Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Mississippi

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Gregory Nethery appealed a Circuit Court’s decision to grant a motion to compel arbitration filed by Defendants CapitalSouth Partners, Harbert Mezzanine Partners, and On-Site Fuel Services (collectively, “Defendants”). Nethery retained a minority thirty-percent ownership interest in OSFS through his stock interest in OSFH. CapitalSouth and Harbert each held the remaining interest. In October 2016, Nethery filed suit in circuit court against CapitalSouth and Harbert, claiming breach of fiduciary duty, corporate freeze out, unjust enrichment, constructive trust, civil conspiracy, and negligence and mismanagement. As he claimed in the circuit court, Nethery argued on appeal that, based upon a choice-of-law provision contained in the Stockholders Agreement, Delaware law governed interpretation of the agreement. Nethery contended that under Delaware law, the arbitration clause did not apply because Nethery’s complaint did not allege breach of the Stockholders Agreement, nor did Nethery seek legal relief under the agreement. Rather, Nethery asserted only noncontractual state-law claims and his legal claims existed independently from the contract. Unpersuaded, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the circuit court correctly found Nethery’s claims were subject to the agreement’s arbitration provision. View "Nethery v. CapitalSouth Partners Fund II, L.P." on Justia Law

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Singing River Health System a/k/a Singing River Hospital System (“Singing River”) sued KPMG, LLP, alleging separate counts of breach of contract and negligence and/or professional malpractice based on the audits KPMG performed for Singing River in fiscal years 2008 through 2012. Singing River alleged that KPMG failed to comply with the professional auditing and accounting standards expressed in GAAS (Generally Accepted Auditing Standards), GAGAS (Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards), and GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles), which KPMG had agreed to follow. Singing River specifically alleged that KPMG’s audits were replete with computational errors and incorrect assumptions, and that KPMG had not performed basic tests to substantiate its opinions. Singing River separately alleged that KPMG was negligent and committed professional malpractice by failing to use the skill, prudence, and diligence other reasonable and prudent auditors would use in similar circumstances, as expressed in the GAAS, GAGAS and GAAP. Singing River alleged, inter alia, that, as a direct and proximate result of KPMG’s audits, Singing River was unaware that its employee-pension plan was underfunded by approximately one-hundred-fifty million dollars ($150,000,000.00). Further, Singing River alleged that it was unaware that it was not in compliance with certain bond covenants due to KPMG’s negligence. KPMG sought to compel arbitration of Singing River’s claims. The circuit court declined to order Singing River to arbitration. The Mississippi Supreme Court determined KPMG’s 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012 letters were not spread across the Board’s minutes. The Court could not enforce these contracts or the dispute-resolution clauses attached to them. KPMG’s additional arguments concerning the delegation clause, collateral estoppel, and direct-benefit estoppel were without merit. The trial court’s order denying KPMG’s motion to compel arbitration was affirmed, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "KPMG, LLP v. Singing River Health System" on Justia Law

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Phillip Moore, Gloria Moore, and Katelyn Moore sued Olshan Foundation Repair of Jackson, LLC (Olshan), and Wayne Brown. Olshan and Brown sought to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration provision within a contract between Phillip Moore and Olshan for the repair of the foundation of the Moores’ home. The circuit court ordered Phillip and Gloria Moore to arbitrate their claims. But because the circuit court declined to order Katelyn Moore to the arbitral forum, Olshan and Brown appealed. Finding that Katelyn Moore was neither a third-party beneficiary to the foundation-repair contract nor was she bound by direct-benefit estoppel, the Mississippi Supreme Court found Katelyn Moore’s claims, including negligence and intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress, were wholly independent of the terms of the contract to which she was not a party. As such, Olshan was not allowed to enforce an arbitration clause respecting Katelyn Moore’s claims, which were unrelated to the contract. View "Olshan Foundation Repair Company of Jackson, LLC v. Moore" on Justia Law

