Clark v. NeeseAnnotate this Case
A log truck driven by Royce Sullivan collided with the rear of an automobile being driven by Harry Schroeder, who had just pulled his car onto a highway in Lowndes County, Mississippi. Harry died as a result of the accident, and his wife, Helen (a passenger in her husband’s car) suffered severe injuries, permanent disability, and diminished capacity. Helen, individually, and as one of Harry’s wrongful-death beneficiaries, sued Sullivan in federal court, alleging that Sullivan’s negligence had caused Harry’s death and her permanent disability. Sullivan moved for summary judgment at the close of discovery, arguing that the uncontradicted evidence established Harry’s negligence as the sole cause of the accident. In denying summary judgment, the federal judge stated that the evidence created a jury question as to Sullivan’s fault, and that “plaintiffs do not appear to dispute Harry Schroeder’s potential contributory negligence.” The parties settled and agreed to a release of claims, and the district court dismissed the case. Following the settlement agreement, release, and subsequent dismissal of the action against Sullivan, Helen filed suit against Harry in the Circuit Court of Lowndes County, alleging Harry negligently had failed to yield the right of way and pulled in front of Sullivan’s log truck at an extremely slow rate of speed, causing the accident which resulted in Helen’s permanent disability. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Harry and found that Helen was judicially estopped from bringing a claim against Harry. Helen appealed that order. The Mississippi Supreme Court found the trial court erred in granting summary judgment on the basis of the release agreement between Helen and Sullivan because Harry was not a signatory to it.