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Laws v. Louisville Ladder, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

August 26, 2014

ANTHONY LAWS, APPELLANT
v.
LOUISVILLE LADDER, INC., APPELLEE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: TALLAHATCHIE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/07/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES MCCLURE III. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: GRANTED APPELLEE'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS, STRIKING APPELLANT'S EXPERT; GRANTED SUMMARY JUDGMENT IN FAVOR OF APPELLEE.

FOR APPELLANT: RICHARD PAUL WILLIAMS III, COURTNEY MCREYNOLDS WILLIAMS.

FOR APPELLEE: DAVID C. DUNBAR, ERIC REYNOLDS PRICE, JAMES R. SILVERSTEIN.

BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., ROBERTS AND CARLTON, JJ. LEE, C.J., IRVING AND GRIFFIS, P.JJ., BARNES, ISHEE, ROBERTS, MAXWELL AND FAIR, JJ., CONCUR. JAMES, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN THE RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 381

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - PERSONAL INJURY

CARLTON, J.

¶1. This appeal stems from the Tallahatchie County Circuit Court's order striking Anthony Laws's expert witness and then later granting Louisville Ladder Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. Laws appeals, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion in awarding Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 37 sanctions by arbitrarily striking Laws's expert witness, and that the trial court further erred in granting the motion to dismiss based on the exclusion of Laws's expert witness.

¶2. Upon appellate review, we find that the trial court indeed abused its discretion by imposing discovery sanctions upon Laws arbitrarily, since the record reflects Laws and his expert witness complied with the subpoena duces tecum actually served by Louisville Ladder. Upon finding that the trial court abused its discretion and erred in the arbitrary imposition of sanctions by the exclusion of Laws's expert witness, we reverse the trial court's grant

Page 382

of summary judgment and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

FACTS

¶3. On April 7, 2010, Laws filed suit against Louisville Ladder[1] in the Tallahatchie Circuit Court seeking damages pursuant to the Mississippi Products Liability Act, Mississippi Code Annotated section 11-1-63 (Supp. 2013), for personal injuries that he sustained when he fell off of a six-foot stepladder manufactured by Louisville Ladder. Laws alleged that the design of the ladder exhibited defects, and the bottom step of the ladder split, causing both the ladder and Laws to fall.

¶4. On June 12, 2012,[2] the trial court entered an amended scheduling order providing deadlines for completing discovery and filing motions and setting the case for trial. In August 2012, Laws's attorney agreed to produce his liability expert and witness, Dr. Richard Forbes, for a deposition in Jackson, Mississippi. On August 20, 2012, Louisville Ladder mailed and faxed a subpoena duces tecum to Laws's counsel, scheduling the deposition on September 27, 2012. The subpoena duces tecum served to Dr. Forbes summoned Dr. Forbes to:

[P]roduce within fourteen (14) days from the date of receipt of this subpoena duces tecum to David C. Dunbar . . . either by hand-delivery or first class mail certified copies of the following documents or other tangible things held by you:
1. Your entire file on [Laws], including, but not limited to, any notes, expert reports, measurements, photographs, video films, testing, calculations[,] or other documents prepared in connection with this litigation;
2. Any and all letters issued or received in connection with the Laws case;
3. Any and all bills issued in connection with the Laws case;
4. Any and all timesheets or time records maintained in the Laws case;
5. A copy of your Curriculum Vitae and [l]ist of Rule 26 cases; and
6. Any and all documents or materials reviewed in formulating ...

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