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Jelinski v. O'Malley-Beagle

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division

October 4, 2017




         BEFORE THE COURT is the Motion [99] for Summary Judgment Based on State Law Immunity filed by Defendant Jackson County, Mississippi. After due consideration of the Motion [99], the record, and relevant legal authority, the Court finds that Jackson County's Motion [99] for Summary Judgment should be granted, and Plaintiffs' claim against Jackson County should be dismissed with prejudice.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Relevant Factual Background

         At some time on or prior to March 21, 2013, Defendant Eaton Properties, LLC (“Eaton”), contracted with Defendant homeowners Christina O'Malley-Beagle (“Ms. O'Malley-Beagle”) and Mark D. Beagle (“Mr. Beagle”) (collectively, the “Beagles”) to construct a home at 7401 Belle Fontaine Road, Ocean Springs, Mississippi (the “Property”). See, e.g., Dep. of Christopher Eaton [99-3] at 7. Eaton applied for a building permit for a single-family residence, see Application [99-2] at 12-14, and on March 28, 2013, the Jackson County Planning Department issued a residential building permit for a new residence on the Property, see Permit [99-2] at 10-11. Defendant Luiz Rodriguez (“Mr. Rodriguez”) was a subcontractor who constructed outdoor stairs at the Property. Dep. of Luiz Rodriguez [99-4] at 2.

         On August 16, 2013, Jackson County Inspector Brian Autenrieth (“Mr. Autenrieth”) conducted final electrical and mechanical inspections on the Property, both of which it passed. See Inspection History [99-2] at 25-26. The Jackson County Department of Code Enforcement Building Inspection issued a Certificate of Occupancy for the Property the same date.

         According to Marcus Catchot (“Mr. Catchot”), Jackson County's Rule 30(b)(6) designee in this case, when a Certificate of Occupancy is issued by Jackson County, “that means you've met all the standards with everything that Jackson County has adopted at that time.” Dep. of Jackson Cty.'s Rule 30(b)(6) Designee [99-10] at 61. The parties do not dispute that the applicable building code at the time was the 2012 International Residential Code (“IRC”). See Order [99-1] at 1; see also Jackson Cty.'s Mem. [100] at 2; Pl.'s Mem. [111] at 2.

         At some point, the Beagles began offering the Property as a short-term rental property. Plaintiff Jacquelyn L. Jelinski (“Plaintiff” or “Ms. Jelinski”) and her family rented the Property for a vacation beginning on July 8, 2016. Dep. of Christina O'Malley-Beagle [110-12] at 12-15; Pl.'s Dep. [110-10] at 15. Plaintiff alleges that on July 10, 2016, as she was walking down the exterior stairs, her foot slipped off the stairs, causing her to fall backwards onto her left foot. Pl.'s Dep. [110-10] at 16-19. Plaintiff suffered a dislocated and fractured ankle and sought emergency medical treatment. Id. at 27-29. After Plaintiff returned home to Texas, a surgeon installed a plate and 11 screws in her ankle. Id. at 31-33.

         B. Procedural History

         On October 12, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint [1] in this Court against Defendants Our Lost Horizon, LLC; Ms. O'Malley-Beagle; Mr. Beagle; and Christopher Eaton d/b/a Eaton Properties, LLC. Compl. [1] at 4-6. Plaintiff has amended her Complaint several times, with the operative pleading now being the Fourth Amended Complaint [25], which was filed on January 12, 2017. The Fourth Amended Complaint [25] advances claims against Ms. O'Malley-Beagle; Mr. Beagle; Eaton; Mr. Rodriguez; LARS Home Consulting, LLC; and Jackson County, Mississippi (“Jackson County”). 4th Am. Compl. [25] at 1.

         The Fourth Amended Complaint [25] is the first pleading to name Jackson County as a Defendant. See 3d Am. Compl. [6] at 1-11; 2d Am. Compl. [5] 1-11; 1st Am. Compl. [4] at 1-11; Compl. [1] at 1-11. According to Plaintiff, she has provided Jackson County notice of her claim in accordance with the requirements of the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, Mississippi Code §§ 11-46-1, et seq. (“MTCA”). Id. at 11.

         The Fourth Amended Complaint [25] advances a negligence claim against Jackson County for purportedly negligently inspecting and approving the stairs as being code compliant when they were not, for negligently failing to follow its own ordinance and/or code in inspecting and approving the stairs, and for negligently failing to properly train and supervise its employees, including its building inspectors. 4th Am. Compl. [25] at 10-12. Plaintiff maintains that at the time of inspection and issuance of the Certificate of Occupancy, the stairs did not comply with the 2012 IRC with respect to tread depth and nosing size. See Id. at 4; Pl.'s Mem. [111] at 2.

         Jackson County has filed a Motion for Summary Judgment [99] seeking dismissal of Plaintiff's claim against it. Jackson County contends that it is entitled to immunity under the MTCA, specifically under Mississippi Code §§ 11-46-9(1)(d) and 11-46-9(1)(h). Mot. [99] at 2. Jackson County also argues that Plaintiff's claim is time-barred by the one-year statute of limitations set forth in the MTCA. Id. (citing Miss. Code Ann. ยง 11-46-11(3)(a)). Plaintiff responds that Jackson County is not entitled to immunity under sections ...

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