SHIRLEY ADAMS, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SURVIVOR AND ONLY HEIR OF DOROTHY TURNER, DECEASED
GRACELAND CARE CENTER OF OXFORD, LLC, GRACELAND MANAGEMENT COMPANY, INC., LAFAYETTE LTC, INC., AND YALOBUSHA GENERAL HOSPITAL AND NURSING HOME
OF JUDGMENT: 04/04/2013
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. JOHN ANDREW GREGORY.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: BOBBY FLOYD MARTIN, JR.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: ANDY LOWRY THOMAS L. KIRKLAND, JR.
JOHN G. WHEELER.
The Lafayette County Circuit Court granted summary judgment
in favor of Graceland Care Center of Oxford, LLC; Graceland
Management Company, Inc.; Lafayette LTC, Inc.; and Yalobusha
General Hospital and Nursing Home (collectively, Graceland)
in a case brought by Shirley Adams for injuries her mother
allegedly sustained while in the defendants' care. As the
basis for granting summary judgment, the circuit court
determined that Adams was judicially estopped from bringing
her suit because Adams had failed to disclose the suit in her
prior bankruptcy proceedings. Adams appealed, and the Court
of Appeals, in a plurality opinion, reversed the circuit
court's decision to grant summary judgment and remanded
the case to the circuit court to proceed with a trial on the
merits. We granted certiorari review and hold that the Court
of Appeals misapprehended the applicable standard of review
and the law of judicial estoppel in the instant case.
Therefore, we reverse the Court of Appeals' judgment, and
we reinstate and affirm the circuit court's judgment.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Dorothy Turner was a resident at Graceland's nursing home
facilities for several years. Her daughter, Adams, became
concerned with Turner's care and treatment at the
facilities, and according to Adams's deposition, she
first contacted an attorney about a possible lawsuit in 2004
or 2005. For whatever reason, Adams did not pursue a suit at
that time. However, Turner died in December 2007, and Adams
filed suit against Graceland in May 2008.
During Adams's deposition in August 2009, counsel for
Graceland discovered that in August 2004, Adams had filed for
Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Adams's bankruptcy was fully
discharged on March 31, 2009; however, in spite of her filing
suit almost a year prior to her discharge, Adams did not
inform the bankruptcy court of her suit nor did she amend her
bankruptcy schedules to include the suit.
Upon learning of her prior bankruptcy and her failure to
include the suit in her schedules prior to discharge,
Graceland moved for summary judgment based on the doctrine of
judicial estoppel. Adams filed a petition to reopen her
bankruptcy proceeding and amend her schedules to list the
suit as exempt personal property. The bankruptcy trustee
objected to the classification of the suit as exempt personal
property, and the bankruptcy court agreed and sustained the
objection. Ultimately, Adams did amend her schedules to
include the suit.
The circuit court initially noted by letter that it would
grant Graceland's motion for summary judgment; however,
following our opinion in Copiah County v. Oliver, 51
So.3d 205, 207 (¶ 12) (Miss. 2011), the circuit court
entered an order staying the proceeding for the bankruptcy
court to determine whether Adams had a duty to disclose her
suit as an asset of her bankruptcy estate. The bankruptcy
court's opinion was that "Adams had a continuing
duty throughout the pendency of her bankruptcy case to
disclose the state law cause of action." In re
Adams, 481 B.R. 854, 859 (Bankr. N.D. Miss. 2012).
Additionally, the bankruptcy trustee submitted a letter, at
the bankruptcy court's request, indicating that it would
not administer payment of any of the settlement/judgment
proceeds to the unsecured creditors that remained at
Ultimately, the circuit court granted Graceland's renewed
motion for summary judgment based on the doctrine of judicial
estoppel. Adams appealed, and the Court of Appeals rendered
its decision in October 2015. In the plurality opinion
reversing the grant of summary judgment and remanding the
case to the circuit court for trial, the Court of Appeals
concluded that the circuit court had erred in applying
judicial estoppel because Adams did not "knowingly"
take inconsistent positions in the circuit court and
bankruptcy court, nor did she, viewing the evidence "in
the light most favorably to Adams, . . . intend to conceal
her claim from the bankruptcy court in order to reap a
windfall by preventing her creditors from recovering any
proceeds from a potential judgment." Adams v.
