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Entergy Mississippi Inc. v. Burdette Gin Co.

August 06, 1998

ENTERGY MISSISSIPPI, INC. V. BURDETTE GIN CO.


Before Sullivan, P.j., Roberts And Waller, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sullivan, Presiding Justice

97-CA-00481-SCT, __ So. 2d

ENTERGY MISSISSIPPI, INC., FORMERLY MISSISSIPPI POWER & LIGHT COMPANY v. BURDETTE GIN COMPANY

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/24/97

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. GRAY EVANS

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: WASHINGTON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY

DISPOSITION AFFIRMED - 08/06/98

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

¶1. On July 5, 1988, Percy Harper, Perry Butler, and Stanley Poe were re-painting a seed house for their employer, Burdette Gin Co. The workers used a scaffold to paint the seed house, and the scaffold came into contact with uninsulated overhead power lines constructed and maintained by Entergy Mississippi, Inc. (then Mississippi Power & Light Co.). Harper and Butler brought suit against Entergy in the Washington County Circuit Court for the injuries they sustained from electrical shock caused by the contact between the scaffold and the power lines.

¶2. Entergy provided electrical service to Burdette Gin pursuant to an Agreement for Service originally signed by Burdette Gin's President, Rex A. Morgan, on August 23, 1971. The Agreement for Service includes an indemnity clause which reads: Customer takes notice of the "8-Foot Statute" (Section 7015-11 to 7015-19, inclusive, Mississippi Code of 1942, as amended) making it unlawful to erect, operate, install or store any equipment, materials or other things within 8 feet of a high voltage overhead line, and covenants that he will not violate said statute nor permit such violation by any person under his control with respect to the Company's lines on or adjacent to Customer's premises. Should Customer violate this provision, or any other applicable provision of law as to safety around electric power lines, then Customer will defend, indemnify and save harmless the Company from and against any and all claims and expense on account of injury or damage to any person or property resulting from such violation.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission (MPSC) first approved the revision to Entergy's Agreement for Service including the indemnity clause in a February 2, 1971, order. The MPSC approved subsequent changes to Entergy's service agreement containing the same indemnity clause on December 18, 1972, December 11, 1973, January 24, 1978, and November 30, 1990. Although proper notice was given, no objections to any of Entergy's petitions were filed with the MPSC regarding the indemnity clause.

¶3. Entergy filed a third party claim and first amended third party claim on November 9, 1992, and July 8, 1993, respectively, against Burdette Gin, seeking to enforce the indemnity provision in the Agreement for Service. Burdette Gin filed its answers to the third party claim and amended third party claim on December 31, 1992, and July 19, 1993, respectively, asserting among other affirmative defenses that the indemnity clause was unconscionable and void as a matter of public policy, and therefore unenforceable. Burdette Gin also filed a motion for summary judgment on July 19, 1993, requesting that the circuit court dismiss the third party claim, because the contract was unconscionable and void as a matter of public policy. On August 10, 1993, Entergy filed a response to Burdette Gin's summary judgment motion and a cross-motion for partial summary judgment on the issue of the enforceability of the indemnity clause. Entergy asserted that the clause was neither unconscionable nor contrary to public policy, and merely reasonably obliged Burdette Gin to do what it was already required to do under Mississippi law.

ΒΆ4. On August 12, 1994, Circuit Court Judge Gray Evans granted Burdette Gin's motion for summary judgment and denied Entergy's cross-motion for partial summary judgment, thereby dismissing Burdette Gin from the cause with prejudice. Judge Evans entered final judgment in the case on March 24, 1997, approving a settlement between Entergy and Harper and Butler, and ordering that Entergy take nothing from Burdette Gin on its third party claim due to the summary judgment award. Entergy filed its notice of appeal to this Court on April 9, 1997, and assigns as error the circuit court's assertion of jurisdiction over this ...


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