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Jarrett v. Dillard

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

July 2, 2015

LARRY JARRETT AND DIXIE PRODUCTS COMPANY
v.
ROBERT HOUSTON DILLARD, EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF ROY F. DILLARD, DECEASED

Page 1148

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PONTOTOC COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 12/04/2012. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. THOMAS J. GARDNER, III. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: W. BRENT MCBRIDE, J. MAX EDWARDS, JR.

FOR APPELLANTS: J. MAX EDWARDS, JR.

FOR APPELLEE: T. K. MOFFETT, W. BRENT McBRIDE.

WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT. RANDOLPH, P.J., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, PIERCE AND KING, JJ., CONCUR. DICKINSON, P.J., AND COLEMAN, J., CONCUR IN PART AND IN RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

OPINION

Page 1149

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - TORTS-OTHER THAN PERSONAL

WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE:

[¶1] This proceeding involves efforts by an employee, Ray Dillard, to collect workers' compensation benefits from the president and majority shareholder, Larry Jarrett, of a company, Dixie Products Inc., that failed to provide benefits awarded by the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission. Finding the Court of Appeals improperly applied res judicata and the statute of limitations against the employee, we reverse the holding of the Court of Appeals and reinstate and affirm the circuit court judgment in favor of the employee against the president and company, jointly and severally.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶2] This section has been taken from the Court of Appeals opinion.

During June 1997, the [Workers' Compensation] Commission held that Dillard suffered a compensable injury and awarded him approximately $200 per week in temporary total disability benefits until further order. The Commission also ordered Dixie Products to pay for Dillard's medical bills, to the extent that they resulted from his injury. [The Court of Appeals] affirmed the Commission's judgment in Dixie Products Co. v. Dillard, 770 So.2d 965, 967 (Miss. Ct.App. 2000). The mandate issued on November 27, 2000.
Three days after the mandate issued, one of Dillard's attorneys filed a lis pendens notice regarding several parcels of real property that Jarrett owned. Dixie Products did not own any of the property listed in the lis pendens notice. However, Dillard's attorney released the lis pendens notice during February 2001. Dillard's attorney sent Jarrett a letter notifying him of the release. Within that letter, Dillard's attorney told Jarrett that " [w]e have also requested [that] the Commission . . . enter a judgment against you personally since you failed to maintain [w]orker[s'] [c]ompensation insurance."

Page 1150

In June 2001, Dillard's other attorney sent a letter to the administrative judge (AJ). The letter stated that there were a number of unresolved issues remaining in Dillard's workers' compensation claim. According to Dillard's attorney, one of the remaining issues was: Whether [Dillard's] award should be against [Dixie Products] solely or should be against [Jarrett] since [he] failed to maintain worker[s'] compensation insurance and since, upon information and belief, [the assets of Dixie Products are] grossly insufficient to satisfy any claim, [Dixie Products] has been depleted of all assets, and [it] is no longer in operation.
Dillard died on June 10, 2005. At that time, the AJ had not conducted a hearing on the unresolved issues in Dillard's workers' compensation case. Approximately two months after Dillard died, his son, Robert Dillard (Robert), opened the Estate. ...

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