Simpson v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., No. 07-CA-58861

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
Writing for the CourtBefore ROY NOBLE LEE; PITTMAN; ROY NOBLE LEE
Citation564 So.2d 1374
PartiesGloria J. SIMPSON v. STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY.
Decision Date30 May 1990
Docket NumberNo. 07-CA-58861

Page 1374

564 So.2d 1374
Gloria J. SIMPSON
v.
STATE FARM FIRE AND CASUALTY COMPANY.
No. 07-CA-58861.
Supreme Court of Mississippi.
May 30, 1990.
Rehearing Denied Aug. 8, 1990.

Page 1375

Margaret P. Ellis, Charles R. McRae, McRae & Ellis, Pascagoula, and Alfred L. Felder, McComb, for appellant.

Harry R. Allen and Reilly Morse, Bryan Nelson Allen Schroeder & Cobb, Gulfport, for appellee.

Before ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J., and PITTMAN and BLASS, JJ.

PITTMAN, Justice, for the Court:

This case comes to this Court for the second time on appeal. Robert Simpson and his wife, Gloria, sued State Farm in Jackson County Circuit Court in 1980, alleging a bad faith refusal to pay a fire loss claim. The jury found for the Simpsons, awarding them contractual damages, compensatory damages, and punitive damages. On appeal this Court reversed and rendered the punitive damages award, reversed and rendered the compensatory damages award, and reversed and remanded the contractual damages. A second trial was held in Jackson County Circuit Court. The jury found for Gloria Simpson, awarding her $50,690.00, the policy limits. This award was later reduced to $22,876.25 due to credit given State Farm for the mortgage on the Simpsons' home. Gloria Simpson appeals, assigning as error:

I. THE TRIAL COURT ERRED IN NOT RECOGNIZING THAT EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW OF THE CASE DOCTRINE SHOULD HAVE ALLOWED THE ISSUES DECIDED BY THE SUPREME COURT IN SIMPSON I TO BE RE-LITIGATED

II. PREJUDGMENT INTEREST SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO PLAINTIFFS

III. IT WAS ERROR TO ALLOW STATE FARM TO RECEIVE CREDIT WHEN IT DID NOT AFFIRMATIVELY PLEAD A SETOFF

Finding that assignments II and III are well taken, we affirm in part and reverse and render in part.

FACTS

Robert and Gloria Simpson and their two children were residents of Gautier, Mississippi, in August, 1978. State Farm insured their home, providing coverage of $28,000.00 on the dwelling, $14,000.00 on the contents, and $6,140.00 for additional living expenses. On August 12, 1978, the Simpsons received notice of an automatic increase in coverage to $30,700.00 for the dwelling and $15,350.00 for the contents with notice of increased premium. On August 16 the Simpson home burned, leaving the house and the contents a total loss. The Simpsons claimed that they were returning from a visit with Robert Simpson's sister at 5:00 a.m. when they discovered the house in flames. State Farm investigated, determined that the fire was of incendiary origin, and denied the Simpsons' claim. As a result the Simpsons filed suit in Jackson County Circuit Court, alleging a bad faith refusal to pay the fire loss. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the Simpsons, awarding $22,876.25 in contract damages under the policy, $227,123.75 in compensatory damages, and $250,000.00 in punitive damages. The trial court authorized a remittitur of $50,000.00 on the compensatory damage award and cancelled the Simpsons' mortgage. State Farm appealed, and the Simpsons cross-appealed. This Court reversed and rendered the punitive damages award, reversed and rendered the compensatory damages award, and reversed and remanded the contract damages. See State Farm Fire and Casualty Co. v. Simpson, 477 So.2d 242 (Miss.1985) (hereinafter Simpson I; all subsequent proceedings will be referred to as part of Simpson II ).

In late 1986 the parties prepared to go to trial again, this time only on the issue of contract damages. On October 23, 1986, the Simpsons filed a Motion for Relief from

Page 1376

Judgment, alleging that there had been a change in the law on punitive damages in bad faith cases, and this change should entitle them to re-litigate the issue of punitive damages in Simpson II. This Motion was overruled. On October 24, in response to interrogatories, the Simpsons listed Barry Jones as a non-expert witness who might be called at trial.

