HERMAN GRANT CO., INC.
JO ANN WASHINGTON, ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF CARL W. WASHINGTON, JO ANN WASHINGTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND DERRICK FRONTRELL JONES AND JAMES R. "RUSTY" BRADFORD
OF JUDGMENT: 03/08/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. EDDIE H. BOWEN JUDGE:
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: RYAN JEFFREY MITCHELL RICHARD O.
BURSON KATHERINE BISNETTE SUMRALL
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: JAMES W. NOBLES, JR. WILLIAM R.
RUFFIN JOSEPH TALLY SIMS JOHN WINCIE LEE, JR.
Herman Grant Company ("Herman Grant") filed this
interlocutory appeal, asking the Court to determine if the
Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Jasper County
abused its discretion by denying its motion to transfer venue
to the Second Judicial District of Jones County. Because the
trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion to
transfer venue, we reverse the trial court and remand the
case for further proceedings. Venue is proper in the Second
Judicial District of Jones County, where a substantial event
that caused the injury occurred.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On May 29, 2013, at Dunn Road Builders, LLC, in Laurel,
Mississippi, a Load Cell Pod assembly, which was part of a
Weigh Pod Fly Ash Hopper and Load Cell Suspension System sold
and shipped to Dunn Road Builders, LLC, by Herman Grant and
Coti, Inc. ("Coti"), collapsed, striking Carl
Washington and James Rusty Bradford. Both men sustained
spinal fractures and other injuries. Washington died on June
13, 2013, as a result of his injuries. Bradford and the
Estate of Washington (Washington) filed suit against Herman
Grant, a Tennessee Corporation, and Coti, an Alabama
Corporation, alleging that the Weigh Pod System product
package was defective when it left the premises of Herman
Grant and caused the injuries and death of Washington and the
injuries and damages to Bradford.
Bradford and Washington alleged that venue was proper in the
First Judicial District of Jasper County pursuant to
Mississippi Code Section 11-11-3(1)(b) because
"[n]either Herman Grant Company nor Coti, Inc., has
qualified to do business within the State of Mississippi,
neither has a principal place of business in this state and
neither has appointed an agent for process within this State.
Plaintiff Derrick Frontell Jones is a resident citizen of the
First Judicial District of Jasper County, Mississippi."
Herman Grant filed a Motion to Transfer Venue, alleging that
venue was not proper in the First Judicial District of Jasper
County. Herman Grant argued that Bradford and Washington
failed to follow the mandatory directive of Section
11-11-3(1)(a) and instead relied on the permissive language
of Section 11-11-3(1)(b) placing venue in the First Judicial
District of Jasper County. Herman Grant maintained that venue
was proper in Jones County because it was the county where
the "substantial alleged act or omission occurred or
where a substantial event that caused the injury
occurred." Herman Grant thus requested that the trial
court transfer venue to the Second Judicial District of Jones
County, where the accident occurred.
In response, Bradford and Washington argued that venue was
proper in the First Judicial District of Jasper County
because the substantial alleged act or omissions, namely the
product defects, occurred in Tennessee and Alabama, not in
Mississippi. Bradford and Washington alleged that only the
result of those substantial acts, or the manufacturing
defects, occurred in Jones County. Additionally, Bradford and
Washington argued that the acts of Herman Grant and Coti, not
the acts of Bradford and Washington, established venue.
Herman Grant argued that the actions which occurred in Jones
County were the precise actions the venue statute
contemplated when describing properly laid venue. Herman
Grant contended that it shipped the weigh pod system to Dunn
Road Builders, LLC, in parts. The parts were then
"accepted, assembled, erected, and perhaps, most
importantly, altered such that the injuries that precipitated
this lawsuit occurred." Bradford testified about the
extensive installation work which had to be completed in
order to assemble the weigh pod system. Bradford also
testified that he altered the lengths of the rods from the
dimensions on the drawings provided by Herman Grant. Herman
Grant argued that the "installation of the weigh pod
system, alteration of the system from the design
specifications provided by HGC, the alleged failure of the
purchased products, and the occurrence of the injury"
all occurred in Jones County. Additionally, the accident
occurred and the injuries and damages were inflicted in Jones
At the hearing on the motion to transfer venue, Herman Grant
stated that its argument was very simple. Section 11-11-3(b)
could only be invoked if venue was not available under
Section 11-11-3(a). Because Section 11-11-3(a) provided that
venue was proper in the county where a substantial alleged
act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that
caused the injury occurred, venue was proper in Jones County.
Herman Grant argued that the Complaint specifically alleged
that Bradford and Washington were injured when the weigh pod
system broke loose and fell on them at Dunn Road
Builder's plant in Laurel, Mississippi.
Bradford and Washington argued that the venue statute
contemplated the actions of the defendant, not the actions of
the plaintiffs - in other words, where the damage occurred to
the products as a result of the negligence of the defendants.
Because this was a defective product case, they ...