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Cooper v. Sea West Mechanical, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

May 9, 2017

WAYNE COOPER AND EXLENA HORTON, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CO-ADMINISTRATORS OF THE ESTATE OF MARY HORTON COOPER, DECEASED, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF MARY HORTON COOPER, VICTOR LONGINO, JR., KIZZY HORTON, LAMAR HORTON, AND ANTHONY HORTON APPELLANTS
v.
SEA WEST MECHANICAL, INC. APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 11/09/2015

         LAWRENCE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. PRENTISS GREENE HARRELL

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANTS: EDWARD D. MARKLE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: L. CLARK HICKS JR. R. LANE DOSSETT

          BEFORE LEE, C.J., BARNES AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          LEE, C.J.

         ¶1. In this appeal concerning a wrongful death, we must determine whether the trial court erred in granting Sea West Mechanical Inc.'s motion for summary judgment. Finding no error, we affirm.

         PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On August 7, 2014, Mary Horton Cooper stopped her vehicle on Highway 84 in Lawrence County, Mississippi.[1] She was standing at the rear of her vehicle when she was struck by Zachary Savoie. Cooper died at the scene. Her wrongful-death beneficiaries (collectively "Cooper") filed suit in the Lawrence County Circuit Court against Savoie; Fleisha Sanford, Savoie's mother; and Sea West, Savoie's employer.

         ¶3. Cooper eventually settled with Savoie, and the suit against him was dismissed. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of both Sanford and Sea West. Since Sanford was dismissed as a party to this appeal, the only issue is whether the trial court erred by granting summary judgment for Sea West.

         FACTS

         ¶4. Savoie began working for Sea West in December 2013. One condition of employment was passing a drug test. Zachary Hughes, Sea West's safety representative, administered Savoie's preemployment drug test. In his deposition, Hughes noted that this particular drug test screened for six different drugs, including marijuana, and Savoie's test was negative for all six.

         ¶5. Savoie admitted to drug use, most frequently marijuana and whippets-small canisters containing pressurized nitrous oxide. On August 6, 2014, the night before the accident, Savoie smoked marijuana between 9 p.m. and midnight. Savoie also admitted to smoking marijuana at 5 a.m. the day of the accident. During his deposition, Savoie stated he could not remember the accident-only that he was driving on Highway 84 around 11:30 a.m. during his lunch break. He then woke up, and his truck and Mary's vehicle were both in a ditch. Savoie could not say whether Mary's vehicle was parked in the road or on the side of the road when he struck it. Testing of Savoie's blood revealed the presence of marijuana.

         ¶6. At the time of the accident, Savoie had been living with his mother, Sanford. Savoie stated that he did not use drugs in the house or keep drug paraphernalia there. Savoie further stated that he only smoked marijuana outside the house and only if his mother was absent. Although Sanford had found marijuana in Savoie's room in the past, she was not ...


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