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Yates Construction, LLC, and D.W. Caldwell, Inc., entered into a construction subcontract for the roof installation on a residential dormitory at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. When Caldwell completed both the repairs and the roof installation, it had yet to receive total payment for the structural repairs. The companies disputed the scope and expense of these repairs and quickly negotiated to an impasse. Thereafter, Caldwell filed a claim against Yates for causing delay and increased costs by failing to pay for work performed, which was in breach of the agreements between the parties. The parties proceeded to arbitration. Although the arbitration record was neither recorded nor transcribed, the parties conceded that the arbitrator considered arguments, reviewed evidence, and heard witness testimony over the course of three days. He then reopened the proceedings for additional documentation, before issuing his thirteen-page award. Within two weeks of the arbitrator’s decision to deny Yates’s motion for reconsideration, Caldwell requested that the circuit court confirm the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-125. Yates moved the trial court to alter, amend, or vacate the award under Mississippi Code Section 11-15-25. With the understanding that Yates would provide oral argument on its motion at the award confirmation hearing, Caldwell filed a request to limit the presentation of proof before the circuit court. Ultimately, the trial court reviewed fourteen exhibits and the testimony of one witness in making its decision. Based on this evidence, the court issued its order modifying the arbitrator’s award. Finding that the arbitrator had duplicated the labor costs for shingle installation in its award–once under the original subcontract and once under the oral agreement to repair the structural damage (referred to as the Repair Agreement)–it amended the award, reducing the total by $104,507. After its review, the Mississippi Supreme Court determined: (1) the miscalculations alleged in this matter were not evident from the award itself, nor were they apparent from the agreed-upon record; and (2) the judge erred when he allowed the parties to present witness testimony regarding the extent of any alleged miscalculations, rather than relying on the award and the arbitration record as the relevant law suggested. Finding error, the Court therefore reversed the circuit court’s decision and remanded this case to the circuit court with directions to confirm the arbitration award. Furthermore, because the subcontract between the parties provided that each contractor would be responsible for his own fees and costs, the Court declined to assess costs to one party over the other, and instead, enforced their bargained-for agreement. View "D. W. Caldwell, Inc. v. W.G. Yates & Sons Construction Company" on Justia Law

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Rebecca Keyes, a former employee of Dollar General, filed suit against Dollar General Corporation; DG Mize, LLC; Dolgencorp, LLC d/b/a Dollar General Store #11775 (collectively “Dollar General”), alleging counts of malicious prosecution, infliction of emotional distress, defamation, false imprisonment, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation, after Dollar General filed a criminal affidavit against Keyes in the Municipal Court of Mize, Mississippi, causing Keyes to be arrested for embezzlement. Keyes performed a "cash reload" to a money network card for $500.00, which did not go through properly. Rebecca Keyes informed her manager of the problem and placed the receipt on the office desk. Rebecca was told not to worry about the problem and that it would be fixed. On June 2, 2015, Rebecca Keyes was arrested for embezzlement. Thereafter, on July 16, 2015, Rebecca was found not guilty of the charges. Keyes moved to have the charges dismissed for failure of a Dollar General representative to appear and prosecute the claims. Her motion was granted. She then filed the instant lawsuit. Dollar General filed a motion to dismiss and compel arbitration, which was granted by the Circuit Court of Smith County. With the exception of the defamation claim, the Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in compelling arbitration, for Keyes’s remaining claims were not within the scope of the arbitration agreement. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order as to the defamation claim and reversed its judgment as to the remaining claims, remanding for further proceedings. View "Keyes v. Dollar General Corp." on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from Brian Pedigo’s suit against Rent-A-Center, Inc., for actual and punitive damages, alleging claims of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Pedigo decided to make the rental- purchase of a back-lit, LED television and entered a Rental Purchase Agreement (RPA) for the lease. Pedigo had failed to fulfill his payment obligations under the RPA and was more than twenty days past-due under the agreement. Finding the contract had been breached, RAC manager Kristopher Robertson sought to recover the television from Pedigo. Through his attempts at recovery, Robertson discovered that the television was pawned shortly after it was leased. After discovering Pedigo had pawned the television, Robertson filed a complaint with the police. Based on this information, an arrest warrant for the theft of rental property was issued for Pedigo on May 1, 2013. He was indicted on October 22, 2013, for defrauding RAC, and was arrested and incarcerated on December 11, 2013. On June 9, 2014, the State retired the October 2013 felony charge, ending the prosecution of the criminal matter. After a preliminary review of this matter, the Circuit Court found in favor of Rent-A-Center, ruling that the parties entered a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement which covered Pedigo’s claims. The Mississippi Supreme Court found however, such a ruling was in error. Though broad, the arbitration agreement did not contemplate Pedigo having to arbitrate his claim that Rent-A-Center maliciously swore out a criminal affidavit, causing his wrongful incarceration. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the previous ruling and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Pedigo v. Robertson" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from Brian Pedigo’s suit against Rent-A-Center, Inc., for actual and punitive damages, alleging claims of malicious prosecution, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Pedigo visited Rent-A-Center, Inc.’s (RAC) Booneville location, and decided to make the rental-purchase of a back-lit, LED television. He entered a Rental Purchase Agreement (RPA) for the lease. Under the RPA, Pedigo agreed to make specified payments over the course of twenty-three months, in an effort to own the television after all payments were remitted. Incorporated within the RPA was RAC’s standard Consumer Arbitration Agreement (CAA), which outlined those claims covered and those not covered in a dispute between the parties, and the process the parties would engage in should a dispute arise. Pedigo initialed and signed both documents, agreeing to the terms within. By February 2013, Pedigo had failed to fulfill his payment obligations under the RPA and was more than twenty days past-due under the agreement. Finding the contract had been breached, RAC manager Kristopher Robinson sought to recover the television from Pedigo. Through his attempts at recovery, Robinson discovered that the television was pawned shortly after it was leased. After discovering Pedigo had pawned the television, Robinson filed a complaint with the Booneville police in April 2013. Based on this information, an arrest warrant for the theft of rental property was issued for Pedigo on May 1, 2013. He was indicted on October 22, 2013, for defrauding RAC, and was arrested and incarcerated on December 11, 2013. On June 9, 2014, the State retired the October 2013 felony charge, ending the prosecution of the criminal matter. Following his release, Pedigo filed this civil action claiming that RAC filed a false report with the police which resulted in his incarceration–an act that he claims amounted to malicious prosecution. After a preliminary review of the matter, the Circuit Court found in favor of Rent-A-Center, ruling that the parties entered a valid and enforceable arbitration agreement which covered Pedigo’s claims. The Mississippi Supreme Court found, however, such ruling was made in error: though broad, the arbitration agreement did not contemplate Pedigo having to arbitrate his claim that Rent-A-Center maliciously swore out a criminal affidavit, causing his wrongful incarceration. Accordingly, the Court reversed the previous ruling and remanded the case to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Pedigo v. Rent-A-Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Arbitration is a contractual agreement between parties. And only agreed-upon arbitrable disputes are subject to arbitration. On de novo review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found in this case a valid arbitration agreement, but the subject of the lessee’s premises-liability claim (a dispute that stemmed from a physical and sexual assault on the apartment complex premises) was not within the arbitration agreement’s scope, as it did not arise under or relate to her “occupancy and leasing of the [apartment].” Because the dispute was outside the agreement’s scope, the trial court erred by staying proceedings and ordering arbitration. View "Jane Doe v. Hallmark Partners, LP" on Justia Law

