Mississippi Litigation Review & Commentary

Mississippi Litigation Review & Commentary

Comments on the Latest Developments in Mississippi Civil Litigation

Philip is a trial attorney based in Jackson, Mississippi with a diverse civil litigation practice.

Mixed Verdict in Jackson Federal Court FLSA, Breach of Contract Case

Posted in U.S. District Courts in Mississippi, Verdicts in Mississippi

On Thursday a federal court jury in Jackson rendered a mixed verdict in Bingham v. Asemotas Real Estate, LLC.

Here is the Complaint.

Plaintiff alleged violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and beach of contract.

Here is the jury’s Verdict.

The jury found for the Defendant on the breach of contract claim and hung on the FLSA claim.

The trial lasted 3 days.

Nick Norris with Watson & Norris in Jackson represented the Plaintiff. Brandon Dorsey of Jackson represented the Defendant.

District Judge Sul Ozerden presided.

$131,789 Verdict in Pike County Bad Faith Case

Posted in Verdicts in Mississippi

On February 15, 2019, a Pike County jury returned a plaintiff verdict of $131,789 in I-55 Development, LLC v. Nationwide Ins. Co.

Here is the I-55 Complaint w. Exs.

The case involved the theft of inventory at I-55’s convenience stores. The thief was I-55’s tenant, who leased the store and sold inventory on consignment. Nationwide denied coverage under a fraud exclusion.

Here is  I-55’s Response to SJ Motion w. Exs.

The jury found for the Plaintiff and awarded damages of $131,789.

Macy Hanson of Madison represented I-55.

Patrick Tatum of Upshaw Williams represented Nationwide.

Circuit Judge Mike Taylor presided.

$495,000 Verdict in Bolivar County Car Wreck Case

Posted in Verdicts in Mississippi

Last week a Bolivar County jury returned a $495,000 plaintiff verdict in a car wreck case.

The wreck involved a plaintiff who was speeding colliding with defendant’s lowboy trailer. The defendant contested liability, causation and damages.

The jury found damages of $495,000 and assessed 30% fault to the plaintiff. The judgment was $346,500.

Baskin Jones of Jackson and John Daniels represented the plaintiff. Mike Baxter and Robert Gibbs represented the defendant.

$121,686 Bench Verdict in Pearl River County Negligence and Breach of Contract Case

Posted in Verdicts in Mississippi

On March 12, 2019 the Pearl River County Court entered a bench verdict and judgement of $121,686 in BRJ, Inc. v. X-Stream Clean Pressure Washing, LLC.

Here is BRJ’s Amended Complaint. BRJ alleged X-Stream damaged the engine of BRJ’s truck while pressure washing it.

The Court found X-Stream was negligent and breached its contract with BRJ. Here is the Final Judgment.

The damages components were:

  • $38,990- loss of use of truck;
  • $13,324- attempted repair damages;
  • $41,928- engine replacement; and
  • $27,443- pre-judgment interest.

The case was tried over four days in December 2018 and January 2019.  Representing the Plaintiff were Samuel S. McHard and Nicholas Puckett with McHard, McHard, Anderson & Associates in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Representing the Defendant was Erica Lloyd with McAngus Goudelock & Courie in Oxford, MS.

County Court Judge Richelle Lumpkin presided.

Legal Tech CLE Reminder

Posted in Legal Technology

Here is the brochure for the upcoming legal tech CLE scheduled for April 16 in Jackson: Tech CLE Brochure.

The seminar will more than pay for itself in savings on overhead and time from implementing some or all of the suggestions for utilizing tech to make practicing easier.

Attorneys should also consider sending their legal assistants to the seminar.

I attended the last version two years ago and learned a lot.

March Miss. Jury Verdict Reporter Preview

Posted in Verdicts in Mississippi

Here is a preview of the March 2019 issue of the Miss. Jury Verdict Reporter:

  • $4,170,172- Gulfport federal court truck negligence case covered here (2/15/19);
  • defense verdict- Gulfport federal court age discrimination case (2/22/19);
  • defense verdict- Jackson federal court car wreck case (2/12/19);
  • defense verdict- Scott County negligent police pursuit case (2/11/19); and
  • settled at trial- Natchez federal court race discrimination case (3/8/19).

$250,000 Verdict in Aberdeen Federal Court Civil Rights Trial

Posted in U.S. District Courts in Mississippi, Verdicts in Mississippi

Last week an Aberdeen federal court jury rendered a $250,000 verdict in Jauch v. Choctaw County. Plaintiff alleged the county and Sheriff Cloyd Halford deprived her of her civil rights by jailing her for 96 days before seeing a judge.

Here is the Complaint.

The AP wrote about the case here. From the AP:

A Mississippi jury awarded $250,000 in damages Tuesday to a woman jailed 96 days without seeing a judge, a case spotlighting how Mississippi still struggles to provide access to lawyers or bail to people jailed before trial.

The verdict included $200,000 in damages against Choctaw County Sheriff Cloyd Halford and $50,000 against the county. It was handed down Tuesday after a two-day trial in federal court in Aberdeen. The jury was only determining how much Jauch was owed, after U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock earlier ruled that the county and Halford were liable.

