The Mississippi Court of Appeals has upheld a Leflore County Circuit Court judgment that financially sanctioned Grenada attorney Carlos Moore for failure to appear in court for a medical malpractice trial.
Evidence from Facebook was presented in circuit court after the 2017 trial date to dispute Moore’s reasons for not showing up, according to the opinion issued Thursday.
The appeals court, after reviewing that evidence as part of the history of the case and looking at case law, unanimously ruled that Circuit Judge Ashley Hines did not err when he ordered Moore to pay $27,468 in costs and fees to Greenwood Leflore Hospital.
The hospital was the defendant in the medical malpractice lawsuit, and Moore was the attorney for the plaintiff, Lue R. Sanders.
Moore, in arguing that he was wrongly sanctioned, contended that he made several motions that should have been allowed. But the appeals court did not agree.
While the opinion centers on case law, it also explains that Moore, on behalf of Sanders, filed suit against the hospital in January 2014. In the following two years, he associated with the Brown, Bass & Jeter law firm as “additional counsel.” But Moore continued as the plaintiff’s attorney of record until the law firm filed documents on Sanders’ behalf in June 2016.
In December 2016, the law firm signed off on the circuit court’s decision to set a trial date of Sept. 5, 2017. But in August 2017, the law firm withdrew, citing a conflict of interest, and said Moore would remain as Sanders’ attorney of record.
Moore then filed on Aug. 31, 2017, a motion for a continuance, saying he had a scheduling conflict. He said he would be out of state and had not had time to prepare for the trial. He notified the parties that the motions would be presented for hearing on the scheduled trial date.
All parties but Moore appeared for trial on that date. Another lawyer, Justin Smith, “appeared to argue Moore’s motions on behalf of Sanders. Smith advised the court that Moore could not be present for trial because he was preparing for another trial in Tennessee the following week,” the appeals court said.
Hines reluctantly granted the continuance because he didn’t want “the client (Sanders) to suffer loss because of the neglect of the lawyer (Moore),” according to the appeals court.
Two days later, the hospital asked Hines to dismiss the case against the hospital, which Hines did not, or alternately to require Moore to pay the hospital’s fees and costs. Hines ordered the financial sanctions.
The hospital, represented by Greenwood attorneys Harris Powers III, Tommie G. Williams and Tommie G. Williams Jr., alleged that Moore had not been in Tennessee preparing for a trial.
“Instead, the hospital argued that Moore failed to appear for trial in order to attend a speaking engagement at Jarvis Christian College in Texas, and the hospital attached excerpts to its motion from Moore and Jarvis Christian College’s Facebook pages to support its assertions,” the appeals court said in its opinion.
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