Joe McGee Construction Company, Inc. v. Brown-BowensAnnotate this Case
The Mississippi Department of Transportation hired Joe McGee Construction Company, Inc., for a road construction and bridge replacement project. The Department designed the temporary traffic control plan for the project, which provided for the placement of temporary traffic signs. McGee Construction then subcontracted with Riverside Traffic Systems, Inc. for the placement of the signs leading up to and around the site. Hattie Brown drove down the closed portion of Highway 245 and collided with a stationary crane, resulting in her death. Responding Mississippi Highway Patrol Trooper Jonathan Ragan’s report stated Brown’s vehicle “collided with the barricade on the southbound lane and traveled approximately 200 yards colliding head on with a crane parked on a bridge.” His report also noted that “[t]here was adequate warning signage of the road being closed with barricades across both lanes” and that “[t]he southbound side barricade was destroyed.” Dianne Brown-Bowens, Hattie Brown’s daughter, filed a wrongful death suit against McGee Construction, and later amended the complaint to include the Department and Riverside as defendants, asserting claims of negligence and strict liability, and sought to recover punitive damages. McGee Construction moved for summary judgment, asserting it “provided legally sufficient notice to motorists, including [Hattie] Brown, that the section of Highway 245 South where the accident occurred was closed and that McGee Construction therefore, breached no duty owed to [Hattie] Brown” and that it was not negligent because none of its actions proximately caused the accident. The trial court entered an order granting Riverside’s motion for summary judgment and granting in part and denying in part the Department’s and McGee Construction’s motions for summary judgment, ruling that the Department’s and McGee Construction’s summary judgment motions were denied as to Brown-Bowens’s negligence claim but granted as to her claims for strict liability and for punitive damages. On appeal to the Mississippi Supreme Court, defendants argued the trial court erred by denying their motions for summary judgment because Brown-Bowens failed to present evidence that either party, by act or omission, contributed to the death of Hattie Brown. The Court agreed with this and reversed the trial court.