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Following court-ordered mediation, spouses Gary Rolison and Martha Rolison and Caleb Fryar and his father, Robert Fryar, entered into a mediation settlement agreement that resolved four lawsuits pending between the Rolisons and the Fryars. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court found that the Rolisons had breached the settlement agreement, and the court entered a final judgment pursuant to Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) and postponed hearing the issue of damages. The Rolisons appealed the final judgment but later dismissed the appeal voluntarily. After the trial on damages, the trial court awarded the Fryars $399,733.02 in damages, including lost profits and attorney fees. The Rolisons appealed, arguing that their jury trial waiver was ineffective, the trial court’s Rule 54(b) certification was erroneous, and the trial court erroneously denied a motion to intervene filed by two interested parties. Because the Rolisons dismissed their appeal from the Rule 54(b) final judgment, those issues were not at issue before the Supreme Court. After further review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court committed no error by finding that the Rolisons had waived their right to a jury trial on damages and attorney fees. Further, the Court rejected the Rolisons’ challenges to the trial court’s awards of damages and attorney fees because those awards were supported by substantial, credible evidence. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Rolison v. Fryar" on Justia Law

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Linde Health Care Staffing, Inc., received a favorable arbitration award in Missouri against the Claiborne County Hospital. Linde reduced the award to a Missouri judgment, then enrolled the foreign judgment in two Mississippi counties. The Hospital successfully moved to set aside the foreign judgment in both Mississippi counties, since it never contracted with Linde and, thus, was not bound by the contract’s arbitration agreement. On appeal, Linde argued the Hospital’s motions to set aside the foreign judgment were filed too late and were time-barred by the Federal Arbitration Act’s procedural rules. After review, the Mississippi Supreme Court found that the FAA could not bind an entity that neither agreed to arbitrate nor contracted with the arbitration claimant. Therefore the Court affirmed the two Mississippi judgments setting aside the enrollment of the foreign judgment. View "Linde Health Care Staffing, Inc. v. Claiborne County Hospital" on Justia Law