Graceland Care Ctr. of Oxford, LLC, et al., 2015 WL
6685213, *6 (¶¶ 21-22) (Miss. Ct. App. Nov. 3,
2015). Following the Court of Appeals' denial of
Graceland's motion for rehearing, Graceland filed its
petition for certiorari review, which we granted.
In its petition for certiorari review, Graceland raises three
issues. First, Graceland asserts that the Court of
Appeals' opinion "usurped the trial court's
discretion by imposing the wrong standard of review."
Next, Graceland claims that the Court of Appeals' opinion
"misapplies the law of judicial
Standard of Review
According to Graceland, the Court of Appeals' opinion
erred by utilizing a de novo review of the circuit
court's application of judicial estoppel instead of an
abuse of discretion standard of review. We agree that the
Court of Appeals conflated the standards of review in the
present case, because it appears that the Court of Appeals
attempted to apply a de novo review to both the application
of judicial estoppel and the grant of summary
It is well-settled that appellate review of the trial
court's grant or denial of a motion for summary judgment
requires the application of de novo review. Copiah Cty.
v. Oliver, 51 So.3d 205, 207 (¶ 7) (Miss. 2011)
(citing Monsanto v. Hall, 912 So.2d 134, 136 (Miss.
2005)). Similarly settled is the standard of review applied
to a trial court's application of judicial estoppel,
which is the abuse of discretion standard. Kirk v.
Pope, 973 So.2d 981, 986 (¶ 11) (Miss. 2007)
(citing Superior Crewboats, Inc. v. Primary P & I
Underwriters, 374 F.3d 330, 334 (5th Cir. 2004)).
The Court of Appeals' decision implied that, under
Oliver, a new standard of review - de novo - is
applied to cases involving a trial court's grant of
summary judgment based on judicial estoppel. However, that
simply is not the case, and our opinion in Oliver
does no such thing. As the dissent in the Court of
Appeals' opinion pointed out, our opinion in
Oliver "did not review the merits of the trial
court's application of the doctrine of judicial
estoppel." Adams, 2015 WL 6685213, at *7
(¶ 26) (Wilson, J., dissenting). We merely stated that
the standard of review for summary judgment is de novo and
that the trial court's denial of summary judgment under
the de novo standard was appropriate because the bankruptcy
court needed an "opportunity to consider whether Oliver
had a duty to disclose her post-petition, post-confirmation
claim" before the trial court could determine whether
judicial estoppel even applied. Oliver, 51 So.3d at
207 (¶¶ 7, 11-12).
Gibson v. Williams, Williams & Montgomery, P.A.,
183 So.3d 836 (Miss. 2016), upon which the dissent by Justice
Kitchens largely relies, does nothing to contradict our
holding. The Gibson Court did not separately address
the standard of review for the application of judicial
estoppel; in other words, although it clearly acknowledged
the de novo standard of review applicable to summary
judgment, the Gibson Court does not tell us whether
it applied a de novo or abuse of discretion standard to the
issue of judicial estoppel. Id. at 846-847
(¶¶ 24-30). Accordingly, we respectfully disagree
with Justice Kitchens's assumption that the
Gibson Court applied a de novo standard of review
when it discussed judicial estoppel. (Kitchens Dis. at ¶
32). Although the Gibson Court does not tell its
readers why it omitted any discussion of the standard of
review, it may well be because it was not reviewing anything
but, rather, considering an alternative argument advanced on
appeal. According to the Gibson opinion, the trial
judge did not base the decision there under review on
judicial estoppel and appears to have made no determination,
one way or the other, regarding its application. Id.
at 842 (¶ 12). Rather, the trial judge there granted
summary judgment based on the application of collateral
Therefore, the appropriate analysis requires an appellate
court to use the abuse of discretion standard to review the
trial court's determination that judicial estoppel is or
is not applicable. Then, an appellate court would use the de
novo standard to determine whether summary judgment was or
was not appropriate. We hold that the Court of Appeals erred
when it applied an incorrect standard of review in its review
of the present case. Because the Court of Appeals applied an
incorrect standard of review, we now address whether the