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Gray v. Framme Law Firm of MS, P.C.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

November 19, 2013

DOLLY E. GRAY, APPELLANT
v.
FRAMME LAW FIRM OF MS, P.C.; AND FRAMME LAW FIRM, P.C., APPELLEES

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HOLMES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/27/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JANNIE M. LEWIS. TRIAL COURT DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR DIRECTED VERDICT GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART; JURY VERDICT IN THE AMOUNT OF $4,308.

DISPOSITION: AFFIRMED.

FOR APPELLANT: PRECIOUS MARTIN, SUZANNE KEYS.

FOR APPELLEES: DAVID C. GOFF, LAWRENCE MATTHEW QUINLIVAN.

BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND ISHEE, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING, P.J., BARNES, ROBERTS AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. MAXWELL, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. CARLTON, J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. GRIFFIS, P.J., DISSENTS WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. JAMES, J., NOT PARTICIPATING.

OPINION

Page 431

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - LEGAL MALPRACTICE

ISHEE, J.

¶1. In 2012, Dolly E. Gray filed suit against Gramme Law Firm of MS, P.C. and Framme Law Firm, P.C. (Framme) for legal malpractice. Gray asserted that Framme allowed the statute of limitations to run on her negligence claim against the City of Durant for certain damages suffered in her home during an electrical surge in 2008. At trial, the Holmes County Circuit Court granted Framme's motion for a directed verdict regarding compensatory damages for repair or replacement of allegedly damaged items in the home, emotional distress damages, and punitive damages. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Gray for $4,308 - the cost of rewiring Gray's home. Aggrieved, Gray appeals, claiming the circuit court erred by granting the directed verdict and allowing one of Framme's witnesses to testify in support of the motion for a directed verdict. Finding no error, we affirm.

STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. Residents of Durant, Mississippi, receive their electrical services directly from the City. Gray, a Durant resident, testified that on December 4, 2008, she suffered a

Page 432

massive electrical surge in her home, causing several loud noises, the smell of electrical smoke throughout the home, and irregular electrical activity in the home's electrical products. Accordingly, she contacted electrician Robert Teague.

¶3. Teague inspected Gray's home on the evening in question and could not find a problem inside the house. After examining the electrical supply outside of the home, Teague informed Gray two wires bringing electricity into the home were malfunctioning, causing the electrical surges. Gray then contacted the City, who sent the city electrician, Tommy Frizell, for an inspection.

¶4. Frizell and his crew arrived the day after the incident and observed the faulty wires noted by Teague. They corrected the problem. Frizell and Gray then went through the home to inspect the electrical items for damage. At the time, Frizell located five or six damaged items. He instructed Gray to submit a list of those items to the city clerk.

¶5. Gray complied, and on December 15, 2008, she provided the city clerk a handwritten note that merely listed one computer, one photo printer, one microwave, and six surge protectors not working in her home. She signed and dated the note at the bottom and listed her telephone number.

¶6. On May 26, 2009, Gray submitted to the City a formal typed and signed letter wherein she summarized the events leading up to that date. She attached a second list of allegedly damages items, totaling seventy-six items with a full replacement value of $37,000. Gray testified that she arrived at this figure after contacting various sales centers and obtaining purchase prices for new products to replace the allegedly damaged items. She included several other attachments, such as Teague's service bills for inspection and repair to the wiring in the home and an article related to similar electrical incidents.

¶7. Thereafter, the City's third-party administrator, Mississippi Municipal Service Company (MMSC), sent an adjuster, Terry Woods, to inspect Gray's home and the allegedly damaged items. Woods reduced the list provided by Gray to fourteen inoperable items. In June 2009, MMSC sent a letter to Gray denying liability on behalf of the City and requesting that Gray present additional proof of her loss with respect to the replacement values listed in her damages report.

¶8. Gray then contacted a prepaid legal service (PPL) to which she had been paying $7.97 twice a month for some time. PPL provides a legal-insurance service to customers whereby clients may pay a certain amount of money per month in exchange for future legal services. PPL employs a tiered system, providing various future services to clients at corresponding monthly rates. Gray was enlisted on a T-1 level, providing her with basic services, such as unlimited telephone conversations with an attorney and legal letters written on her behalf. The tiered system graduates to level T-5, with attorneys filing suit and representing the client in the suit.

¶9. PPL assigned Gray a case number and an attorney - Steven Burt with Framme. Burt then contacted Gray and they discussed her issues. Gray sent Burt the paperwork and information she had retained until that point. Burt informed her he was authorized to write the City a letter on her behalf but that to sue the City would be significantly more money. It is disputed as to whether or not Gray indicated she was willing to spend the extra money to file a suit. Regardless, ...


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