KATHRYN SCHROEDER CLARK, WITH POWER OF ATTORNEY FOR HELEN SCHROEDER
LISA YOUNGER NEESE, ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF HARRY L. SCHROEDER, DECEASED
OF JUDGMENT: 06/01/2016
LOWNDES COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. JAMES T. KITCHENS, JR.
COURT ATTORNEYS: DUNBAR DOWDY WATT DAN W. WEBB, WAYNE DOWDY,
ROECHELLE RYANN MORGAN, NORMA CARR RUFF
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: DUNBAR DOWDY WATT WAYNE DOWDY
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: NORMA CARR RUFF, DAN W. WEBB
ROECHELLE RYANN MORGAN
WALLER, C.J., MAXWELL AND ISHEE, JJ.
WALLER, CHIEF JUSTICE
Helen Schroeder appeals the Lowndes County Circuit
Court's grant of summary judgment to the Estate of Harry
Schroeder, arguing that the trial court erred in finding that
the Estate was entitled to judgment as a matter of law on the
grounds of release, res judicata, and accord and
satisfaction. We reverse and remand to the trial court for
& PROCEDURAL HISTORY
This is the second time we have considered an appeal by Helen
Schroeder ("Helen"), after the grant of summary
judgment to the Estate of Harry Schroeder
("Harry"). The facts regarding the car accident and
the original cause of action are set out in this Court's
opinion in Clark v. Neese ("Clark I"), 131
So.3d 556, 558 (Miss. 2013):
A log truck driven by Royce Sullivan collided with the rear
of an automobile being driven by Harry Schroeder, who had
just pulled his car onto a highway in Lowndes County. Harry
died as a result of the accident, and his wife, Helen-who was
a passenger in her husband's car-suffered severe
injuries, permanent disability, and diminished capacity.
Helen-both individually, and as one of Harry's
wrongful-death beneficiaries-sued Sullivan in federal court,
alleging that Sullivan's negligence had caused
Harry's death and her permanent disability. . . .
Sullivan moved for summary judgment at the close of
discovery, arguing that the uncontradicted evidence
established Harry's negligence as the sole cause of the
accident. In denying summary judgment, the federal judge
stated that the evidence created a jury question as to
Sullivan's fault, and that "plaintiffs do not appear
to dispute Harry Schroeder's potential contributory
negligence." The parties settled and agreed to a release
of claims, and the district court dismissed the case.
the settlement agreement, release, and subsequent dismissal
of the action against Sullivan, Helen filed suit against
Harry in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, Mississippi.
Id. Helen alleged that Harry negligently had failed
to yield the right of way and pulled in front of
Sullivan's log truck at an extremely slow rate of speed,
causing the accident which resulted in Helen's permanent
In response, on August 17, 2010, Harry moved for summary
judgment and argued that Helen had pleaded facts in her
complaint that were materially different from the facts she
had alleged in the federal district court. Id. Harry
asserted that the trial court should grant summary judgment
based on the doctrines of judicial and equitable estoppel.
Id. Harry also argued that the settlement and
release of claims against Sullivan in federal court barred
the circuit-court action under the doctrines of contractual
release, accord and satisfaction,  and res judicata.
The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Harry
and found that Helen was judicially estopped from bringing a
claim against Harry. Id. The trial court reasoned
that, although Helen discovered Harry's potential fault
during discovery, she had made the conscious decision not to
add Harry as a defendant to avoid losing diversity
jurisdiction, and as a result, her failure to add Harry in
federal court barred her from bringing suit in the circuit
court. Id. The trial court declined to
rule on the merits regarding Harry's arguments of
equitable estoppel, accord and satisfaction, and merger.
On December 12, 2013, this Court reversed the judgment and
remanded the case. Id. at 562. In regard to whether
Helen's suit was barred by judicial estoppel, this Court
[W]e need not determine whether Helen's positions
actually were knowingly inconsistent because we find it
abundantly clear from the record that, when the federal
district court denied Sullivan's motion for summary
judgment, [it] was not required to accept or rely on
Helen's prior position-an absolute requirement for the
application of judicial estoppel.
In reversing the trial court's grant of summary judgment,
this Court directed the trial court to rule on Harry's
claims of equitable estoppel, accord and satisfaction,
contractual release, and merger. Id.
On remand, Harry again moved for summary judgment, which the
trial court granted on the basis of res judicata, accord and
satisfaction, and contractual release.
Aggrieved, Helen again has appealed, raising the following
I. Whether the Circuit Court of Lowndes County,
Mississippi ("trial court") erred in granting
summary judgment on the basis that the suit was barred by the
doctrine of merger because all four elements of res judicata
II. Whether the trial court erred in finding that the
satisfaction, release, and indemnity agreement ("release
agreement") was "clear, definite, explicit,
harmonious in all its provisions, and free from ambiguity
throughout," and therefore, was a valid release of all
claims stemming from the collision.
III. Whether the trial court improperly determined
that the release agreement, coupled with the $300, 000
payment, and the plaintiff's subsequent acceptance of the
payment, operated as an accord and satisfaction of all the
plaintiff's claims stemming from the cause of
We review the trial court's grant of summary judgment de
novo. City of Jackson v.Shavers, 97 So.3d
686, 688 (Miss. 2012) (citing Arcadia Farms P'ship ...