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ESTATE OF KENNETH RAY ROBINSON, DECEASED BY STELLA JENNINGS, ADMINISTRATRIX v. ERIC RAY GUSTA

MARCH 08, 1989

ESTATE OF KENNETH RAY ROBINSON, DECEASED BY STELLA JENNINGS, ADMINISTRATRIX
v.
ERIC RAY GUSTA, A MINOR, BY HIS MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND, ALICE GUSTA



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, ROBERTSON, AND ANDERSON

ANDERSON, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

Eric Ray Gusta, plaintiff below and appellee here, acting by and through his mother and next friend, Alice Gusta, petitioned the Chancery Court of Claiborne County, Mississippi, under Mississippi Code Annotated, Section 91-1-15 (Supp. 1988), for an adjudication that he was the sole and lawful heir of Kenneth Ray Robinson, deceased. On May 17, 1986, the chancery court entered final judgment declaring Eric to be Robinson's son and heir and providing that he should inherit from Robinson as otherwise provided by law.

 Stella Jennings, administratrix of the Estate of Kenneth Ray Robinson, defendant below, timely appealed and assigns the following as errors:

 1. THE EVIDENCE WAS INSUFFICIENT TO SUPPORT THE LOWER COURT'S VERDICT IN FINDING THAT ERIC HAD PROVEN HIS CASE BY CLEAR AND CONVINCING EVIDENCE.

 2. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN DENYING THE ROBINSON ESTATE A JURY TRIAL IN THE HEIRSHIP AND PATERNITY PROCEEDINGS.

 We find that the assignments of error are without merit and therefore affirm the ruling of the chancery court.

 II.

 Alice Gusta (Gusta), Eric's mother, met Kenneth Ray Robinson in August 1981. Subsequently, their relationship grew closer. Robinson spent the night at Gusta's home, they slept together, and engaged in sexual intercourse. Gusta eventually became pregnant in February 1982, and gave birth to Eric on November 24, 1982. After the birth of Eric, Robinson continued to stay with Gusta off-and-on, i.e., he stayed between her home in Vicksburg and his father's home in Port Gibson until his death.

 On April 4, 1984, while permissively driving Gusta's car, Robinson was killed in an automobile accident. Robinson died intestate.

 Prior to Robinson's death, Gusta reviewed his 1983-84 tax return. The return requested the first name of dependent children living with Robinson and the total number of exemptions claimed. Robinson responded by listing Eric and the number" 2 "(himself and Eric), respectively. The return was signed by Robinson and dated 1/25/84, in the presence of Gusta.

 Robinson filed for food stamps and used Gusta's address as he had on the tax return, since he" spent a lot of time "there with her and Eric. *fn1 Testimony by Gusta about the food stamps applications was corroborated by two witnesses from the Warren County Welfare Department, and admissibility into evidence of the applications. On the applications Robinson listed Eric as his son. Robinson's signature was at the end of both applications.

 Robinson's father testified that Robinson maintained residence with him in Port Gibson; but acknowledged that Robinson also stayed in Vicksburg at a residence unknown to him. Robinson's father, however, did not know Gusta or Eric and had never seen them prior to Robinson's funeral.

 On May 26, 1984, Robinson's brother, Charlie, and his girlfriend Thelma Stewart (Stewart) went to Gusta's home to visit her. When asked about the purpose of the ...


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