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Howarth v. M&H Ventures, LLC

Supreme Court of Mississippi

November 2, 2017, Decided

NO. 2016-CA-00742-SCT

Opinion

 [*108]  NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - WRONGFUL DEATH

KITCHENS, PRESIDING JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

P1. Richard H. Howarth, Jr., died in an airplane crash on January 16, 2012. Howarth was piloting the plane, which was the property of M&H Ventures, LLC ("M&H Ventures" or "the LLC"). The sole member of M&H Ventures was Howarth. On December 6, 2013, Howarth's widow, Cyndy Howarth, as executrix of Howarth's estate, wrongful death beneficiary of Howarth, and next friend of minor daughter Cynthia Howarth, along with adult daughter Juliet Howarth McDonald (the wrongful death beneficiaries), filed suit against the LLC in the Circuit Court of Neshoba County, [**2]  alleging that Howarth's death had been caused by the negligence, gross negligence, and recklessness of M&H Ventures and others.

P2. M&H Ventures filed a motion to dismiss, and, subsequently, a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the wrongful death beneficiaries could not recover because the success of their claims depended on proving that Howarth's own negligence had caused his death. In response, the wrongful death beneficiaries argued that, because M&H Ventures, an LLC, had owned the aircraft and all of Howarth's negligent actions had been performed  [*109]  as a member of this LLC, they could recover from M&H Ventures for Howarth's negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of M&H Ventures. Because the comparative negligence statute, Mississippi Code Section 11-7-15, prevents a plaintiff from recovering for negligence attributable to the injured person, and here Howarth's wrongful death beneficiaries were seeking recovery for Howarth's own negligence, we affirm.

FACTS

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237 So. 3d 107 *; 2017 Miss. LEXIS 429 **; 2016 WL 10408570

CYNDY HOWARTH, INDIVIDUALLY, WIFE, WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARY, AND AS EXECUTRIX OF THE ESTATE OF RICHARD HOWARTH, JR., DECEASED, JULIET HOWARTH McDONALD, INDIVIDUALLY, DAUGHTER, AND AS WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARY OF RICHARD HOWARTH, JR., DECEASED, AND CYNDY HOWARTH, AS GUARDIAN, NATURAL MOTHER AND NEXT FRIEND OF CYNTHIA HOWARTH, A MINOR AND WRONGFUL DEATH BENEFICIARY OF RICHARD HOWARTH, JR., DECEASED v. M & H VENTURES, LLC

Subsequent History: Rehearing denied by Howarth v. M & H Ventures, LLC, 2018 Miss. LEXIS 87 (Miss., Mar. 1, 2018)

Prior History:  [**1] COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: NESHOBA COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. DATE OF JUDGMENT: 02/11/2016. TRIAL JUDGE: HON. VERNON R. COTTEN. TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: RICHARD L. KIMMEL, WILLIAM WYATT SIMMONS, RONNIE L. WALTON, WAYNE E. FERRELL, JR., RICHARD BENJAMIN McMURTRAY, GLENN F. BECKHAM.

Disposition: AFFIRMED.

CORE TERMS

wrongful death, trial court, aircraft, pilot, plane, airplane, discovery, summary judgment, continuance, genuine issue of material fact, negligent act, comparative negligence, crash, summary judgment motion, own negligence, damages, vicariously liable, injured person, fail to act, no employee, sole member, dissolved, reckless

Civil Procedure, Judgments, Summary Judgment, Entitlement as Matter of Law, Evidentiary Considerations, Burdens of Proof, Movant Persuasion & Proof, Appeals, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Business & Corporate Compliance, Transportation Law, Air & Space Transportation, State & Local Regulation, Transportation Law, Personnel, Pilots, Torts, Transportation Torts, Air Transportation, Vicarious Liability, Agency Relationships, Negligence, Defenses, Contributory Negligence, Procedural Matters, Opposing Materials, Motions for Additional Discovery, Negligence, Contributory Negligence