The trial in Simpson II was held October 27-31, 1986. Robert Simpson did not testify at the second trial. He and Gloria Simpson were divorced on December 31, 1985. Gloria Simpson is the sole Appellant. Barry Jones was called by the Simpsons as a rebuttal witness after State Farm had put on its case. Jones had also been identified as a potential witness in Simpson I, but did not testify. Jones stated, when shown Defendant's Exhibit 15, a photograph of the floor of the Simpson home taken after the fire, that he didn't "believe this particular photograph actually depicts the scene as it was. It appears that the pattern may have been enhanced by the liquid use[d] to clear the area."

The jury found in favor of the Simpsons, awarding $50,690.00, their coverage under the policy: $30,700.00 on the structure, $15,350.00 on the contents, and $4,640.00 for living expenses. On November 5, 1986, State Farm filed a Motion for Judgment N.O.V. or in the Alternative for a New Trial. State Farm also filed a Motion for Relief from Judgment or Order a Credit Towards Satisfaction of Judgment or for a Remittitur, alleging that it had paid the Simpsons' mortgagee, Kimbrough Investment Company, $27,813.75, and that the jury award to the Simpsons should be reduced by that amount. On November 10, the Simpsons filed a Motion for Trial for Extra Contractual and Punitive Damages or in the Alternative Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict on Punitive and Extra Contractual Damages. The Simpsons also moved to assess prejudgment interest. After a hearing State Farm's motion for a credit was sustained, and the other motions were overruled. Gloria Simpson appeals from the circuit court's judgment.

I. SHOULD THE EXCEPTIONS TO THE LAW OF THE CASE DOCTRINE ALLOW THE ISSUES DECIDED BY THE SUPREME COURT IN SIMPSON I TO BE RE-LITIGATED?

Gloria Simpson first argues that though this Court, in Simpson I, rendered judgment against her on the issues of extra-contractual and punitive damages, she should have been able to re-litigate those issues in Simpson II. She argues that while Simpson I would normally be recognized as "the law of the case" for all subsequent proceedings, there are exceptions to this rule, and her case fits these exceptions.

The law of the case doctrine, as recognized by this Court, is as follows:

The doctrine of the law of the case is similar to that of former adjudication, relates entirely to questions of law, and is confined in its operation to subsequent proceedings in the case. Whatever is once established as the controlling legal rule of decision, between the same parties in the same case, continues to be the law of the case, so long as there is a similarity of facts. This principle expresses the practice of courts generally to refuse to reopen what has previously been decided. It is founded on public policy and the interests of orderly and consistent judicial procedure.

Mississippi College v. May, 241 Miss. 359, 366, 128 So.2d 557, 558 (1961). "The rule is distinct from the rule of stare decisis and it is not a limitation upon the power of the court." Continental Turpentine and Rosin Co. v. Gulf Naval Stores Co., 244 Miss. 465, 479, 142 So.2d 200, 206-207 (1962). "But if the facts are different, so that the principles of law announced on the first appeal are not applicable, as where there are material changes in the evidence, pleadings or findings, a prior decision is not conclusive upon questions presented on the subsequent appeal." Continental Turpentine, 244 Miss. at 480, 142 So.2d at 207. One further exception to the doctrine can be found in Brewer v. Browning, 115 Miss. 358, 364, 76 So. 267, 269 (1917), where this Court stated:

Page 1377

We do not think, however, that this rule is so fixed and binding upon the court that it may not depart from its former decision on a subsequent appeal if the former decision in its judgment after mature consideration is erroneous and wrongful and would lead to unjust results. Where the facts are the same, and where there has been no change of conditions or situations as that a change of decision would work wrong and injustice, the court may, on the subsequent appeal, correct its former decision where it is manifestly wrong.

Gloria Simpson also relies on the federal version of the doctrine, which varies slightly from the doctrine announced by this Court. The Fifth Circuit rule on the doctrine can be found in White v. Murtha, 377 F.2d 428, 431-432 (5th Cir.1967):

While the 'law of the case' doctrine is not an inexorable command, a decision of a legal issue or issues by an appellate court establishes the 'law of the case' and must be followed in all subsequent proceedings in the same case in the trial court or on a later appeal in the appellate court, unless the evidence on a subsequent trial was substantially different, controlling authority has since made a contrary decision of the law applicable to such issues, or the decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.

