Miss. Supreme Court to hear damage lawsuit appeal

Published 1:31 pm Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Mississippi Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Oct. 6 in Franklin Corp.’s appeal a multimillion-dollar verdict won by four workers who claimed they suffered medical problems because of inadequate ventilation at a Houston, Miss., furniture plant.

A Calhoun County jury returned the decision for the workers in 2007.

The case is among dozens the Supreme Court will take up during its September-October term.

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The four workers had alleged that they repeatedly asked management whether the adhesive they sprayed on foam cushioning was causing nausea, dizziness, laryngitis, coughing, headaches and other medical problems. They claimed the company ignored their questions.

The jury awarded damages totaling $9.5 million to Pauline Tedford and Lora Smith of Eupora, Judy Haire of Vardaman and Samantha Mixon of Houston. The four worked at Franklin Corp. for varying lengths of time between 1999 and 2004.

A judge later reduced the amount to $3.76 million.

Franklin Corp. is one of the largest privately owned furniture manufacturers in the United States with about 1,200 workers.

According to court documents, the company used Soft Seam Adhesive, which contained a hazardous chemical known as propyl bromide from 1999 until 2004.

The workers claimed they were directly exposed to Soft Seam Adhesive in enclosed booths without ventilation, respiratory protection, or eye or skin protection for 10-12 hours a day, court documents showed.

In another case, the Supreme Court has scheduled arguments for Oct. 6 in an annexation case from Laurel.

The city of Laurel is appealing a judge’s decision in 2007 in which he rejected its attempts to annex the communities of Sharon and Shady Grove.

The city argued it should be allowed to annex the two communities because it was also providing utilities to both areas.

Chancellor Charles Thomas, in denying the request, said there was a decrease in development and population in Laurel, which both diminished the city’s need to expand its boundaries.

Among cases the Supreme Court will consider based on lawyers’ briefs are:

— An appeal by opponents to the city of Southaven’s annexation of 5.8 square miles, which approved by a local judge in 2007. Among the opponents are the cities of Olive Branch and Hernando. The annexation would bring Southaven’s population to about 42,000. The annexed area is located between Southaven and Olive Branch.

— David Welde’s appeal of his 2007 capital murder conviction in Itawamba County in the death of 25-year-old Donald Warnie Gilliard II. Authorities say Gilliard, who was shot in the head and pushed out of a vehicle over an alleged bad drug deal in 2005.

— Richard Earl Birkhead’s appeal of his life sentence for the 2003 slaying of an Arkansas man. Birkhead was convicted of capital murder in Washington County in 2007 in the stabbing death of 85-year-old Walter Lanier of Hamburg, Ark. Prosecutors said Lanier was found inside a vehicle with a stab wound to his chest and had been robbed of $29.

— DeCarlos Antonio Moore’s appeal of his 2007 convictions for the kidnapping, aggravated assault and sexual assault of a 9-year-old girl. Moore was sentenced in Harrison County to three consecutive life sentences without parole. Prosecutors said the girl testified, and DNA evidence corroborated, that Moore assaulted and choked her in February 2006 until she passed out in his apartment, then dragged her into nearby woods for another assault.