Mississippi Dept. of Wildlife, Fisheries &Parks v. WebbAnnotate this Case
Two officers with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) observed Donald Bernius speeding on the Tchoutacabouffa River in Harrison County, Mississippi. Prior to effecting a stop, the officers ordered Bernius to move his boat to what they contended was a safer location on the river; but Bernius fled in the opposite direction. Bernius’s vessel collided with a boat operated by Christopher Webb. The collision killed Webb and seriously injured Shane Webb. Two hours after the collision, Bernius’s blood-alcohol content was .25 percent. Kathleen Webb, individually and on behalf of Christopher Webb’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, and Candace Webb, as Shane Webb’s guardian, filed a lawsuit pursuant to the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA) against the MDWFP, arguing that the officers had acted in reckless disregard for the safety of others. After a bench trial, the Circuit Court agreed and ruled in favor of the Webbs. The Mississippi Court of Appeals reversed and rendered a judgment in favor of the MDWFP, finding that the evidence did not demonstrate that the officers had acted with reckless disregard. The Mississippi Supreme Court granted Candace Webb’s Petition for certiorari review. Finding that the Mississippi Court of Appeals misapplied the applicable standard of review and substituted its judgment for that of the trial court, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of that court and reinstated and affirmed the Circuit Court's judgment.