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Rush Foundation Hospital v. Carlisle

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

March 6, 2018

RUSH FOUNDATION HOSPITAL, MEDICAL FOUNDATION, INC., AND RUSH MEDICAL GROUP APPELLANTS
v.
STEPHANIE CARLISLE, AS THE ADMINISTRATOR OF THE ESTATE OF CHRISTOPHER HAYDEN POWELL APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/20/2016

         COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: LAUDERDALE COUNTY CHANCERY COURT HON. LAWRENCE PRIMEAUXTRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: J. RICHARD BARRY JAMES CORNELIUS GRIFFIN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: JOHN E. HOWELL

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

          GREENLEE, J.

         ¶1. Christopher Hayden Powell died intestate, and was survived by his father, mother, and sister. Stephanie Carlisle served as administrator and filed a final accounting and motion to close Powell's estate ("Estate"). Rush Foundation Hospital, Medical Foundation, Inc., and Rush Medical Group (collectively "Rush") opposed the motion. The chancellor held a hearing and later entered a judgment denying Rush's claim as barred by the four-year statute of limitations, Mississippi Code Annotated section 15-1-25 (Rev. 2012). Rush sought interlocutory review, which was denied. The chancellor entered a judgment closing the Estate, from which Rush appeals.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2. Powell died intestate on May 5, 2010. His father, mother, and sister survived him. On November 10, 2011, the Lauderdale County Chancery Court issued letters of administration to Powell's mother, Carlisle, to serve as administrator of Powell's estate. Notice to creditors was published on November 15, 22, and 29, 2011, in the Meridian Star newspaper, which is circulated throughout Lauderdale County. On December 27, 2011, three Rush entities probated a claim against the Estate for $10, 413.39. Those entities and the amounts of their respective claims are: Rush Medical Group, $810; Medical Foundation, Inc., $450; and Rush Foundation Hospital, $9, 153.39.

         ¶3. On March 21, 2016, Carlisle filed her "Final Account and Motion to Close Estate." In her filing, Carlisle claimed that Powell died leaving no certain personal property and no real property in Lauderdale County, and that, at his time of death, he had no assets. Carlisle also averred that Rush's claim was barred by the statute of limitations. On May 26, 2016, Rush filed a response opposing Carlisle's motion. In its response, Rush asserted its claim was not barred, and that Carlisle had yet to file an inventory[1] or pleading to ascertain whether the Estate was solvent.[2] Rush additionally noted the court had approved a wrongful-death settlement in the amount of $100, 000. On June 22, 2016, the chancery court heard arguments on Rush's response to Carlisle's "Final Account and Motion to Close Estate." On June 23, 2016, the chancellor issued an opinion and judgment denying Rush's claim, finding it time-barred under section 15-1-25. The chancellor's judgment did not address the dispute over whether the Estate was solvent, nor did it address Carlisle's statutory requirement as an administrator to file an inventory. Rush sought interlocutory review on July 14, 2016, which the Mississippi Supreme Court denied on October 12, 2016. On October 20, 2016, the chancellor entered a "Judgment Closing Estate and Discharging Administratrix."

         ¶4. Rush filed a notice of appeal from the chancellor's October 20 judgment on November 17, 2016.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Whether Rush timely appealed.

         ¶5. Carlisle argues this Court lacks jurisdiction because Rush filed its notice of appeal more than thirty days after the June 23, 2016 judgment denying its claim. Rush argues the June 23 judgment was not final because it did not adjudicate all the claims, rights, and liabilities of all the parties; and the order was not certified as a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) final judgment. Rush states the October 20, 2016 judgment closing the Estate adjudicated all claims, rights, and liabilities, and it timely filed its notice of appeal within thirty days from this date.

         ¶6. "Generally, parties may only appeal from a final judgment." Harris v. Waters, 40 So.3d 657, 658 (¶3) (Miss. Ct. App. 2010). "A final, appealable judgment . . . adjudicates the merits of the controversy [and] settles all issues as to all the parties, and requires no further action by the lower court." Id. Rule 54(b) provides an exception to this rule by allowing the trial court to "direct the entry of a final judgment as to one or more but fewer than all of the claims or parties." But the trial court may do so "only upon an expressed determination that there is no just reason for delay and upon an expressed direction for the entry of the judgment." Id. Absent a 54(b) certification, any ...


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