FROM WHICH APPEALED: JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT.
TRIAL JUDGES: HON. ROBERT P. KREBS, HON. KATHY KING JACKSON.
JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF APPEALS IS REVERSED AND THE
JUDGMENTS OF THE JACKSON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT ARE REINSTATED
APPELLANT: A. NORRIS HOPKINS, JR.
APPELLEES: STEPHEN G. PERESICH, PATRICK H. ZACHARY, VICKI R.
LEGGETT, MARK D. NORTON, RICHARD D. NORTON, EDWARD C. TAYLOR,
KRISTI R. BROWN.
APPELLEES: STEPHEN G. PERESICH, JOHANNA M. MCMULLAN, PATRICK
H. ZACHARY, VICKI LEGGETT, MARK D. NORTON, RICHARD D. NORTON,
EDWARD C. TAYLOR, KRISTI R. BROWN, J. STEPHEN WRIGHT, T.
PHILLIP HUSKEY, WILLIAM E. WHITFIELD, III, KARA L. LIND.
JUSTICE. RANDOLPH, P.J., PIERCE AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.
LAMAR, J., CONCURS IN PART AND DISSENTS IN PART WITH SEPARATE
WRITTEN OPINION JOINED BY KITCHENS AND KING, JJ. WALLER,
C.J., AND DICKINSON, P.J., NOT PARTICIPATING.
NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY
We granted certiorari in this personal-injury negligence
action to clarify state law on the doctrine of
claim-splitting. After new defendants were identified during
discovery on her original complaint, Plaintiff Jeanette
Carpenter filed a motion to amend her complaint to include
the newly discovered defendants. A hearing could not be
scheduled in time for the trial court to approve the
amendment before the expiration of the three-year statute of
limitations. In an effort to avoid losing the opportunity to
bring the new defendants into the litigation, Carpenter filed
a second action before the statute of limitations ran, based
on the exact same set of facts, in the same court, and naming
the same new defendants named in the motion to amend. The
trial court dismissed both cases. The cases were consolidated
for purpose of appeal. We hold that Carpenter's
procedural actions constituted impermissible claim-splitting
as outlined by this Court in Wilner v. White, 929
So.2d 315 (Miss. 2006). Therefore, we reverse the judgment of
the Court of Appeals and affirm the judgments of the Jackson
County Circuit Court.
AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW
On August 15, 2007, Jeanette Carpenter tripped on some
parking-lot striping tape at a welcome center on Interstate
10. The resulting fall caused injuries, including two broken
wrists as well as lacerations and bruising to her face from
the impact with the pavement.
On June 26, 2008, Carpenter filed a negligence suit against
the Mississippi Department of Transportation and five John
Does (" Carpenter I" ). The case was
assigned to Circuit Judge Kathy King Jackson. More than a
year later, Carpenter moved to amend her complaint to add
Mallette Brothers Construction, Inc., and J.L. McCool
Contractors. Judge Jackson granted the motion. This first
amended complaint was filed within the statute of
[¶4] On March 4, 2010, Carpenter filed a
second motion for leave to amend her complaint. This time,
she sought to add Kenneth Thompson Builders (" KTB
" ), Coastal Masonry, Pro Mow Lawn Care, and Capital
Security as defendants. At this time, Carpenter had been
aware of the existence of these potential defendants (via
interrogatory responses) for almost a year. Carpenter
attempted to set a hearing on the motion before the statute
of limitations expired on August 15, 2010, but the parties
were not able to select a hearing date agreeable to all
parties. The court ultimately approved the
second amended complaint on November 12, 2010, after the
statute of limitations had run.
On July 22, 2010, prior to the statute-of-limitations
deadline and in light of the likelihood that the amendment
would not be granted before August 15, Carpenter filed a
second complaint (" Carpenter II" ), also
in the Circuit Court of Jackson County, naming KTB, Coastal
Masonry, Pro Mow Lawn Care, and Capital Security as
defendants. This case was assigned to Circuit Judge Robert
Krebs. Carpenter filed various motions to consolidate the
cases. The motions to consolidate were never ruled on at the
KTB and the other new defendants filed motions to dismiss
both cases. Judge Jackson granted the motion to dismiss
Carpenter I on the ground that the second amended
complaint was filed after the statute of limitations had
run. This order granting dismissal was
entered June 27, 2011. Judge Krebs granted the motion to
dismiss Carpenter II on the ground that the second
complaint impermissibly split Carpenter's cause of action
in violation of Wilner. This order granting
dismissal was entered on June 28th, 2011.
The Court of Appeals reversed both dismissals, rejecting the
claim-splitting argument and finding that the two cases
should be considered consolidated for purposes of remand.
Jeanette Carpenter v. Kenneth Thompson Builder, et
al., 186 So.3d 855, 2013 WL 2180136 (Miss. Ct.App.
2013). The defendants appeal.
Standard of review
Typically, we review motions to dismiss under a de
novo standard. Scaggs v. GPCH-GP, Inc., 931
So.2d 1274, 1275 (Miss. 2006). While the question of whether
the claim-splitting doctrine is applicable to a case is a
question of law
reviewed de novo, dismissals on the basis of the
claim-splitting doctrine are made for the purpose of
eliminating duplicative litigation and for docket control.
See Kanciper v. Suffolk Co. Soc. for the
Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Inc., 722 F.3d 88 (2d
Cir. 2013); Katz v. Gerardi, 655 F.3d 1212, 1217
(10th Cir. 2011). Such dismissals are premised on the fact
that the party in question is involved in a pending
duplicative action in which the party's procedural and
substantive due-process rights are being satisfied.
Therefore, " [w]e will review for abuse of discretion
when a [trial] court's 'dismissal for claim-splitting
was premised in significant measure on the ability of the
district court to manage its own docket,' and will
reverse the [trial] court only if we find its judgment
'exceeded the bounds of the rationally available choices
given the facts and the applicable law in the case at
hand.'" Katz, 655 F.3d at 1217 (quoting
Big Sky Network Canada, Ltd. v. Sichuan Provincial
Gov't, 533 F.3d 1183, 1186 (10th Cir.
The doctrines of res judicata and
We agree with the circuit court that Carpenter II
violated this state's long-standing prohibition on
claim-splitting. Since a final judgment was entered
dismissing the defendants with prejudice from Carpenter
I before a final judgment was entered dismissing
Carpenter II, we additionally find it ...