JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) - On March 30, in a 5-to-4 decision, the Mississippi Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling in plaintiff Cynthia Kuljis' case against Winn-Dixie Montgomery LLC.
Kuljis had initially brought suit against Winn-Dixie claiming she tripped over a piece of rubber that was holding a carpet down in a D’Iberville, Mississippi, store and was injured. As part of her suit, she requested the Harrison County Chancery Court direct Winn-Dixie to make available potential evidentiary items such as witness reports, security camera footage, photos, incident reports and the like.
Winn-Dixie argued that such a request needed to be made through the Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure.
The chancery court agreed, and dismissed the case. Kuljis appealed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, which upheld the lower court's ruling.
Kuljis and her legal team then asked the state Supreme Court to review the case.
In its ruling, which upheld the decision of the chancery court, the Supreme Court noted that “a chancery court lacks jurisdiction over a personal-injury action.” The court noted there is a precedent for a bill of discovery (such that Kuljis was seeking), but only in certain cases.
In others, they pointed to the case of Southern Leisure Homes Inc v. Hardin. The 1999 ruling, as part of its decision, determined that “...where doubts exist regarding the legal or equitable nature of a case, the case should be tried in the circuit court.”
Writing the Supreme Court's dissent, Justice Jess H. Dickinson took issue with the way the majority viewed the chancery court's role in cases such as this.
“It is no answer to say that 'the chancery court lacks jurisdiction over personal-injury actions,'” he wrote.
“No one has attempted to file a personal-injury action in chancery court. The chancery court has always had jurisdiction over bills of discovery, regardless of where the discovery might suggest a suit is warranted.”
Kuljis was represented by Garner J. Wetzel and James K. Wetzel. Winn-Dixie’s legal team was David W. Stewart and Brian C. Whitman.