Before Prather, C.j., Banks And Smith, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Banks, Justice
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/21/97
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHN C. ROSS, JR.
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: MONROE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WILLS, TRUSTS AND ESTATES
DISPOSITION AFFIRMED - 9/17/98
MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED: MANDATE
¶1. This wrongful death action brings before this Court the issues of whether the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel preclude a party from obtaining blood and DNA tests to contest the findings of a prior adjudication of paternity even though the party was not involved in the prior proceedings and whether, irrespective of the issues of res judicata and collateral estoppel, Mississippi's statute controlling descent and distribution prevent the attack of a prior adjudication of paternity. We conclude that the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel do not bind a party who had no connection to the prior paternity actions to the judgment therein rendered. Nevertheless, we conclude that the fact of adjudication controls under our statutes of descent and distribution. Therefore the judgment of the lower court is affirmed.
¶2. Leatha Hogan, plaintiff/appellant in the present case, is the natural mother of Quinton Cortez Hogan, deceased. Jerry Lee Quinn is Quinton's natural father. On the afternoon of July 29, 1992, Quinton fell into an open drainage sewer and was swept into the storm drainage system by a strong current and drowned.
¶3. On December 30, 1994, the Monroe County Chancery Court entered an order directing that letters of administration be granted to the deceased child's mother, Ms. Hogan, as administratrix of the child's estate. A wrongful death lawsuit was filed by Ms. Hogan in the Circuit Court of Monroe County against the City of Aberdeen, the Aberdeen Housing Authority and Continental Engineering Services, Inc.
¶4. A confidential settlement was thereafter proposed by the defendants in the wrongful death action. The proposed settlement was conditioned upon the chancery court's entry of a decree determining the heirs at law and wrongful death beneficiaries of Quinton Cortez Hogan, and authorizing the estate to settle the claim and dismiss the circuit court action. On September 16, 1996, Ms. Hogan filed a Motion for Blood and DNA Testing in chancery court. Ms. Hogan sought to establish the paternity of two other children, Randy Lamont Buckingham and Ashley K. Hinton, who were alleged to be the natural children of Jerry Lee Quinn. If these allegations were true, Randy and Ashley would be half-blood siblings of Quinton and would be entitled to a proportionate share in his estate. On September 18, 1996, Ms. Hogan filed a Petition for Determination of Heirship and Wrongful Death Beneficiaries and Adjudication of Paternity naming Quinn, Randy and Ashley as interested parties.
¶5. By Opinion and Judgment of the Court entered October 22, 1996, the chancellor denied Ms. Hogan's motion for blood and DNA tests. The court found that orders had been issued in two prior paternity proceedings brought by the Monroe County Department of Human Services, establishing that Jerry Quinn was the natural father of both Randy and Ashley. In both cases the judgments against Jerry Quinn were by default, and no blood or DNA tests were ever performed to conclusively establish paternity. The ...