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Strong v. North Miss. Ctr. for Higher Educ. Advancement, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

September 23, 2014

ELIJAH STRONG, APPELLANT
v.
NORTH MISSISSIPPI CENTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATIONAL ADVANCEMENT, INC. AND WARREN E. STAMPS, APPELLEES

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: CLAY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/25/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JAMES T. KITCHENS JR. TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: GRANTED APPELLEES' MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT.

FOR APPELLANT: JIM WAIDE, RON L. WOODRUFF.

FOR APPELLEES: RANDOLPH WALKER.

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

OPINION

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - TORTS-OTHER THAN PERSONAL INJURY & PROPERTY DAMAGE

IRVING, P.J.

[¶1] Elijah Strong filed a complaint in the Clay County Circuit Court against the North Mississippi Center for Higher Educational Advancement (Center) and Warren Stamps, alleging that the Center wrongfully discharged him from his employment duties, and that Stamps maliciously interfered with his employment. The Center and Stamps (Center, unless the context dictates otherwise) filed a motion for summary judgment, which the circuit court granted. Feeling aggrieved, Strong appeals and argues that the circuit court erred in granting the Center's motion.

[¶2] Because Strong has failed to show the existence of a genuine issue of material

Page 568

fact, we affirm the judgment of the circuit granting summary judgment to the Center.

FACTS

[¶3] Strong was employed as a project specialist at the Center. His contract with the Center provided that his employment began on September 1, 2009, and ended on August 31, 2010. Strong claims that on August 12, 2010, he expressed to Stamps, his direct supervisor, Strong's concern that Stamps was misappropriating the Center's federal grant money. On August 27, 2010, Dr. Henry Berry, the Center's CEO, wrote Strong a letter informing him that once his contract expired on August 31, 2010, the Center would not offer him another contract.

[¶4] Strong's complaint alleged that there was no basis for Berry to refuse to renew Strong's contract, and that Stamps had influenced Berry's decision. More specifically, Strong argued that the Center was liable for his wrongful discharge, and that Stamps was liable for malicious interference with his employment. The Center filed an answer, asking the court to dismiss Strong's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, as Strong did not have a property right in the renewal of his contract or a cause of action for the Center's failure to renew his contract. The Center then filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for summary judgment, which the circuit court denied on the ground that the motion was premature until discovery was completed.

[¶5] After discovery was completed, the Center filed another motion for summary judgment, alleging that Strong was unable to show a genuine issue of material fact with respect to the legality of the Center's refusal to renew his contract. The Center explained that because Strong had no property interest in his continued employment with the Center beyond the contracted year, Strong had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. After a hearing, the circuit court granted the Center's motion, finding that there were no genuine ...


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