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Johnson v. Goodson

Supreme Court of Mississippi

April 18, 2019

JUDY S. JOHNSON
v.
RONNIE GOODSON

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 03/22/2018

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

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: CODY W. GIBSON PAUL ANDERSON KOERBER WILLIAM SCOTT MULLENNIX J. SETH McCOY

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: WILLIAM SCOTT MULLENNIX CODY W. GIBSON

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: J. SETH McCOY WILLIAM M. DALEHITE, JR.

          BEFORE RANDOLPH, C.J., ISHEE AND GRIFFIS, JJ.

          RANDOLPH, CHIEF JUSTICE.

         ¶1. Judy S. Johnson appeals the affirmance by the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County of the judgment of the County Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County granting Ronnie Goodson's motion for summary judgment. Both courts rejected Johnson's claim of general negligence and granted judgment in favor of Goodson based on premises-liability law.

         ¶2. Were premises liability the only law applicable, the courts would be affirmed. But given the facts presented, both erred. We reverse the grant of summary judgment and remand the case for proceedings consistent with this opinion. This Court offers no opinion about Goodson's negligence, vel non. That question remains for the trier of fact.

         FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS BELOW

         ¶3. Johnson claims that she was injured while she was an invited guest on Goodson's property and a passenger in his golf cart. Johnson sued Goodson in the County Court of the First Judicial District of Hinds County, alleging that Goodson had operated the golf cart carelessly, recklessly, and negligently, causing Johnson to be thrown about in the vehicle and to suffer injuries.

         ¶4. Johnson filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that, at the time of the accident, Goodson was the operator of a motor vehicle, and, as such, the applicable standard of care was that of a reasonable person. Johnson argued that Goodson had breached his duty of care by operating a vehicle on his property in an unsafe manner, proximately causing Johnson's injuries. Goodson responded that Johnson was a licensee, that he did not breach any duties owed to her as a licensee, and that the standard Johnson sought was not applicable.

         ¶5. In Goodson's motion for summary judgment, he sought to be shielded from ordinary negligence by alleging that Johnson's cause of action was one of premises liability[1] and that he, as a landowner, only owed Johnson, a licensee, a duty to refrain from wilfully, wantonly, knowingly, or intentionally injuring her.

         ¶6. At all times, the parties have agreed that the facts were not in dispute. The only question was what law applied to the undisputed facts. Despite their contentions, the county court determined that disputed issues of fact remained and denied both Goodson's and Johnson's motions for summary judgment. Goodson filed an unopposed motion to stay, which was granted by the county court pending this Court's ruling on Goodson's petition for interlocutory appeal, which was denied.

         ¶7. Subsequent to the denial, Goodson filed a motion for reconsideration. The county court found that "premises liability law applies and not the Rules of the Road of the State of Mississippi." Johnson then filed a motion for reconsideration, arguing that the county court erred in finding that premises-liability law applied. However, Johnson requested that if the county court ...


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