CONNIE HAWKINS, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF THE WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF GEORGE LEITH HAWKINS, III, DECEASED
HECK YEA QUARTER HORSES, LLC, WALLACE HECK d/b/a HECK YEA QUARTER HORSES, LLC AND BRUCE HORN
OF JUDGMENT: 01/13/2016
COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT JOHN HUNTER STEVENS, HON. JEFF WEILL,
SR. TRIAL JUDGE
COURT ATTORNEYS: KEITH D. OBERT JOHN HUNTER STEVENS ROBERT P.
THOMPSON PAUL PACIFIC BLAKE
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: JOHN HUNTER STEVENS
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: PAUL PACIFIC BLAKE ROBERT P.
On June 19, 2013, George "Leith" Hawkins (Hawkins),
suffered a stroke while working at Heck Yea Quarter Horses,
LLC (Heck Yea); he died days later. Connie Hawkins (Connie),
George Hawkins's widow, sued Heck Yea and other
defendants for wrongful death. The Circuit Court of the First
Judicial District of Hinds County granted summary judgment
and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed. Hawkins v.
Heck Yea Quarter Horses, LLC, 2016 WL 9402885 (Miss. Ct.
App. Jan. 13, 2016). We granted Connie's petition for a
writ of certiorari to address whether the trial
court and the Mississippi Court of Appeals erred in failing
to take into account affidavits which create genuine issues
of material fact with regard to the care Hawkins received at
Heck Yea. Because we find summary judgment to have been
proper, and the Mississippi Court of Appeals' analysis on
the matter to have been correct, we affirm the judgment of
the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds
County and the ruling by the Court of the Appeals.
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On June 19, 2013, Bruce Horn-the manager of Heck Yea Quarter
Horses-hired Hawkins to wash a wooden fence. After lunch,
Hawkins complained of feeling ill. Horn stated in his
deposition that he offered to call an ambulance, but Hawkins
declined. Horn said he then transported Hawkins to a barn on
the property in the bucket of a tractor's front-end
loader and "[s]at him down in the shade in the rocking
chair on . . . the porch of the barn, and got him a cold
drink." Horn stated that he then asked Hawkins a second
time whether he wanted an ambulance, but that Hawkins again
refused. According to Horn, Hawkins also declined his offer
to drive him home, recounting that Hawkins said "he was
feeling better; he'd be fine."
Horn testified in his deposition that Hawkins left Heck Yea
between 3:00 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. However, in a signed
affidavit, William "Kevin" Thompson (a friend of
Hawkins's) said that "sometime near the end of the
lunch hour" on June 19, 2013, he "was traveling
north on Interstate 55 near the Hinds/Copiah county
line" and recognized Hawkins and his vehicle proceeding
"in the southbound lane at approximately 10 mph."
According to Thompson, "[t]raffic was backed up all
around him and I thought at the time someone was going to get
hurt." Although he did nothing to notify police or
Connie Hawkins, or otherwise attempt to assist his friend,
Thompson's affidavit expressed that he "knew
something was terribly wrong with [Hawkins]."
Connie Hawkins stated in her deposition that she arrived home
some time between 4:30 p.m. and 4:50 p.m. and found
Hawkins's soaking-wet clothes on the kitchen floor. She
then found Hawkins in the bed with the covers pulled over his
head. Hawkins told his wife that he had passed out at Heck
Yea. Connie stated that she asked why nobody had called her,
but "never got an answer to that." Hawkins asked
his wife to rub the back of his neck, which she did. Hawkins
then requested a Tylenol, for which his wife went to his
truck; when she returned, Hawkins had "gotten to the
couch" and was "shaking and trembling and
couldn't say anything." According to Connie, Hawkins
then "fell off the couch, and from then on he never said
another word and he was just shaking; all over his body was
shaking and jerking."
Connie reported her husband's distress to Emergency
Medical Services at 6:44 p.m. Hawkins died in the hospital on
June 28, 2013, from a stroke.
Connie sued Heck Yea, Wallace Heck, Bruce Horn (Heck Yea
Defendants) and five John Does for wrongful death. She
alleged that Hawkins had been left alone "to tend to the
fence, at which time he, due to the extreme heat, passed out
in the field." She continued that Hawkins's
coworkers "loaded his body into the front bucket of a
tractor and drove him back to the barn, where they attempted
to wake him by hosing him down with a garden hose."
According to the complaint, Hawkins regained consciousness
"but was incoherent and unsteady." According to the
complaint, Heck Yea employees told Hawkins "to get in
his vehicle and drive home," which he did.
In her deposition, Connie admitted to receiving the
information about what happened to her husband at Heck Yea
from Danny Martin, who "is a farmer and he cuts and
bales hay for different people." Martin had not
witnessed the events of the June 19, 2013. According to
Connie, "Bruce Horn and his crew" had told Martin
about Hawkins's incident.
Heck Yea moved for summary judgment, arguing that
Connie's allegations were "based entirely on
inadmissible hearsay and were unsupported by any admissible
evidence." Heck Yea argued that Horn's deposition
testimony proved it had not been negligent.
Connie Hawkins responded that Horn's deposition testimony
had been refuted by admissible evidence in the form of an
affidavit from Brad Goodman. Goodman stated in the following
in an affidavit:
I had previously done tree service work for Heck Yea . . . .
I was aware that George Hawkins was doing some work for Bruce
Horn and Heck Yea and became aware that George Hawkins had
been admitted to the hospital on or about June 19, 2013, and
was in serious condition.
Within a day of this occurrence, I called Bruce Horn and told
him that George Hawkins was in the hospital in bad shape and
further asked him what had happened. Bruce Horn responded,
"initially, I thought he was going to die out
there." He further stated, "I guess 'Leith'
got too hot and passed out. We gave him some water and
assistance, but I sure thought he was going to leave here
I have personal knowledge of this conversation and know that
this was Bruce Horn, as he identified himself on the
telephone and I have his number in my telephone and
recognized his voice. On at least two occasions, Bruce Horn
stated that he knew "Leith" was in a serious
medical state and he thought he was going to die. He never
made any mention of contacting or calling for medical
assistance, 911, or even calling George Hawkins'[s] wife,
Connie Hawkins, about what had occurred on June 19, 2013,
while George Leith Hawkins, III, was doing work for Heck Yea
and Bruce Horn.
argued that "[t]his admissible evidence, admission
against interest, from Mr. Goodman creates a factual dispute,
making summary judgment improper." See Miss. R.
Evid. 801(d)(2). In response, Horn denied ever having ...