See also Morrow v. Dillard, 580 F.2d 1284 (5th Cir.1978) (citing White ). Put another way, the mandate issued by an appellate court is binding on the trial court on remand, unless the case comes under one of the exceptions to the law of the case doctrine. This "mandate rule" is a specific application of the law of the case doctrine. Leggett v. Badger, 798 F.2d 1387 (11th Cir.1986). Because a question of law is presented, this Court conducts de novo review of the circuit court decision not to reopen issues decided in Simpson I. UHS-Qualicare, Inc. v. Gulf Coast Community Hospital, Inc., 525 So.2d 746, 754 (Miss.1987).

A. SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT EVIDENCE IN SIMPSON II

Gloria Simpson first alleges that State Farm either unintentionally or intentionally doctored certain photographs so as to place her claim under this exception to the "law of the case." The alleged manipulation involved certain photographs, introduced in Simpson II as Defendant's Exhibit 15, and introduced in Simpson I as part of the SEA Fire Analysis, Plaintiff's Exhibit 8, and as part of Plaintiff's Exhibit 10. The photographs...

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47 practice notes
  • Allapattah Services, Inc. v. Exxon Corp., No. 91-0986-CIV.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • August 7, 2001
    ...compensate a party for the loss of the use of his money and in order to make the party whole); Simpson v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 564 So.2d 1374, 1380-81 (Miss. 1990) (liquidated where certain or capable of being made certain by mere calculation); Kelleher Law Office v. State Comp. In......
  • Kolberg v. State, No. 2000-KA-00786-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • August 29, 2002
    ...citation to Fortune v. Lee County Bd. of Supervisors, 725 So.2d 747, 751 (Miss. 1998), quoting Simpson v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 564 So.2d 1374, 1376 (Miss.1990). In Simpson, this Court The rule is distinct from the rule of stare decisis and it is not a limitation upon the power of a c......
  • Southern v. Glenn, No. 07-CA-59364
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 3, 1990
    ...suit in Mississippi, the decision of the Texas court regarding Glenn's domicile became the law of the case. See Simpson v. State Farm, 564 So.2d 1374 (1990); Florida Gas Exploration Co. v. Searcy, 385 So.2d 1293, 1295 (Miss.1980); Continental Turpentine & Rosin Co. v. Gulf Naval Stores Co.,......
  • Turner v. Housing Authority, No. 60
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • April 17, 2001
    ...N.W.2d 101, 103-04 (Iowa 2000); Wilson v. Commonwealth, 975 S.W.2d 901, 904 (Ky.1998); Simpson v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, 564 So.2d 1374, 1376-81 (Miss.1990); Paul R. Peterson Constr. v. Arizona State Carpenters Health & Welfare Trust Fund, 179 Ariz. 474, 880 P.2d 694, 699 (Ap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
47 cases
  • Allapattah Services, Inc. v. Exxon Corp., No. 91-0986-CIV.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Southern District of Florida
    • August 7, 2001
    ...compensate a party for the loss of the use of his money and in order to make the party whole); Simpson v. State Farm Fire and Cas. Co., 564 So.2d 1374, 1380-81 (Miss. 1990) (liquidated where certain or capable of being made certain by mere calculation); Kelleher Law Office v. State Comp. In......
  • Kolberg v. State, No. 2000-KA-00786-SCT.
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • August 29, 2002
    ...citation to Fortune v. Lee County Bd. of Supervisors, 725 So.2d 747, 751 (Miss. 1998), quoting Simpson v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 564 So.2d 1374, 1376 (Miss.1990). In Simpson, this Court The rule is distinct from the rule of stare decisis and it is not a limitation upon the power of a c......
  • Southern v. Glenn, No. 07-CA-59364
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Mississippi
    • October 3, 1990
    ...suit in Mississippi, the decision of the Texas court regarding Glenn's domicile became the law of the case. See Simpson v. State Farm, 564 So.2d 1374 (1990); Florida Gas Exploration Co. v. Searcy, 385 So.2d 1293, 1295 (Miss.1980); Continental Turpentine & Rosin Co. v. Gulf Naval Stores Co.,......
  • Turner v. Housing Authority, No. 60
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Maryland
    • April 17, 2001
    ...N.W.2d 101, 103-04 (Iowa 2000); Wilson v. Commonwealth, 975 S.W.2d 901, 904 (Ky.1998); Simpson v. State Farm Fire and Casualty Company, 564 So.2d 1374, 1376-81 (Miss.1990); Paul R. Peterson Constr. v. Arizona State Carpenters Health & Welfare Trust Fund, 179 Ariz. 474, 880 P.2d 694, 699 (Ap......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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