OF JUDGMENT: 02/06/2015
COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. CARTER O. BISE JUDGE
COURT ATTORNEYS: DAVID W. STEWART JAMES K. WETZEL GARNER J.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: GARNER J. WETZEL JAMES K. WETZEL
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: DAVID W. STEWART BRIAN C. WHITMAN
WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE
Cynthia Kuljis appeals the chancery court's dismissal of
her Bill of Discovery for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction. The Bill sought discovery related to a
prospective premises-liability and personal-injury claim.
Finding the actions of the chancery court were correct as a
matter of law, we affirm the Court of Appeals' judgment
and the chancery court's dismissal of this case.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Cynthia Kuljis alleges she suffered injuries when she tripped
on a piece of rubber holding down a carpet in the Winn-Dixie
grocery store in D'Iberville, Mississippi. As a result,
she filed a Complaint for Discovery in the Harrison County
Chancery Court, requesting that the chancellor order
Winn-Dixie to "produce incident reports, photographs,
video surveillance, investigation reports, work orders,
witness statements of the incident in question and all other
information that may be in their possession." Winn-Dixie
moved to dismiss, arguing Kuljis must first file a complaint
for negligence in the circuit court and obtain discovery
through the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.
The chancellor dismissed Kuljis's complaint, finding she
could not pursue a complaint for discovery in chancery court
when the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure provided her an
adequate opportunity for discovery in circuit court. Kuljis
appealed, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed.
Kuljis v. Winn-Dixie Montgomery, LLC, 2016 WL
1203823, *1 (Miss. Ct. App. Mar. 29, 2016). We granted
The bill of discovery is a viable equitable action and remedy
in chancery court, but not under the facts of this case.
Kuljis seeks discovery in chancery court for a trip and fall
at a Winn-Dixie grocery store. Yet the chancery court lacks
jurisdiction over personal-injury actions. See Miss.
Const. art. 6, § 159 (1890). To distinguish between the
chancery court's and circuit court's subject-matter
jurisdiction, "the substance of the action . . . should
be controlling on the issue, not its form or label."
Briggs & Stratton Corp. v. Smith, 854 So.2d
1045, 1049 (Miss. 2003) (quoting Tillotson v.
Anders, 551 So.2d 212, 214 (Miss. 1989)). In addition,
where doubts exist regarding the legal or equitable nature of
a case, the case should be tried in the circuit court.
Southern Leisure Homes, Inc. v. Hardin, 742 So.2d
1088, 1090 (Miss. 1999).
The bill of discovery is an original action that may be
pursued when there is no other remedy, as set out in
State Oil & Gas Board v. McGowan and Moore
v. Bell Chevrolet-Pontiac-Buick-GMC, LLC.
McGowan involved an administrative proceeding before
the Mississippi Oil and Gas Board where McGowan sought
additional discovery to prepare for a hearing. State Oil
& Gas Bd. v. McGowan, 542 So.2d 244, 245 (Miss.
1989). After the Board denied his request, he filed a Bill of
Discovery in chancery court. Id. The
McGowan Court found that the Bill of Discovery was a
viable action, as administrative proceedings specifically are
excluded from the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure and no
discovery mechanism exists under the Administrative
Procedures Act. Id. at 247. Despite finding that the
Bill of ...