Supreme Court dismisses claims against Hattiesburg poultry company

Supreme Court dismisses claims against Hattiesburg poultry company
In a 7-2 decision released Thursday, the Supreme Court reversed and rendered a decision in favor of defendant Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC, ruling the 13th Circuit Court had erred in not granting a motion for summary judgment.

JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) - Negligence and wrongful death claims were dismissed against a Pine Belt poultry company when the Mississippi Supreme Court granted the summary judgment that the trial court declined.

In a 7-2 decision released Thursday, the Supreme Court reversed and rendered a decision in favor of defendant Mar-Jac Poultry MS, LLC, ruling the 13th Circuit Court had erred in not granting a motion for summary judgment.

“Based on the evidence presented, we find that the trial court erred in denying Mar-Jac’s motion for summary judgment,” Chief Justice Michael Randolph concluded in the majority opinion.

The civil suit stemmed from a complaint filed in March 2016 following the deaths of Lishanny Wilks and Keannie Love in an auto accident.

Wilks and Love were passengers in a vehicle driven by Senah Carter. All three were employed by Mar-Jac. In fact, Carter _ who operated a floor jack to bring chickens to and from the line _ had helped the two women secure jobs.

About three weeks after they had been hired, the women still were riding back and forth with Carter when he struck a school bus on Sept. 22, 2015. Both Love and Wilks were killed.

The complaint filed on behalf of Wilks and Love asserted that Carter was acting on behalf of Mar-Jac by transporting the women to and from work, and charged the company with negligence, negligence per se and wrongful death.

In one interview, Carter had said that he had been told by a supervisor to make sure that the women got to work. But his testimony at the hearing backed what he had said in another deposition, where he stated that he had not been ordered or asked to provide the women transportation on behalf of the company.

“It is undisputed that the driver was not acting in the course and scope of his employment with Mar-Jac when the accident occurred,” Randolph wrote.

But the court’s two presiding judges disagreed, saying that the plaintiffs “presented sufficient evidence to create questions of fact.”

Presiding Justice Leslie D. King wrote that among those questions would be:

  • Whether Carter was bringing Wilks and Love to work for the benefit of Mar-Jac
  • Whether Carter was not only authorized to bring the girls to work but was expected to
  • Whether Jar-Mac needed workers
  • Whether Carter was acting in the scope and course of his employment when he was involved in the accident.

“Carter was not merely transporting work product that morning,” King wrote. “Instead, he was transporting two needed employees to work at the encouragement of his employer. Summary judgment is appropriate only when the evidence reveals no genuine dispute regarding any material fact.

“I would affirm the trial court’s denial of summary judgment and would remand this case for a trial on the merits.”

The appellees, Love and Wilks’ representatives, could ask the Supreme Court to reconsider.

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