Charles Stephen Stack, Jr., Dennis Jason Childress, John David Price, Jackson, attorneys for appellant.
William W. Fulgham, Jackson, Rabun Jones, John Gordon Sims, III, Matthew Anderson Taylor, Bennie Le Nard Richard, Greenville, attorneys for appellee.
Before WALLER, C.J., CHANDLER and KING, JJ.
¶ 1. The plaintiff in this case filed suit in Hinds County against the Mississippi Department of Human Services and Alliance Crossings, a children's psychiatric facility, based upon the alleged statutory rape of a minor that occurred while the minor resided at Alliance Crossings in Lauderdale County and was in the legal and physical custody of the Department of Human Services. The alleged basis for venue in Hinds County was that the Department of Human Services is headquartered in Hinds County. The defendants filed motions to transfer venue to Lauderdale County, which the trial court denied. Because the plaintiff failed to allege sufficient facts supporting venue in Hinds County, this Court reverses the trial court and remands the case for transfer to Lauderdale County.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
¶ 2. In February of 2007, S.C. discovered her then-twelve-year-old son, U.C., fondling his younger brother. She reported the incident to the Washington County Sheriff's Office, which notified the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS). The resulting Washington County Youth Court Proceedings ended with S.C. voluntarily placing legal and physical custody of U.C. with MDHS. Under MDHS's custody, U.C. was initially evaluated at Parkwood Behavioral Health Systems in Olive Branch, Mississippi (in Desoto County). Professionals at that facility recommended that U.C. be placed in long-term, inpatient residential treatment. Pursuant to this recommendation, MDHS placed U.C. in Alliance Crossings, a residential child psychiatric facility located in Lauderdale County. In June of 2007, while U.C. was in the care of (and located at) Alliance Crossings and under MDHS's custody, U.C. was allegedly the victim of a statutory rape committed by another patient. Subsequent to the alleged rape, S.C. alleges that the acts and omissions of Alliance and MDHS allowed U.C. to engage in additional sexual acts with other patients. S.C.'s essential allegations against MDHS are that it failed to investigate and report the instances of sexual conduct. S.C. alleges several medical negligence claims against Alliance.
¶ 3. S.C. filed suit in Hinds County Circuit Court against MDHS, Alliance, and Alliance's parent company, Psychiatric Solutions, Inc. (PSI), on November 4, 2010. She filed an Amended Complaint on February 16, 2011. In both, she alleged simply that " [v]enue is proper in the Circuit Court of Hinds County, Mississippi as the Defendant Mississippi Department of Health [sic] Services is headquartered in Hinds County, Mississippi." She also alleges that the acts underlying the alleged liability, to wit, the sexual acts and Alliance's attendant failures, occurred at Alliance in Lauderdale County. She makes no specific allegations regarding the location
where MDHS made the decisions regarding its failure to report or investigate.
¶ 4. On March 17, 2011, Alliance moved to transfer venue to Lauderdale County.  MDHS followed suit on March 25, 2011, alleging that venue is proper only in Lauderdale County. The circuit court held a hearing on the issue on May 9, 2011. On June 22, 2012, the circuit court summarily denied the motions to transfer venue, stating simply that they are " not well taken."
¶ 5. MDHS and Alliance appeal to this Court. They argue that venue is improper in Hinds County and proper in Lauderdale County under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) venue provision, because the acts underlying the liability occurred in Lauderdale County, thus venue for MDHS is proper only in Lauderdale County. Alliance alternatively argues that, if venue for MDHS is proper in Hinds County, the case against it should be severed from the case against MDHS and transferred to Lauderdale County.
¶ 6. Decisions on motions to transfer venue and to sever are reviewed for abuse of discretion. Estate of Jones v. Quinn,716 So.2d 624, 626 (Miss.1998). Questions of law, such as interpretation of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, are reviewed de novo. S. Cent. Reg'l Med. Ctr. v. Guffy, 930 So.2d 1252, ...