United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Southern Division
SUE POLK, INDIVIDUALLY, AND AS ADMINISTRATRIX OF THE ESTATE OF JERRY R. POLK, THE HEIRS OF THE ESTATE OF JERRY R. POLK, AND ON BEHALF OF ALL WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARIES OF JERRY R. POLK PLAINTIFFS
MAURICO PERAZA, MNE FREIGHT, LLC, AND JOHN DOES 1-5 DEFENDANTS
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANTS' MOTION  FOR
PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT ON PUNITIVE DAMAGES
SULEYMAN OZERDEN, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
THE COURT is Defendants' Motion  for Partial Summary
Judgment on Punitive Damages. For the reasons that follow,
the Court finds that the Motion should be granted.
about January 24, 2018, Sue Polk, individually, and as
Administratrix of the Estate of Jerry R. Polk, and on behalf
of all wrongful death beneficiaries of Jerry R. Polk
(collectively “Plaintiff” or “Polk”),
filed suit in the Circuit Court of Pearl River County against
Maurico1 Peraza, MNE Freight, LLC, and John Does 1-5
(collectively “Defendants” or
“Peraza”). State Ct. R. [1-1] at 1-4. Polk
asserted claims for wrongful death and survival against
Defendants arising out of a fatal motor vehicle crash that
occurred on January 3, 2018. Id. at 4-6. Polk sought
actual damages as well as attorneys' fees, interest, and
punitive damages. Id. at 11-12.
February 21, 2018, Defendants timely removed the case to this
Court, invoking diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §
1332 and §1441. See Notice of Removal . On
September 27, 2018, Defendants filed a Motion  for
Partial Summary Judgment on Punitive Damages. Defs.' Mot.
for Partial Summ. J. ; Defs.' Mem. Br. in Support
. Defendants argue that because Plaintiffs have no
evidence that Peraza caused the accident as a result of any
actual malice, willfulness, or wanton or reckless disregard,
punitive damages are not appropriate under Mississippi law.
Id. Plaintiffs have conceded in their Response 
that their allegations against Defendants do not support a
claim for punitive damages and that summary judgment is
proper on this particular claim. Pls.' Resp.  at 5.
Summary judgment standard
Rule of Civil Procedure 56(a) provides that summary judgment
is appropriate “if the movant shows that there is no
genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is
entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a). “Where the burden of production at trial
ultimately rests on the nonmovant, the movant must merely
demonstrate an absence of evidentiary support in the record
for the nonmovant's case.” Lyles v. Medtronic
Sofamor Danek, USA, Inc., 871 F.3d 305, 310-11
(5th Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138 S.Ct. 1037 (2018)
(quotation omitted). Once the movant carries its initial
burden, the nonmovant must then “come forward with
specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for
trial.” Id. (quotation omitted).
resolving a motion for summary judgment, a court views the
evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant and
draws all reasonable inferences in its favor. Vann v.
City of Southaven, Mississippi, 884 F.3d 307, 309 (5th
Cir. 2018). A genuine dispute of material fact exists
precluding entry of summary judgment if the evidence is such
that a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the
nonmovant. Bennett v. Hartford Ins. Co. of Midwest,
890 F.3d 597, 604 (5th Cir. 2018).
Punitive damages under Mississippi law
law limits the award of punitive damages to specific
circumstances. See Miss. Code Ann. §
11-1-65(1)(a); Doe ex rel. Doe v. Salvation
Army, 835 So.2d 76, 79 (Miss. 2003) (“There is
no right to punitive damages.”). Miss. Code Ann. §
11-1-65(1)(a) provides the criteria for an award of punitive
Punitive damages may not be awarded if the claimant does not
prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant
against whom punitive damages are sought acted with actual
malice, gross negligence which evidences a willful, wanton or
reckless disregard for the safety of others, or committed
Id. The Court may only submit the issue of punitive
damages to a trier of fact when it finds, based upon the
totality of the circumstances, that the trier of fact could
find by clear and convincing evidence that a defendant's
conduct reflects either malice or gross neglect/reckless
disregard. Doe, 835 So.3d at 81.
argue that the record is devoid of any evidence that would
support a finding of malice or gross neglect/reckless
disregard. Defs.' Mot. for Partial Summ. J.  at 2;
Defs.' Mem. Br. in Support  at 5. Plaintiffs agree
in their Response  that their allegations do not support
a claim for punitive damages and that summary judgment is
proper on this claim. Further, the Court's review of the
record reveals that Plaintiffs have not shown facts which
would satisfy the criteria for an award of punitive damages
under Mississippi law. See Miss. Code Ann. §
11-1-65(1)(a). There is no evidence of ...