent that the order denied Spiers leave to amend her complaint. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Spiers v. Oak Grove Credit, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Burnett v. Hinds County, Mississippi
Murphy Burnett was arrested and detained for several years. The State eventually moved to nolle prosequi its criminal case against Burnett, and he was released from detention. Burnett filed suit against several governmental entities based on torts connected to his arrest, prosecution, and detention. All the entities moved to dismiss based on a failure to file proper notices of claims and based on the statutes of limitation. The trial court granted these motions. Because proper notices of claims were not sent, because most of the claims were barred by one-year statutes of limitation, and because Burnett did not specifically raise the remaining claims on appeal, the Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Burnett v. Hinds County, Mississippi" on Justia Law
City of Vicksburg v. Williams
In the early morning hours of February 7, 2013, Vicksburg Police Officers Russell Dorsey and Diawardrick Grover were dispatched to Herbert Williams’s residence as a result of a 911. Williams called 911 because he discharged his firearm at his neighbor’s dog. After Officer Dorsey arrived at Williams’s house, Williams explained his reasons for discharging his firearm. Williams stated that he shot at the ground near the dog in an attempt to prevent an attack by the dog. Officer Grover arrived a few minutes after Officer Dorsey, and he interviewed Jacqueline Knight Holt, the owner of the dog. Officer Grover observed the dog, and he described the dog as "small and scared." After Officers Dorsey and Grover conducted an investigation, Officer Dorsey arrested Williams for unnecessarily discharging a firearm in the city in violation of Vicksburg’s city ordinance. In July 2014, Williams filed a complaint against the City under the MTCA in the Circuit Court of Warren County. Williams alleged that “said Police Officers grossly and negligently arrested Plaintiff for no good cause, causing Plaintiff damages physically and psychologically.” Williams sued the City of Vicksburg (City) for injuries he allegedly sustained after his arrest. The Circuit Court, sitting without a jury under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA), entered a judgment in favor of Williams. However, because the City was entitled to immunity, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed. View "City of Vicksburg v. Williams" on Justia Law
University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Oliver
The circuit court ruled Enoch Oliver could proceed to trial with his malicious-prosecution claim against University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) and two of its law-enforcement officers, Syrone McBeath and David Stewart. Oliver was charged with three misdemeanors: disorderly conduct for failure to comply with the commands of a police officer, resisting arrest, and carrying a concealed weapon. A nol-pros order was signed by the trial court and charges were ultimately dropped against Oliver. Oliver sued civilly, and UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart were served with process; several other officers were not. UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart filed a motion to dismiss, which was joined by the unserved defendants, who specially appeared. The served defendants argued Oliver’s claims were governed by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) and its one-year statute of limitations. The lone exception was the malicious prosecution of the felony claim, because the one-year statute of limitations did not begin to run until that charge was nol-prossed. The unserved defendants’ motion was granted, leaving the remaining claim against the served defendants as the malicious-prosecution claim based on the felony charge. Three-and-a-half years later, UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart filed a motion for summary judgment. UMMC argued, as a state agency, it had not waived sovereign immunity for a malice-based claim; McBeath and Stewart argued Oliver lacked proof they maliciously prosecuted him. Alternatively, all defendants cited the MTCA’s police-protection and discretionary-function immunity. The circuit court denied the defendants’ motion. UMMC, McBeath, and Stewart filed this interlocutory appeal, claiming they were entitled to summary judgment. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined as a matter of law, malice-based torts did not fall under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act’s sovereign-immunity waiver. So Oliver had no malicious-prosecution claim against UMMC or its employees in their official capacity. Oliver also brought malicious-prosecution claims against the UMMC officers in their individual capacity, but the record showed Oliver failed to put forth any evidence the officers acted with malice or lacked probable cause. The Court thus reversed the circuit court’s denial of summary judgment and rendered a final judgment in defendants’ favor. View "University of Mississippi Medical Center v. Oliver" on Justia Law
Davenport v. Hansaworld, USA, Inc.
HansaWorld USA, Inc. (HansaWorld) registered a foreign judgment with a Mississippi circuit court against Kimberlee Davenport from an award ordered by a court in Florida on claims of conversion and extortion. Davenport, a former employee of HansaWorld, also maintained claims against HansaWorld in a separate action before a federal district court in Mississippi alleging several violations of state and federal law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for sexual harassment and discrimination. HansaWorld sought to collect on its foreign judgment by petitioning the circuit court to sell Davenport’s Employment Action, so the circuit court entered a Writ of Execution. With the Employment Action set to be auctioned off by the Forrest County sheriff, Davenport filed an Emergency Motion to Quash Writ of Execution mere days before the scheduled sale. At a hearing on the motion, the circuit court granted Davenport’s motion to quash on the condition that she post a $100,000 bond by that afternoon, the day of the scheduled sheriff’s sale. Davenport failed to post the conditional bond, and as a result, the sheriff sold her Employment Action to the highest bidder, HansaWorld, for $1,000. Following sale of her Employment Action, Davenport appealed to the Supreme Court. Having determined that the circuit court’s order was a final, appealable judgment and that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear the appeal, the Supreme Court concluded that Davenport waived her right to challenge the circuit court’s imposition of the bond on appeal because she failed to challenge the bond before the circuit court. View "Davenport v. Hansaworld, USA, Inc." on Justia Law
Crawford v. Fisher
Charles Crawford, a Mississippi death row inmate, filed a civil lawsuit, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1983, alleging various federal constitutional claims relating to the anesthetic, a compounded version of pentobarbital not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to be utilized in his execution. After a hearing, the chancery court transferred the case to the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County where the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) renewed its motion to dismiss. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, holding that the Section 1983 claims were the same as or similar to issues which were at the time pending in the Mississippi Supreme Court. Because the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County erroneously dismissed Crawford’s Section 1983 lawsuit on the basis of a factual misapprehension, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded back to that court for further proceedings. View "Crawford v. Fisher" on Justia Law
Hinds County v. Burton
A drug task force was attempting to execute a search warrant on a suspected drug house when gunfire broke out. Several men were standing in front of the house as the taskforce arrived, and, according to the officers, at least one of those men started shooting at the officers and their vehicles. One of the police officers, who was riding in the bed of a pickup truck, stood and returned fire. Ronnie Burton was standing with the man or men who allegedly were shooting at the police, but he did not fire the shots. Instead, he began to run before the shooting started. At some point a bullet struck Burton. The bullet passed through his right shoulder and was never found. Burton did not actually see anyone shoot, and he admitted that he could not identify exactly when he was shot, where he was when he got shot, what caliber of bullet hit him, or who shot him. He conceded that it was possible that one of his armed companions at the house could have fired the shot that hit him, but Burton believed the police shot him. The police officer who returned fire testified that the one person he shot at was not Burton but a man shooting at the police vehicles. Burton did not produce any witnesses or other evidence to contradict the testimony of the officers. Because he was caught fleeing the scene and in possession of a weapon, Burton was arrested. He was released shortly thereafter, when it was determined that he was not the shooter. Burton sued the law enforcement entities that made up the task force as well as the officer who fired his weapon. The Circuit Court rejected the defendants’ claims of Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) immunity, and found in favor of Burton on most of his claims, awarding him $350,000 for his injuries. Because the Supreme Court found that defendants were immune under the MTCA, it reversed the circuit court and rendered judgment in their favor. View "Hinds County v. Burton" on Justia Law