Mississippi High Court to Hear Damage Claim

December 7, 2011

The Mississippi Supreme Court will hear an appeal from Don F. McElroy, who claims he is owed compensation from Simpson County for injuries he suffered in a 2004 accident.

The state Court of Appeals in April reversed a local judge’s ruling that found the county liable for failing to exercise ordinary care in placing warning signs along the road where McElroy was hurt.

McElroy sued the county after he drove over a washed out road. McElroy said he didn’t see any warning signs of the washed out county road.

County officials said road crew put up two warning signs and strands of yellow warning tape across the road, with fluorescent streamers hanging between the strands of tape.

Circuit Judge Robert Evans ruled in 2009 that the county’s signs were inadequate “in light of the attendant weather circumstances.” Evans said the signs used to close the road must have blown away in the night. He said county officials should have put up larger signs and barricades.

Evans found the county liable to McElroy for $106,896.

The Appeals Court, in reversing the trial judge, said in using the fiberglass signs, county employees were following county procedure, grounded in economic policy.

The Appeals Court said by finding the county liable for failing to use sturdier – and more expensive – signs, the trial judge was second-guessing the county’s administrative decision to use the “homemade” signs for temporary road closures.

In addition, the Appeals Court said state law provided immunity to the county from McElroy’s lawsuit.

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