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Service Companies, Inc. v. Estate of Vaughn

Supreme Court of Mississippi

July 23, 2015

THE SERVICE COMPANIES, INC. d/b/a FSS
v.
THE ESTATE OF MAUTRICE VAUGHN, INDIVIDUALLY, AND LINDA VAUGHN, ON BEHALF OF ALL WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF MAUTRICE VAUGHN, DECEASED

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: TUNICA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/08/2014. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. JOHNNIE E. WALLS, JR. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: JOSEPH HARLAND WEBSTER, CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL WYATT.

FOR APPELLANT: CHRISTOPHER MICHAEL WYATT.

FOR APPELLEES: JOSEPH HARLAND WEBSTER.

BEFORE WALLER, C.J., LAMAR AND PIERCE, JJ. WALLER, C.J., RANDOLPH, P.J., KITCHENS, CHANDLER, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR. DICKINSON, P.J., CONCURS IN RESULT ONLY WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION. LAMAR, J., CONCURS IN PART AND IN RESULT WITHOUT SEPARATE WRITTEN OPINION.

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NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WRONGFUL DEATH

PIERCE, JUSTICE

[¶1] This interlocutory appeal arose from a law suit by Mautrice Vaughn's estate and wrongful-death beneficiaries against The Service Companies Inc., (" FSS" ), following Vaughn's fatal heart attack at work. Vaughn's estate and wrongful-death beneficiaries (" the plaintiffs" ) brought suit for false imprisonment and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The plaintiffs alleged Vaughn's supervisor would not let her leave work to see a doctor despite complaints of severe chest pain and a headache. Following the denial of its Motion for Summary Judgment, we granted FSS leave to bring this interlocutory appeal to this Court seeking reversal. FSS asserts the circuit court erred by finding a factual dispute existed as to whether FSS had " an actual intent to injure" for purposes of determining whether the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act exclusively governs the plaintiffs' claims.

FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

[¶2] Vaughn was employed by Service Companies, Inc., doing business as FSS, to perform housekeeping services at the Gold Strike Casino Resort, owned by MGM. Gold Strike contracted with FSS to perform a portion of its housekeeping services, and FSS operated independently from Gold Strike's inhouse cleaning and housekeeping staff. At the time of Vaughn's death, her supervisor was Doreen Gholam, FSS's housekeeping manager.[1]

[¶3] The plaintiffs and FSS dispute the events preceding Vaughn's death on May 28, 2010. FSS and Gholam maintain that Vaughn went to Gholam's office around 8:00 a.m. to give Gholam a doctor's note excusing Vaughn's absence from work two days earlier. In Gholam's written statement and depositions she said that Vaughn did not appear to be in discomfort. Gholam said she asked Vaughn whether " everything was O.K." and Vaughn replied

Page 877

that she was " just getting old" and returned to work.

[¶4] The plaintiffs assert that Vaughn called her sister, Michelle, around 11:00 a.m, and that their other sister, Brenda answered. Brenda stated that Vaughn said she had complained about severe chest pains to Gholam around 7:30 a.m., but that Gholam would not let her leave. FSS maintained a point system to track when employees were tardy, left early, or were absent from a shift. According to Brenda, Vaughn said that leaving work early on a fully-booked holiday weekend would cause Vaughn to incur " double points" under the point system. Brenda stated that Vaughn believed she would lose her job if she left. In her deposition, Brenda said Vaughn asked to be picked up from work. Brenda and Michelle left to pick up Vaughn, and, along the way, they stopped to get Vaughn's aunt, Linda. Around 11:35 a.m., after picking Linda up, and still en route to Vaughn, the sisters were called by Vaughn's coworker and were told that, Vaughn was unconscious and was not breathing.

[¶5] FSS maintains that after Vaughn was found unconscious by a maintenance worker, an ambulance was called and Gholam returned to her office to call the doctor listed on Vaughn's doctor's note. Gholam said she spoke with the doctor, who informed her that Vaughn ...


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