Duty Under Mississippi Law – Joint Venture


Sykes, etc. v. Majestic Mississippi, LLC, et al. and Sullivan, et al. v. Majestic Mississippi, LLC, et al., [Ms. SC-2023-0520 and SC-2023-0572, Feb. 16, 2024] __ So. 3d (Ala. 2024). Applying Mississippi law, the Court (Sellers, J.; Parker, C.J., and Wise, Stewart, and Cook, JJ., concur) affirms the Madison Circuit Court’s summary judgment dismissing personal injury and wrongful death claims of individuals injured or killed when a charter bus overturned en route to a Mississippi casino in icy conditions. The defendants were Majestic Mississippi, LLC (“the Casino”) and Linda Parks, who organized the bus trip for her friends and family.

As to the claims against the Casino for failing to provide accurate weather information, the Court concludes there was no evidence that the Casino assumed a duty to provide accurate weather information. Ms. **12-13. The Court also affirms dismissal of the negligence claims against the Casino and Parks, alleging that they failed to conduct due diligence on Teague Express, the charter bus operator. The Court explains, “the uncontroverted evidence indicates that Majestic did not arrange for or approve the charter bus; rather, as Majestic’s representative testified, the only role its casino plays regarding charter buses is to verify that those buses are properly insured before entering its property.” Ms. *18. As to Parks, the Court points to evidence that Vines [the bus driver] was the ‘captain’ of the charter bus, and any decision to abort the trip to the casino remained with either her or Teague Express. Because Parks did not owe the plaintiffs a duty either to conduct due diligence on Teague Express or to abort the trip to the casino to ensure the plaintiffs’ safety, there could be no negligence on her part….” Ms. **21-22.

The Court also rejected the Plaintiffs’ contention that the casino and Parks were in a joint venture. “[T]he requirement of intent to form a single joint enterprise is completely absent here, where there is no evidence to indicate that the parties had any mutual intent to participate in a joint profit-making venture.” Ms. **25-26.

Under Mississippi law, “negligence is characterized as the failure or refusal to exercise due care, wantonness is defined as ‘a failure or refusal to exercise any care.’ Maldonado v. Kelly, 768 So. 2d 906, 910 (Miss. 2000).” Ms. *26, some internal quotation marks omitted. There was no evidence of wantonness because “it strains credulity to believe that Park’s receipt of approximately $250 a month in commissions was so significant that she would sacrifice friendship, reputation, or safety to obtain it.” Ms. *27.

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