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Health Management Associates, Inc., v. Weiner

Supreme Court of Mississippi, En Banc

March 7, 2019

HEALTH MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES, INC., CLARKSDALE HMA PHYSICIAN MANAGEMENT, LLC, CLARKSDALE HMA, LLC INDIVIDUALLY AND d/b/a NORTHWEST MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER, MARK CATON, REGINA ROBINSON, MATTHEW TORMEY AND TEENA ROWE
v.
ROGER WEINER, M.D.

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 10/12/2017

          COAHOMA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, TRIAL JUDGE: HON. LINDA F. COLEMAN.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: RALPH E. CHAPMAN, DANA J. SWAN, ANDY LOWRY, JAMIE F. JACKS.

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: ANDY LOWRY, THOMAS L. KIRKLAND, JR., BILL LUCKETT, JR., JAMIE F. JACKS, GERALD H. JACKS

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: DANA J. SWAN, H. SCOT SPRAGINS, LAWRENCE J. TUCKER, JR.

          CHAMBERLIN, JUSTICE.

         ¶1. Dr. Roger Weiner brought a malicious-prosecution claim against Health Management Associates Inc. and Teena Rowe. Dr. Roger Weiner based his malicious-prosecution claim on the federal district court's dismissal of his criminal prosecution. The court had dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. Health Management Associates Inc. and Teena Rowe filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the malicious-prosecution claim, arguing that a jurisdictional dismissal is not a favorable termination for the purposes of a malicious-prosecution claim. The trial court agreed. Later, with a new trial judge on the bench, Dr. Weiner sought reconsideration. The trial court reconsidered and reversed the former judge's order. Health Management Associates Inc. and Teena Rowe appealed. The Court reverses and remands the judgment of the trial court, holding that it erred in denying the partial summary-judgment motion.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS

         ¶2. Dr. Roger Weiner was prosecuted in federal district court for violating the Mann Act. See 18 U.S.C. § 2422(a) (2012). Dr. Weiner sought dismissal of the charges, alleging that the interstate-commerce element was not met. The district court dismissed the charges for lack of federal jurisdiction, stating that "the federal nexus to interstate commerce necessary to create federal jurisdiction simply is not present in the case at bar." The order stated that dismissal was jurisdictional and that "[i]n this case the court is not ruling on whether prostitution was never discussed and would never have been engaged in. If state or local prosecutorial authorities want to pursue a state law prosecution of solicitation of prostitution, that is their prerogative."

         ¶3. Subsequently, Dr. Weiner brought a civil suit against Health Management Associates Inc. (HMA) and Teena Rowe.[1] The suit alleged a number of claims, including a claim for malicious prosecution. HMA and Rowe filed a motion for partial summary judgment on the malicious-prosecution claim. HMA and Rowe argued that the malicious-prosecution claim should be dismissed because a dismissal for lack of jurisdiction of the underlying criminal prosecution did not amount to a "favorable termination" under the elements of a malicious-prosecution claim.

         ¶4. The trial judge granted HMA and Rowe's motion for partial summary judgment. The trial judge then denied Dr. Weiner's motion for reconsideration and certified the order granting partial summary judgment as a final order.

         ¶5. Dr. Weiner filed a petition for interlocutory appeal and a direct appeal on the grant of the partial summary-judgment motion. The Court denied the petition for interlocutory appeal, holding that a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b) certification had been entered. Subsequently, HMA and Rowe filed a motion to dismiss the direct appeal, arguing that the order had been improperly certified as a final order under Rule 54(b). The Court granted the motion and dismissed the appeal.

         ¶6. Thereafter, the trial judge assigned to the case retired, and a new trial judge was assigned to the case. Dr. Weiner filed a "Motion to Reconsider the Former Trial Court[']s Granting of HMA Defendants' Motion for Partial Summary Judgment."[2] Under Rule 54(b) of the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure, the new trial judge granted the motion to reconsider and denied HMA and Rowe's partial summary-judgment motion on the issue of malicious prosecution. She stated that the prior federal case was decided in Dr. Weiner's favor because the order of dismissal "went to the substantive elements of the crime of the Mann Act."

         ¶7. HMA and Rowe filed an interlocutory appeal. A panel of the court granted permission for the appeal.

         STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES

         ¶8. The parties argue two general issues regarding whether the underlying termination supports a claim for malicious prosecution and whether the grant of the motion to reconsider was proper. The Court considers only one issue, as it is dispositive. The Court restyles the issue as follows:

Whether the underlying termination of the federal criminal action constitutes a favorable termination for the purposes of a malicious- prosecution claim.

         ANALYSIS

Whether the underlying termination of the federal criminal action constitutes a favorable termination for the purposes of a malicious-pr ...

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