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Barnes v. Jefferson Davis Cnty. Sch. Dist.

Supreme Court of Mississippi

April 16, 2015

GREG BARNES, SR., ON BEHALF OF GREG BARNES, JR., A MINOR
v.
JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND MINNIE RACHEL GRIFFITH

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: JEFFERSON DAVIS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/14/2013. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ANTHONY ALAN MOZINGO. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: CHUCK R. McRAE, CHRISTOPHER GREEN, RAMEL L. COTTON.

AFFIRMED AND REMANDED.

FOR APPELLANT: DAVID NEIL McCARTY, CHUCK McRAE, RAMEL LEMAR COTTON.

FOR APPELLEES: RICHARD D. NORTON.

BEFORE RANDOLPH, P.J., LAMAR AND KITCHENS, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., KITCHENS, CHANDLER, PIERCE, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 1150

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - OTHER

LAMAR, JUSTICE.

¶1. A defendant's trial testimony referred to a document tat should have been produced in discovery but was not. In view of this revelation, the plaintiff filed two post-trial motions: one asking for new trial, judgment as a matter of law, or to reconsider; and one asking for sanctions for the discovery violation. The trial judge granted the motion for a new trial and recused from it, but he declined to rule on the sanctions issue, leaving that open for the next judge to determine. The defendants subsequently admitted liability, leaving damages the sole issue for the new trial. Now the plaintiff appeals, claiming the trial judge ruled on the case after he had recused from it. The plaintiff also argues that the trial court abused its discretion by not granting judgment as a matter of law as a sanction for alleged discovery violations. Finding no merit in either argument, we affirm the order of the trial court and remand for further proceedings.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

¶2. On October 13, 2010, Greg Barnes Jr. (" Junior" ) was riding a Jefferson Davis County School District (" Jeff Davis" ) bus home from school. At one point the driver, defendant Minnie Rachel Griffin, stopped the bus on a bridge, got out of the bus with Junior, and held him over the edge of the bridge. After a brief exchange Griffin claims was just a joke, Griffin put the child back on the ground, the two boarded the bus, and the route finished without further incident. Jeff Davis superintendent Ike Haynes heard about the incident later that evening. The next morning Haynes met with Griffin to address the incident, and at that meeting, Griffin either quit or was fired.

¶3. On October 24, 2011, Greg Barnes Sr. sued Griffin and Jeff Davis on Junior's behalf, alleging that the incident had caused Junior to " suffer[] from various forms of mental anguish, including, but not limited to, nightmares, extreme fear and

Page 1151

mental depression." Barnes Sr. also alleged that Junior had incurred medical expenses, and he demanded $5,000,000.

¶4. Several different employee handbooks were mentioned during discovery, but neither defendant mentioned a handbook specifically for bus drivers until Griffin mentioned it in her trial testimony. When she was asked about the handbook she previously had identified in her deposition testimony, the following exchange took place:

Q. Is this the handbook you're referring to? [indicating the handbook shown to ...

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