Court of Appeals: Lochridge lawsuit against Pioneer raises issues of fact

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

JACKSON – Linda Lochridge’s malicious-prosecution claim against Pioneer Health Services Inc. of Monroe County should go back for trial, the Mississippi Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday.
“Finding several genuine issues of material fact in dispute,” Judge E.J. Russell wrote for the court, “we reverse and remand.”
The appeals court reversed Circuit Judge James Seth Pounds’ 2010 decision in Pioneer’s favor.
Pioneer may appeal the decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Lochridge was a registered nurse at one of Pioneer’s assisted-living facilities. In May 2007, she was told that her position was eliminated by restructuring and cost-saving measures.
After she surrendered her keys to the facility, she returned with a few former employees and picked up her remaining items.
Susan Grimes, the facility’s director, called the facility after hearing a voice message from Lochridge that she’d picked up her things. Grimes’ supervisor told her to ask for the items’ return or call the police.
Grimes called Aberdeen police and the Monroe Sheriff’s Department before she called Lochridge. After she told Lochridge that charges against her were pending, Lochridge left a message that she had returned some items to the facility.
In January 2008 a grand jury indicted Lochridge for burglary. Ultimately the charges were dismissed. The next month, Lochridge sued Pioneer.
Pounds granted Pioneer’s motion to throw out her complaint, finding that she failed to show malice or probable cause.
The Court of Appeals, voting 8-2, disagreed, saying that various facts in the case are in dispute, especially about Pioneer’s motivation to prosecute Lochridge.
Also disputed are whether items taken and returned belonged to Lochridge.