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Sweatt v. Murphy

January 28, 1999

STEVEN LESLIE SWEATT
v.
PAUL MURPHY AND THERESE MURPHY



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Prather, Chief Justice

DATE OF JUDGMENT: April 7, 1997

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROBERT H. WALKER

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

JAMES R. FOSTER, II

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED - January 28, 1999

MOTION FOR REHEARING FILED:

MANDATE ISSUED:

EN BANC.

STATEMENT OF THE FACTS AND CASE

¶1. In April, 1995 Steven Sweatt ("Sweatt") and his wife began renting a house in Gulfport from Paul and Therese Murphy. On April 30, 1995, Sweatt was injured on the property when a porch swing on which he was sitting fell due to a failure in the hook which connected it to the ceiling. Following the accident, Sweatt was diagnosed with a lumbar disc herniation, but the Murphys, then living in Sweden, denied any responsibility for his injuries. The Sweatts gave notice to Gloria Murphy, Paul Murphy's mother, that they were moving out and requested the return of the security deposit. The Murphys refused to return the deposit.

¶2. Sweatt filed a complaint in circuit court, alleging that the Murphys had failed to comply with the provisions of the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act ("RLTA"), Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-1, et seq. (1972), specifically the RLTA's mandate to landlords/owners to comply with applicable "housing codes affecting health and safety." After discovery, Sweatt filed a motion for summary judgment, seeking an instruction that the Murphys were negligent per se in violating the provisions of the RLTA and/or the Housing Code. The trial Judge denied this motion, as well as a motion filed by Sweatt to add Gloria Murphy as a defendant and to assert additional claims against the defendants.

¶3. On March 24, 1997, the case went to trial, and the trial Judge refused to give any instructions based upon the RLTA and/or the Standard Housing Code. The jury returned a verdict for the Murphys as to the personal injury claim, but the jury returned a verdict for $700 (the amount of the security deposit) for Sweatt on his contract claim. Feeling aggrieved, Sweatt appeals to this Court.

LAW

I. Whether the trial court erred in failing to apply the Mississippi Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-1 et seq. (1972, as amended) as controlling law. II. Whether the trial court erred in failing to apply the provisions of the Standard Housing Code, adopted by the City of Gulfport in City Ordinance No. 1974, and compliance with which is made mandatory on all residential landlords in Mississippi by the Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-1 et seq. (1972, as amended), as controlling law. III. Whether the trial court erred in failing to grant summary judgment for plaintiff. IV. Whether the trial court erred in failing to grant plaintiff jury instruction for negligence applying the provisions of the Mississippi Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-1 et seq. (1972, as amended), and the Standard Housing Code, adopted by the City of Gulfport in City Ordinance No. 1974. V. Whether the trial court erred in failing to grant plaintiff jury instruction for negligence per se applying the provisions of the Mississippi Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, Miss. Code Ann. § 89-8-1 et seq. (1972, as amended), and the Standard Housing Code, adopted by the City of Gulfport in City Ordinance No. 1974. VI. Whether the trial court erred in failing to grant plaintiff's motion to amend judgment, and motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict or, motion for new trial.

ΒΆ4. These points of error are combined as they are all related to the central issue of whether the trial Judge was in error in refusing to apply the RLTA, grant summary judgment, instruct the jury, or direct a verdict in favor of Sweatt based on the provisions of the Mississippi ...


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