Jessica Jauch was originally arrested on traffic charges in 2012 and held in Choctaw County after being served with a drug indictment. While in jail, she was forced to temporarily sign over her daughter’s custody rights to her mother. After finally seeing a judge, she was appointed a public defender and quickly made bail. Eventually, she was cleared of the drug charge after undercover video didn’t show her committing any crime.

The trial was on damages only. The court previously granted Defendants summary judgment, but the 5th Circuit reversed. Here is the District Court’s Jauch Order on liability.

Here are the jury instructions.

Here is the verdict.

Here is the $0 punitive damages verdict.

Vic Fleitas of Tupelo represented the plaintiff. Dan Griffith of Cleveland represented the County.

District Judge Sharion Aycock presided.

My Take:

Kudos to Fleitas. After a verdict, it’s easy to pass judgment on a case. But this was a tough case that was hard to win. Usually, plaintiff lawyers are not rewarded for taking tough cases.

$40,000 Verdict in Panola County Car Wreck Case

Posted in Verdicts in Mississippi

On March 18, 2019 a Panola County jury rendered a $40,000 verdict in Griffin v. Hartman.

The rear bumper of Plaintiff’s vehicle was “bumped” by the front bumper of Defendant’s vehicle, resulting in dislocation or loosening of the rear bumper.  The low impact collision was in a parking lot in Batesville in March 2017.

Plaintiff sustained permanent chronic lumbar sprain strain according to her family physician, Dr. Johnny Cummings. Dr. Cummings opined that she would be dealing with this condition for the rest of her life and would require prescription pain medication as needed.  He further opined that she should avoid lifting over 15 pounds. His opinions were based on plaintiff’s having no prior history of back pain and that her complaints follow objective indicators to include spasms and tenderness on exam and recommended that she could stand for four hours at a time and then rest for 15 minutes.

Plaintiff’s medical expenses were $6,700. Plaintiff, a self-employed hairstylist, offered proof of decreased earnings as a hairdresser due to inability to stand for extended periods and missing work due to chronic pain.

Defendant admitted liability, but disputed that Griffin’s injuries were related to the minor bump and that such a low impact could not cause chronic lumbar strain and an injury of indefinite duration.  Defendant based her argument on photographs showing no visible property damage. Defense counsel argued that Plaintiff should not receive a “windfall” for being bumped in a drive through parking lot.

Plaintiff’s attorney was Yancy B. Burns of Burns & Associates in Jackson.

Defendant’s attorney was William Whitehead, Jr. of Bryan Nelson in Hattiesburg.

Circuit Judge Jimmy McClure presided.

Taking a Look at PERS’ Investment Allocation

Posted in PERS Crisis

This post looks at PERS’ investment allocation. The chart below lists PERS’ target allocation for each asset class, return, and the allocations four years ago and today.

Asset class

Target allocation

1 year return

10 year return

12/31/14

allocation

12/31/18

allocation

U.S. equities

27%

-5.68%

13.2%

35.80%

25.51%

Foreign equities

22%

-7.38%

7.25%

21.51%

20.67%

Global equities

12%

-7.38%

9.83%

6.03%

11.58%

Fixed income

20%

-.05%

5.1%

20.63%

20.85%

Real estate

10%

7.25%

8.12%

10.22%

10.91%

Private equity

8%

18.02%

-.06%

4.77%

8.85%

Cash

1%

1.04%

1.64%

Ponzi schemes

0%

0%

0%

Total fund

-3.71%

9.81%

Other stats:

3 year return: 7.29%

5 year return: 5.84%

Investment assumption: 7.75%

 

My Take:

The investment mix seems reasonable.

The 3 and 5 year returns are unsurprising. The 10 year return benefits from the recovery from the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression.

The 7.75% investment assumption is still unrealistic. I don’t know that you can find even a decent argument supporting a 7.75% assumption.

Everything I read says a realistic investment assumption for the next decade is around 5%. That does not include investment management fees and expenses. It’s probably safe to add 1% to the required return to cover these.

Private equity is kind of a black box. But it’s a growing asset class for pension funds. Hopefully, it will be a good long term decision.

Besides the inflated investment assumption, the biggest problem for PERS is government is shrinking and the number of retirees exceeds new participants.

PERS is going to end badly. We just don’t know when.

Everyone Trusted the Employee Who Was Stealing From Them

Posted in General

This recent news about the comptroller of a New Orleans law firm stealing $2 million from the firm reminded me how common employee embezzlement is in the legal industry.

I have several friends over the years who were victims of employee embezzlement. Invariably, it was the last employee they would have suspected who was doing the stealing. I mean that literally. The embezzling employees seemed exceptionally trustworthy. Maybe that’s what gave them the confidence to steal.

Years ago, I read an article about how to eliminate the possibility of employee embezzlement. In a nutshell, the owners have to do everything themselves. It seemed like too much work to implement. But like many other areas, technology has made it more feasible.

Mobile bank deposits, credit card bill payments and cloud based accounting systems mean it takes much less time to do the firm’s bookkeeping. I now do my bookkeeping. It takes little time.

And even if you decide not to permanently do the job, you should at least know how to so you can look over someone else’s shoulder.