Earlier this month, the Supreme Court of Mississippi decided a case involving a family who brought suit against the Mississippi Department of Transportation after they were involved in an accident on a bridge that they claimed was improperly maintained. According to court documents, the case consisted of two claims, a failure-to-warn claim and a failure-to-maintain claim.
Evidently, the family was driving across a bridge that had recently undergone some repairs. As a result, there were metal grates covering large portions of the road where asphalt had been recently laid. These grates allegedly stuck up, causing a dangerous condition. As the plaintiffs drove over the grates, their car got caught and spun around, and minor injuries resulted.
Another family member arrived on the scene shortly afterward and spoke with MDOT employees who were on the scene. They told her that they had received calls earlier that day about the dangerous condition and that she should take pictures of the grating. She did so.
At Trial and the Initial Appeal
At trial, the plaintiffs tried to introduce an affidavit of the family member who arrived on the scene. The trial court, however, determined that the affidavit was inadmissible hearsay as far as it contained anything that an MDOT employee told her.
Not having considered the affidavit, the court determined that MDOT was entitled to governmental immunity and that there were no issues of material fact. The court granted summary judgment for MDOT on both claims, and the plaintiffs appealed to the intermediate court.
On the first appeal, the court reversed the previous decision in part, holding that maintaining a public road is a ministerial function for which MDOT cannot claim immunity. However, the court affirmed summary judgment on the failure-to-warn claim. Both parties appealed to the Supreme Court of Mississippi.
On Appeal to the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court of Mississippi determined that the statements of the MDOT employees were admissible hearsay and could be considered. Specifically, the court held that they were admissible because they were an “admission of a party opponent,” which is a generally accepted exception to the bar on hearsay testimony.
After making that determination, the court decided that the prudent thing to do would be to send the case back to the lower court, so it could make the decision now having the benefit of the Supreme Court’s opinion. This means that, at least for now, the plaintiffs’ case will proceed through the trial process.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Accident?
While this car accident took place in Mississippi, it provides a good example of how an entire case can come down to one single legal argument. Here, it was the admission of the affidavit, but that issue can be any number of other nuanced legal issues. If you have recently been involved in a serious accident and are considering bringing suit against the party you believe to be responsible, contact a dedicated attorney at Miller Legal Services at 770-284-3727 to set up a free consultation. The skilled advocates at Miller Legal Services will be happy to meet with you free of charge to discuss your case.
See Related Blog Posts:
Georgia Man Killed in Out-of-State Car Accident, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, August 12, 2015.
Georgia Motorcyclist Involved in Fatal Accident After Colliding with Sedan, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, August 26, 2015.