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Mose v. Rankin County

Supreme Court of Mississippi

December 12, 2019

RONNIE MOSES, DEE MOSES, GARY LAWSHE, SUZY LAWSHE, BILL DAVIS, LINDA DAVIS, DAN RITCHIE, LAUREN RITCHIE, GARY FREEZE, VICKIE FREEZE, MAX COURTNEY, LAURIE COURTNEY, JILL SHIELDS, LARRY LUKE, NANCY LUKE, SHERRILL EVANS, RUSH BUSBEE, MIKE COBB, FAY COBB, AND JUDY BUSBEE
v.
RANKIN COUNTY, MISSISSIPPI, AND BOARD OF SUPERVISORS OF RANKIN COUNTY

          DATE OF JUDGMENT 12/07/2018

          COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: RANKIN COUNTY TRIAL JUDGE: HON. WILLIAM E. CHAPMAN, III TRIAL COURT

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: MICHAEL VERDIER CORY, JR. CHRISTIAN MEDINA MICHAEL JEFFREY WOLF

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANTS: MICHAEL VERDIER CORY, JR. CHRISTIAN MEDINA

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES: MICHAEL JEFFREY WOLF

          BEFORE KITCHENS, P.J., COLEMAN AND GRIFFIS, JJ.

          COLEMAN, JUSTICE

         ¶1. Following a heavy rain on April 2-3, 2017, several homes in the Mill Creek Place Subdivision flooded and were damaged. Several homeowners, whose homes had been damaged, sued Rankin County for failing to properly maintain Mill Creek, which is adjacent to the Mill Creek Place Subdivision. Rankin County filed a Mississippi Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss the complaint. The trial court granted Rankin County's motion, finding that Rankin County was immune from liability-specifically discretionary function immunity-under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act. The homeowners appeal, arguing that Rankin County is not immune. The trial court erred by dismissing the complaint based on discretionary function immunity. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment and remand for further proceedings.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. Several homeowners in the Mill Creek Place Subdivision sued Rankin County for failure to properly maintain Mill Creek. Mill Creek functions as part of the storm water drainage system for the subdivision.[1] The plaintiffs alleged that although Rankin County had previously performed routine maintenance on Mill Creek, no maintenance or other work had been performed from early 2011 through April 3, 2017. Plaintiffs alleged that "[a]s a result, shrubs, vegetation and trees were allowed to grow to the point where a barrier was created which significantly obstructed the flow of storm water on April 2-3, 2017." Due to the condition of Mill Creek, the plaintiffs claimed that the storm water was diverted from the Mill Creek channel and flooded the plaintiffs' homes. The plaintiffs set out their theory of Rankin County's negligence as follows:

Rankin County had a duty to properly maintain its storm water drainage system, including but not limited to that portion of Mill Creek immediately north of Lakeland Drive.
Rankin County breached that duty by failing to properly maintain and clear that portion of the Mill Creek channel immediately north of Lakeland Drive.
As a result of Rankin County's failure to properly maintain its storm water drainage system, the Mill Creek channel's flow capacity was substantially diminished on April 2-3, 2017.
Because of the diminished flow capacity, storm water was diverted away from the Mill Creek channel onto Westlake Drive and flowed down Westlake Drive in a northerly direction resulting in the flooding of the homes of the Plaintiffs who live on Westlake Drive. Also, because of the flooding on Westlake Drive storm water backed up onto Millcreek Drive resulting in the flooding of the homes of the Plaintiffs who live on Millcreek Drive.
Rankin County was negligent in failing to maintain its storm water drainage system. Said negligence was a substantial contributing cause of the flood event.
As a proximate result of the negligence of Rankin County, the Plaintiffs sustained actual damages and suffered ...

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