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Brooks v. The Landmark Nursing Center, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 14, 2017

GERTRUDE BROOKS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE AND WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF LEROY BROOKS APPELLANT
v.
THE LANDMARK NURSING CENTER, INC. D/B/A THE LANDMARK NURSING AND REHABILITATION CENTER APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/07/2016

         PRENTISS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. THOMAS J. GARDNER III TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: DANIEL M. CZAMANSKE JR.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: THOMAS L. KIRKLAND JR. ANDY LOWRY.

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., FAIR AND WILSON, JJ.

          WILSON, J.

         ¶1. Gertrude Brooks failed to respond to requests for admissions served by the defendant, The Landmark Nursing Center Inc. (Landmark), within the time allowed by Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a). Thus, pursuant to Rule 36(a), Landmark's requests were deemed admitted. Even after Landmark filed a motion for summary judgment based on her deemed admissions, Brooks waited another four months to file a motion to withdraw the admissions pursuant to Rule 36(b), and Brooks never actually responded to the requests. The Prentiss County Circuit Court declined to excuse Brooks's "blatant carelessness and neglect, " denied her motion to withdraw her admissions, and granted summary judgment for Landmark. The circuit court did not abuse its discretion by denying Brooks's motion to withdraw her admissions, and Landmark was entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on those admissions. Therefore, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On March 6, 2014, Brooks filed a wrongful death suit against Landmark in circuit court. Brooks alleged that her late husband, Leroy, had been a resident of Landmark's facility in Booneville from November 3, 2011, until January 4, 2012, and that he died as a result of negligent care and understaffing at the facility. Leroy was admitted to the hospital on January 4, 2012, and passed away three days later.

         ¶3. Landmark answered the complaint and on June 5, 2014, served discovery requests on Brooks, including requests for admissions, interrogatories, and document requests. Brooks failed to answer or otherwise respond to the requests by July 8, 2014. Accordingly, Landmark's requests were "admitted" by operation of law. M.R.C.P. 36(a).

         ¶4. On August 6, 2014, counsel for Brooks left a voicemail for Landmark's counsel asking whether Landmark had served discovery requests. The next day, Landmark's counsel emailed counsel for Brooks another copy of Landmark's discovery requests and a letter stating that Landmark intended to file a motion for summary judgment.

         ¶5. On August 15, 2014, Landmark filed a motion for summary judgment based on the deemed admissions. Landmark argued that, by failing to respond to its requests for admissions, Brooks had admitted that "the health care services provided to Leroy . . . were appropriate in all respects, " that Landmark "was not negligent in any fashion, " and that Leroy "was not harmed by any of the alleged misconduct in the complaint."[1]

         ¶6. On September 12, 2014, Brooks served Landmark with discovery requests-although she still had not provided responses to any of Landmark's discovery requests, filed a motion to withdraw her admissions pursuant to Rule 36(b), or responded to Landmark's summary judgment motion.

         ¶7. On November 4, 2014, the circuit judge signed an order directing Brooks to file a response to Landmark's summary judgment motion within ten days of receipt of the court's order. The order provided that if Brooks failed to file a response, the court would enter an order based "solely upon the pleadings previously filed in this matter." On November 14, 2014, Brooks filed a motion asking for an additional thirty days to respond to the summary judgment motion. In the motion, Brooks's counsel represented that she had been unable to respond to ...


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