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Booth v. Southern Hens, Inc.

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

February 13, 2018

WAYNE BOOTH APPELLANT
v.
SOUTHERN HENS, INC. APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 07/07/2016

         HON. DAL WILLIAMSON JONES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: ORVIS A. SHIYOU JR.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: MARK EDWARD NORTON

          BEFORE GRIFFIS, P.J., BARNES AND FAIR, JJ.

          BARNES, J.

         ¶1. Wayne Booth appeals the Circuit Court of Jones County's grant of summary judgment to Southern Hens Inc. Booth was a truck driver employed by Whitestone Trucking, which was an independent-contract hauler for products made by Southern Hens. Booth sued Southern Hens for negligence, gross negligence, and failure to supervise for injuries stemming from a horseplaying incident where an employee of Southern Hens "bear hugged" Booth and threw him into some pallets at work. Finding no error, we affirm the circuit court's judgment.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On October 30, 2012, Booth, working as a truck driver for Whitestone, went to Southern Hens to pick up a trailer. After checking in and hooking up the trailer, Booth went to the shipping office. While waiting on paperwork, Jerome (A.J.) Caldwell, an employee of Southern Hens, grabbed Booth from behind his midsection in a "bear hug." Booth tried to get loose but could not. Booth claimed a supervisor, Rod, said something to the effect of "give it up" and "he got you dog" to Booth. Then Booth contended that Caldwell slung him against some boxes and pushed him through a doorway onto a stack of pallets. When Booth was able to get up and reenter the shipping area, Booth said Rod and other Southern Hens employees were laughing and joking about the incident. Booth was told that Caldwell was "just playing." However, Booth claimed that Caldwell's actions caused serious injuries to his back that required medical treatment. Further, Booth claimed he was unable to return to work due to the injuries. Caldwell was terminated as a result of the incident.

         ¶3. On April 8, 2013, Booth sued Southern Hens, claiming negligence and failure to supervise; Southern Hens failed to exercise reasonable care and control over its employees resulting in Booth's injuries.[1] In May 2016, Southern Hens filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the horseplay incident was not "an authorized act within the scope of [Caldwell's] employment, " Southern Hens specifically prohibited these acts, and it had no reason to believe Caldwell would engage in this conduct. Southern Hens concluded that it could not be held vicariously liable for Caldwell's actions.

         ¶4. The circuit court agreed, focusing on the claim of negligent failure to supervise. The court found that the on-duty supervisor, Rod, had no reason to anticipate that Caldwell would behave in such a sudden, violent manner. Further, the court found no evidence Southern Hens had actual or constructive knowledge that Caldwell had any dangerous or violent tendencies. Accordingly, there was no genuine issue of material fact for any negligence claim, and summary judgment was granted for Southern Hens. Booth appeals.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶5. The standard of review for a trial court's grant or denial of summary judgment is de novo, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Karpinsky v. Am. Nat'l Ins. Co., 109 So.3d 84, 88 (¶9) (Miss. 2013) (citation omitted). Summary judgment is proper "if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Id. at (ΒΆ10) (quoting M.R.C.P. 56(c)). Once made, the party opposing summary judgment "may not rest upon the mere ...


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