Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Short v. Versiga

Supreme Court of Mississippi

October 3, 2019

KATHERINE GRACE SHORT
v.
DARREN VERSIGA

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/30/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: HARRISON COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, FIRST JUDICIAL DISTRICT TRIAL JUDGE: HON. ROGER T. CLARK

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: CHRISTOPHER EDWARD SMITH, GRADY MORGAN HOLDER, SAMUEL M. BAYARD, MARY ELLEN ROY, ALONZO WICKERS, IV, SCOTT TIMOTHY ELLZEY, KATIE RYAN VAN CAMP, EDWARD C. TAYLOR

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: CHRISTOPHER EDWARD SMITH, GRADY MORGAN HOLDER

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: EDWARD C. TAYLOR, KATIE RYAN VAN CAMP

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

          GRIFFIS, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Katherine Grace Short appeals the circuit court's change of venue in her defamation case from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County, Mississippi, to the Circuit Court of Jackson County, Mississippi. Because a substantial event that caused the injury occurred in the First Judicial District of Harrison County, venue is proper in that county. Accordingly, the circuit court's judgment is reversed and remanded.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On the evening of August 1, 1975, Short's husband, Tye Breland, died from a gunshot wound to the chest at their home in Pascagoula, in Jackson County, Mississippi. The Jackson County coroner's office determined that Breland's death was caused by an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound from a .410 shotgun. Short was not charged with Breland's death.

         ¶3. Forty-two years later, on August 12, 2017, Cold Justice: Beyond the Grave, a true- crime documentary (the episode), premiered on the Oxygen Network.[1] The episode, which aired nationally, focused on Breland's death, and considered whether Short murdered her late husband. During the episode, crime experts Kelly Siegler (identified as a prosecutor) and John Bonds (identified as a homicide investigator) investigated Breland's death. Darren Versiga, a law-enforcement officer with the Pascagoula Police Department, assisted the investigation. The investigation team exhumed Breland's body, prepared a mockup of the crime scene, conducted ballistics testing, and interviewed numerous witnesses to determine whether Breland's death was a suicide, an accident, or a homicide. The team concluded that Breland did not commit suicide. They identified Short as a suspect in Breland's death and turned over their investigation to the Jackson County District Attorney's Office. According to the team, they put together enough information for a circumstantial case of murder.

         ¶4. On February 21, 2018, Short filed a complaint against Siegler, Bonds, Versiga, and various media entities in the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County and alleged defamation and tortious invasion of privacy. Versiga filed an answer and defenses to Short's complaint. Versiga then filed a motion to transfer venue to the Circuit Court of Jackson County. In his motion, Versiga argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue under Mississippi law because it was where a substantial alleged act or omission occurred or where a substantial event that caused the injury occurred. Versiga further argued that the Circuit Court of Jackson County was the proper venue "as it is the county in which [he] resides."

         ¶5. After a hearing on the motion, the circuit court found that "Jackson County [wa]s where the investigation of the case and the majority of the acts complained of occurred." The circuit court further found that "Versiga is a resident of Jackson County and may not be found in Harrison County." As a result, the circuit court granted Versiga's motion to transfer venue and transferred the case from the Circuit Court of the First Judicial District of Harrison County to the Circuit Court of Jackson County. Short timely filed a petition for interlocutory appeal. The petition for interlocutory appeal was granted by this Court on November 14, 2018. Because the interlocutory appeal is limited to the issue of venue, the media entities, Siegler, and Bonds were dismissed from the appeal.

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         ¶6. "This Court reviews a [circuit] court's determinations regarding venue for an abuse of discretion." Ramsey v. Auburn Univ., 191 So.3d 102, 108 (Miss. 2016) (citing Janssen Pharmaceutica, Inc. v. Armond, 866 So.2d 1092, 1097 (Miss. 2004)). "Of right, the plaintiff selects among the permissible venues, and his choice must be sustained unless in the end there is no credible evidence supporting the factual basis for the claim of venue." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting Hedgepeth v. Johnson, 975 So.2d 235, 238 (Miss. 2008)).

         ¶7. "In venue disputes courts begin with the well-pleaded allegations of the complaint." Flight Line, Inc. v. Tanksley, 608 So.2d 1149, 1155 (Miss. 1992). "These, of course, may be supplemented-and contested-by affidavits or other evidence in cognizable form." Id. (citing Long v. Patterson, 198 Miss. 554, 562-64, 22 So.2d 490, 492-93 (1945)).

         ANALYSIS

         ¶8. In order to establish a claim for defamation, a plaintiff ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.