Now retired Hinds County Circuit Judge Swan Yerger had a reputation for going out of his way to dismiss cases. Judge Yerger seemed to get reversed by the Mississippi Supreme Court more than any other judge in the state for defense rulings. It happened again last week in Compere v. St. Dominic.
The case was a medical-malpractice action. The plaintiff filed the action less than 60 days after providing defendants with pre-suit notice. The defendants moved for summary judgment based on the deficiency in the pre-suit notice. Judge Yerger took the matter under advisement.
Plaintiff filed a second complaint more than 60 days after giving pre-suit notice. Judge Yerger then dismissed the first case due to the notice defect and dismissed the second case finding it was an improperly filed action under the doctrine of priority jurisdiction.
Judge Yerger also assessed monetary sanctions against plaintiff’s counsel for filing the second complaint. It’s unclear whether defendants requested the sanctions or Judge Yerger did it on his own.
The Supreme Court’s Opinion:
A unanimous Supreme Court reversed the dismissal of the second complaint and imposition of sanctions and remanded the case for further proceedings. The Court reasoned that priority jurisdiction did not apply. Priority jursidiction applies:
“when the same lawsuit has been filed in two different courts, not in the same court. More importantly, that doctrine presupposes a pending action that the plaintiff can proceed upon and obtain ‘adequate relief.’”
The Court noted that defendants “fail to argue or cite any authority that a lawsuit should be dismissed with prejudice and with monetary sanctions under priority jurisdiction.”
Justice Lamar wrote the Court’s opinion. James Bobo of Brandon represented the plaintiff. Lane Staines, Sharon Bridges, Jonathan Werne (all with Brunini), Ray McNamara and Stephanie Edgar (both with Watkins Ludlam) represented the defendants.
James Bobo is a good guy, so I am glad to see Judge Yerger’s decision reversed. Cases like this are why Judge Yerger had a reputation for being pro-defense and unfairly dismissing cases. Most people would agree that cases should not be dismissed where there is no authority to support the dismissal.
Incidentally, Judge Jeff Weill replaced Judge Yerger on the Hinds County Circuit Court. Early reviews on Judge Weill have been favorable from both plaintiff and defense lawyers.