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Hawkins v. Heck Yea Quarter Horses, LLC

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

July 25, 2017

CONNIE HAWKINS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF GEORGE LEITH HAWKINS, III, DECEASED APPELLANT
v.
HECK YEA QUARTER HORSES, LLC, WALLACE HECK D/B/A HECK YEA QUARTER HORSES, LLC AND BRUCE HORN APPELLEES

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/13/2016

         HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT HON. JEFF WEILL SR. Judge

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JOHN HUNTER STEVENS

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: ROBERT P. THOMPSON PAUL PACIFIC BLAKE

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND WESTBROOKS, JJ.

          WESTBROOKS, J.

         ¶1. Connie Hawkins ("Hawkins"), the widow of George Leith Hawkins III ("George"), filed a wrongful-death lawsuit in the Hinds County Circuit Court against Heck Yea Quarter Horses LLC ("Heck Yea"), Wallace Heck, and Bruce Horn individually. Heck Yea moved for summary judgment on the grounds that Hawkins failed to present a genuine issue of material fact, since Heck Yea offered first aid to George, and he refused the assistance. The trial court granted Heck Yea's motion for summary judgment, finding that the good-samaritan statute applied to the matter. Hawkins now appeals. On appeal, Hawkins asserts that she presented a genuine issue of material fact that Heck Yea breached its duty of care to George and that the general principles of negligence should control because George was an invitee on Heck Yea's premises. Finding no error, we affirm.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On June 19, 2013, sixty-one-year-old George Hawkins was hired as a temporary employee of Heck Yea to work on a fence-washing project. On his first day of work and, around lunch time, George began experiencing a heat stroke. According to Horn, George stated that he did not feel well. Horn asked George whether he wanted an ambulance called and he stated, "No. I'll be fine."

         ¶3. George was taken to a barn in a tractor bin, where Horn placed him in the shade, and gave him a cold drink. According to Horn, he asked George a second time if he wanted an ambulance called and he replied, "No. I'm going to be fine. I'm feeling better." According to Horn, he also offered to drive George home, and George declined.

         ¶4. It is disputed whether George was offered a ride home or whether he was simply told to leave the premises and go home. Nevertheless, George left the farm between 1:00 and 3:00 p.m. and was observed driving erratically thereafter. Hawkins arrived home around 4:50 p.m. and found George in distress. Hawkins stated that she attempted to soothe George's distress by rubbing his back, but he still remained ill. Hawkins went to retrieve Tylenol for George, and upon her return she found him unresponsive and trembling. Hawkins called an ambulance around 6:50 p.m., and George was taken to the hospital while unconscious, and subsequently died days later.

         ¶5. Hawkins filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against Heck Yea. Horn and Hawkins were deposed shortly thereafter. During Hawkins's deposition, she testified that she spoke with a former employee of Heck Yea, Danny Martin ("Martin"). Martin was bailing hay at the time George began experiencing a heat stroke. According to Hawkins, Martin told her that George was incoherent and unsteady when he became ill. As a result, he was placed in the tractor bucket and hosed down and driven to the barn. Hawkins also submitted affidavits to support her allegations against Heck Yea. All affidavits, except the medical professional's, were inadmissible, because they were deemed hearsay. The medical professional's affidavit stated that George would have exhibited signs of a stroke while on Heck Yea's property, and if treatment had been administered within four to four and a half hours of the symptoms, he could have recovered.

         ¶6. Heck Yea moved for summary judgment on the ground that Hawkins failed to present a genuine issue of material fact. It argued that Horn's recollection of events established that George was coherent and stable when he was on Heck Yea's premises. Further, Heck Yea cited Hawkins's deposition testimony as the only evidence contradicting Horn's account. Heck Yea posited that Hawkins's deposition testimony was double hearsay and inadmissible, since her deposition testimony was a recitation of statements from another employee. Heck Yea argued that the good-samaritan statute immunized it from liability. The trial court found that the good-samaritan statute was dispositive, and Heck Yea's motion for summary judgment was granted. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STANDARD ...


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