RONALD D. STAFFORD AND TAMELA S. STAFFORD APPELLANTS
JAMES R. CANEDY, VANCE BROTHERS, INC. AND ATLANTIC SPECIALTY INSURANCE COMPANY APPELLEES
OF JUDGMENT: 05/31/2018
RIVER COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. PRENTISS GREENE HARRELL TRIAL
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: MARYANNA PENTON JAMES COLLIN MALEY
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEES: LAWRENCE ELDER HAHN JAMES D. HOLLAND
ROBERT O. ALLEN JAMES HENDERSON HALL JESSICA SUSAN MALONE
BARNES, C.J., McCARTY AND C. WILSON, JJ.
This case concerns a car accident that aggravated injuries
Ronald D. Stafford had suffered in a previous car accident.
Stafford filed suit regarding the first accident and, after
the action was removed to a federal district court, was
awarded damages. He filed suit regarding the second accident
in circuit court. The defendants argued judicial estoppel
applied to bar Stafford's recovery in the second suit.
The circuit court agreed and granted summary judgment for the
defendants. Finding judicial estoppel does not apply and
summary judgment was erroneously granted, we reverse and
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In 2012, Stafford was injured in a car accident. Two years
later, he was injured in another car accident. Stafford was
rear-ended in both accidents.
He filed suit in 2015 against several defendants, seeking
damages resulting from the first accident. The case was
removed to federal court. After a jury trial, Stafford was
awarded approximately $1.2 million in economic and
noneconomic damages. The defendants filed posttrial motions
arguing that because the jury was aware of the second
accident, it must have compensated Stafford for the injuries
he sustained in both accidents. ¶4. The district court
denied the defendants' posttrial motions, finding the
jury was instructed "that it could not award any damages
caused by the second accident." Stafford v.
Gov't Emps. Ins. Co., No. 1:15cv414, 2018 WL 736042,
at *4 (S.D.Miss. Feb. 6, 2018). The district court also noted
that defense counsel reminded the jury during closing
arguments that it was "not to award any damages for
whatever happened to [Stafford] in the July 2014
accident." Id. The defendants appealed to the
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which
affirmed the judgment. Stafford v. Lamorak Ins. Co.,
754 Fed.Appx. 241 (5th Cir. 2018).
Seeking damages from the second accident, Stafford filed suit
in 2017 in the Pearl River County Circuit Court against James
R. Canedy, Vance Brothers Inc., and Atlantic Specialty
Insurance Co. (collectively Canedy). The complaint alleged
Stafford suffered aggravation of his preexisting injuries as
well as new spinal injuries. Stafford's complaint also
included a loss-of-consortium claim by his wife, Tamela.
Vance Brothers filed a motion for summary judgment alleging
that Stafford's claims were barred by judicial estoppel.
After a hearing, the trial court granted the motion. Stafford
now appeals, arguing that judicial estoppel does not apply
and that the trial court therefore erred in granting the
motion for summary judgment.
Our "analysis requires [us] to use the abuse of
discretion standard to review the trial court's
determination that judicial estoppel is or is not
applicable." Adams v. Graceland Care Ctr. of Oxford
LLC, 208 So.3d 575, 580 (¶12) (Miss. 2017). After
that, we "use the de novo standard to ...