The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice, For The Court:
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/10/96
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES E. GRAVES, JR.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WRONGFUL DEATH
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:
¶1. On August 20, 1993, Esther Jones Quinn and Alonzo Jones (Plaintiffs) filed their complaint in the Circuit Court of Hinds County against the defendants in this case, alleging that their son's death was a result of the intentional and malicious, or grossly negligent, behavior of the defendants in the deficient upkeep of the Simpson County Jail and the treatment of prisoners at the jail. Their son, Andre Jones, was found dead, hanging by a shoestring in a shower stall at the jail, while being held on charges of possession of a stolen tag, altering a vehicle identification number, violating a city beer ordinance, and carrying a concealed weapon. Andre had been arrested at a road block set up by the Brandon Police Department, and was transported to the Simpson County Jail due to overcrowding in the Brandon City Jail. Dr. Steven Hayne, who performed the autopsy, found that the manner of death was suicide. However, Plaintiffs maintained that their son was murdered. Plaintiffs named as defendants: Lloyd Jones, Sheriff of Simpson County; John Abernathy, Deputy Sheriff of Simpson County; Simpson County; Walter Tucker, Chief of the Brandon Police Department; John Henley, Sergeant at the Brandon Police Department; the City of Brandon; Willie Brown, Inspector for the Department of Institutional Sanitation of the Health Department for the State of Mississippi; Ed Thompson, State Health Officer; Jerry Oakes, Acting Director/Assistant Director/Chief Architect for the Bureau of Buildings, Grounds and Real Property; Millard Mackey, State Chief Deputy Fire Marshal; and Eddie Lucas, Commissioner of the Department of Corrections for the State of Mississippi. Plaintiffs later amended their complaint to include Commissioner of Public Safety James Ingram as a defendant. Upon the death of Lloyd Jones, Plaintiffs filed a motion to substitute the new Sheriff of Simpson County, Doyle King, and the administratrix of Lloyd Jones's estate, Lucy Jones, in Lloyd Jones's official and individual capacities, respectively. They also amended their complaint to include a count for simple negligence and one for wrongful death. Plaintiffs accomplished their amendments to the complaint both by motion to amend and by filing a new complaint which was later consolidated into the original complaint.
¶2. In addition to their tort lawsuit filed in state court, Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on August 24, 1993. The complaint in federal court was based upon the same set of facts and circumstances surrounding the death of Andre Jones, and named the same defendants as the complaint filed in circuit court with the exception of Defendants Brown, Thompson, Oakes, Mackey, Lucas, and Ingram (State Defendants). Plaintiffs alleged constitutional and federal statutory violations amounting to deliberate indifference, wrongful death, and conspiracy.
¶3. In an order dated January 11, 1996, the federal court granted summary judgment for Chief Tucker, Sergeant Henley, the City of Brandon, and Deputy Sheriff John Abernathy. However, the court denied summary judgment for Lloyd Jones and Simpson County. On June 12, 1996, the federal court entered summary judgment for the remaining defendants. The court entered a final judgment dismissing the case with prejudice on the same day.
¶4. On October 31, 1995, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge James E. Graves, Jr. granted the defendants' motion to hold discovery in abeyance until the issue of immunity was decided. On November 28, 1995, Judge Graves issued a detailed opinion ruling on all of the defendants' motions to dismiss and for summary judgment. He found that the motions to dismiss filed by the State Defendants should be granted. The Judge also granted the motions to dismiss filed by Deputy Sheriff Abernathy and Sergeant Henley. However, Judge Graves denied the motions to dismiss and for summary judgment filed by Simpson County and Sheriff Jones (Simpson County Defendants), and the City of Brandon and Chief Tucker (Brandon Defendants).
¶5. On January 3, 1996, the Simpson County Defendants and Brandon Defendants filed a joint motion, requesting that the claims against them be dismissed due to improper venue or, in the alternative, severed and venue transferred to their respective home counties. Judge Graves denied this motion in an order dated March 21, 1996, and reaffirmed the March 21 order on April 10, 1996. On April 24, 1996, the Simpson County Defendants and Brandon Defendants filed their Motion for Certification of Interlocutory Appeal, requesting that the circuit court enter an order granting them certification to appeal to this Court on the issue of venue. Judge Graves entered an order denying the motion on May 30, 1996. However, by an order dated August 5, 1996, this Court granted the remaining defendants' petition for interlocutory appeal and ordered that the trial court proceedings be stayed pending review of this appeal. Although the Brandon Defendants and Simpson County Defendants have raised the issue of res judicata regarding the dismissal of the federal lawsuit in their answers to the amended complaint and in separate motions for summary judgment, the circuit court had not yet reached any decision on the issue of res judicata when this Court granted interlocutory appeal and stayed the lower court proceedings.
STATEMENT OF THE LAW Standard of Review
¶6. "An application for a change of venue is addressed to the discretion of the trial Judge, and his ruling thereon will not be disturbed on appeal unless it clearly appears that there has been an abuse of discretion or that the discretion has not been justly and properly exercised under the circumstances of the case." Beech v. Leaf River Forest Prods., Inc., 691 So.2d 446, 448 (Miss. 1997) (quoting Mississippi State Highway Comm'n v. Rogers, 240 Miss. 529, 539-40, 128 So.2d 353, 358 (1961)). This Court has also applied an abuse of discretion standard of review on the issue of severance. Kiddy v. Lipscomb, 628 So.2d 1355, 1358 (Miss. 1993). I. WHETHER THE CIRCUIT COURT OF HINDS COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI ERRED IN DENYING THE JOINT MOTION OF THE BRANDON DEFENDANTS AND THE ...