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Howard v. Estate of Harper, 947 So. 2d 854 (Miss. 2006)

Two estates filed suit against Defendants, including fictitious parties alleging simple negligence, medical malpractice, malice and/or gross negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, survival claim, and wrongful death. The Defendants moved to dismiss, which was denied. On appeal, the issues centered on claims against the nursing home administrator. Although a nursing home can be liable for acts or omissions regarding the care of its residents, the Mississippi Supreme Court declined to impose the same common law duty on administrators. The court held that minimum licensing standards for administrators do not form a statutory basis for an action against an administrator. The court found that a medical malpractice action could not be sustained against the administrator because the administrator is not a medical provider. The fraud claim was not pled with sufficient particularity to be sustained. Finally, the court found “as a matter of law that a fiduciary duty cannot exist simply because of the Howards’ roles as licensee and administrator.” The case was reversed with direction to dismiss the administrator and to conduct further proceedings against the remaining defendants consistent with the opinion.

Note: This case was followed in Brawhaw v. Mariner Health Care, Inc., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26593 (N.D. Miss. 2007), decided April 9, where claims against an administrator were dismissed with prejudice. In Brandon v. Beverly Enterprises, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 26627 (N.D. Miss. 2007), decided April 6, 2007, the court granted summary judgment on Plaintiff’s fraud claims, finding that Howard requires more than misrepresentations concerning the quality of care. However, the court distinguished Howard, and Defendants’ motion for summary judgment was denied on the breach of fiduciary duty count. In Howard, Defendant was an administrator, while in Brandon it was the nursing home. The Court found that “the very nature of a nursing home patient is akin to award under the dominion and control of a fiduciary.”

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