Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

May v. Austin

Supreme Court of Mississippi

April 12, 2018

VICTOR MAY
v.
KENNETH JARNELL AUSTIN, A MINOR, BY AND THROUGH HIS PARENTS AND NATURAL GUARDIANS, REX AUSTIN AND REGINA AUSTIN AND MISSISSIPPI FARM BUREAU CASUALTY INSURANCE COMPANY

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 05/03/2016

          HINDS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JEFF WEILL, SR. TRIAL JUDGE

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: DON H. EVANS KATHERINE MARY BOUSQUET STEVEN JAMES GRIFFIN RICHARD JASON CANTERBURY JOE S. DEATON, III MICHAEL CHAD MOORE QUENTIN A. DANIELS DARYL MATTHEW NEWMAN JOHN ALFRED WAITS CHRISTIE EVANS OGDEN GLEN K. TILL, JR.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DON H. EVANS CHRISTIE EVANS OGDEN

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: STEVEN JAMES GRIFFIN JOE S. DEATON, III RICHARD JASON CANTERBURY

          BEFORE KITCHENS, P.J., BEAM AND CHAMBERLIN, JJ.

          BEAM, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. This appeal stems from the Hinds County Circuit Court's decision to dismiss the plaintiff's claims with prejudice. The circuit court entered its decision after finding that Appellant Victor May willfully concealed his past injuries and accidents, significantly prejudicing the defendants' ability to proceed with their case. After reviewing the circuit court's decision for an abuse of discretion, we find that the circuit court did not err in finding that the plaintiff committed numerous discovery violations which resulted in inordinate delay and increased costs to the defendants. As a result, we affirm the decision of the circuit court.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On April 19, 2011, the vehicles driven by Victor May and Kenneth Austin collided at the intersection of Northside Drive and Hanging Moss Road in Jackson, Mississippi. Claiming that the wreck produced injuries to his neck, lower back, and right shoulder, May filed suit in Hinds County Circuit Court, seeking damages for Austin's alleged negligence in causing the accident.

         ¶3. Shortly after May filed his complaint, the parties engaged in discovery. A year and a half later, the defendants filed a motion requesting that the court dismiss the matter with prejudice, due to May's inconsistent and deliberately false testimony throughout the discovery process. The defendants cited the plaintiff's interrogatory and production responses and compared them to the testimony provided at a later deposition. In these responses, May consistently denied having had any injuries or medical treatment to his neck, lower back, and right shoulder prior to the April 2011 collision. The defense also referenced medical records independently obtained via subpoena from the Kosciusko Medical Clinic, which indicated that the plaintiff not only previously suffered from significant, unrelated injuries to his neck and back, but that he was treated just four months prior to the accident for issues related to his right shoulder.

         ¶4. The circuit court denied the defendants' motion. Noting first that the court held the matter under advisement until this Court ruled on the issues in Kenzie v. Belk Department Stores, 164 So.3d 974 (Miss 2015), the trial court reasoned that, much like the decision in Kenzie, dismissal as a sanction for the discovery violations would not be warranted. Although the court found that "the [p]laintiff's false and/or misleading discovery answers denying any prior injury to his neck or shoulder did constitute a violation of the discovery rules, " it reasoned that such a violation was not indicative of a motive to engage in a pattern of deception. Rather, the court determined that the plaintiff's willingness to sign a medical release authorization, enabling the defendants to obtain the medical records which conflicted with the plaintiff's testimony, showed that any alleged deception was not intentional. As a result, the court allowed the defendants to move for lesser sanctions but decided that dismissal was not appropriate.

         ¶5. Within a week, the defendants filed a motion for reconsideration of the court's order denying their motion to dismiss. Therein, the defense claimed the court errantly based its decision on a misrepresentation by the plaintiff. Citing the court's order, the defendants suggested that the court's decision was largely based on the plaintiff's execution of a medical authorization, which the court determined was at least "slightly indicative of a lack of motive to engage in a pattern of deception." However, the defendants contended that such an authorization was never signed.

         ¶6. Pointing to Austin's interrogatories, the defendants explained that when the plaintiff was asked to sign a release for his medical records, he blatantly objected to signing any sort of authorization and persistently denied any prior injuries or related medical conditions. The defendants alleged that at no time after this refusal did the plaintiff provide a medical authorization, and that such refusal created hardship and an inability to prepare an adequate defense. Consequently, Austin was forced to subpoena May's medical providers for the information. The defendants claimed that it was only after they obtained May's prior medical records that they learned of his earlier problems and injuries involving his neck, shoulder, and back.

         ¶7. On May 6, 2016, the trial court issued its order granting the defendant's motion for reconsideration. Before describing the time line as it related to the defendant's independent discovery of May's injuries, the trial court explained its understanding of the proposed violations.

During discovery, the Plaintiff unequivocally denied having ever sustained injuries or having previously sought medical treatment regarding any of those body parts he claimed to be injured solely due to the subject car accident- specifically his neck, lower back and right shoulder. The Defendants subpoenaed Plaintiff May's prior medical records and discovered that May had been untruthful about his medical history. Plaintiff May's lack of candor was clear both under oath in his deposition and in sworn written discovery responses. In addition, after Plaintiff May was caught, his litigation subterfuge continued. In a feeble attempt to excuse his earlier lack of candor in the deposition, Plaintiff May provided a sworn affidavit contradicting portions of his earlier sworn testimony without any explanation as to the inconsistencies, making it impossible for any party, or for this Court, to ascertain which sworn version to believe as true.

         The trial court then identified the two issues central to the motion for reconsideration: May's denial of any car accidents, neck injuries, or neck-related treatment prior to the collision with Austin, and the recently discovered medical records related to severe shoulder-pain treatment May had obtained just four months prior to the subject accident. After identifying these concerns, the court used a "totality of the circumstances" approach to granting dismissal. Noting first that the plaintiff took an inordinate amount of time to respond to the defendant's original motion to dismiss, the court acknowledged that the plaintiff's eventual response included an affidavit from Victor May. Therein, May swore that he "voluntarily signed a medical authorization giving [d]efense counsel access to [his] prior records. [He] was not intending to hide or mislead anyone as to [his] prior medical condition." Basing ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.