Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Injury Law
Hinrichs v. General Motors of Canada, Ltd.
On June 24, 2007, Florian Hinrichs was riding in the front passenger seat of a 2004 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck owned and operated by his friend Daniel Vinson when they were involved in a motor-vehicle accident. It was undisputed that Hinrichs was wearing his seat belt. A vehicle operated by Kenneth Smith, who was driving under the influence of alcohol, ran a stop sign and collided with the passenger-side door of the Sierra. The Sierra rolled over twice, but landed on its wheels. Hinrichs suffered a spinal cord injury in the accident that left him a quadriplegic. The accident occurred in Geneva County, Alabama. Hinrichs alleged that his injuries were caused by the defective design of the roof of the Sierra that allowed the roof over the passenger compartment to collapse during the rollover and by the defective design of the seat belt in the Sierra, which failed to restrain him. At the time of the accident, Hinrichs, a German citizen, was a member of the German military; he had been assigned to Fort Rucker for flight training. He and Vinson were in the same training program. Vinson had purchased the Sierra at Hill Buick, Inc., d/b/a O'Reilly Pontiac-Buick-GMC and/or Hill Pontiac-Buick-GMC ("the O'Reilly dealership"), in Pennsylvania in 2003. He drove it to Alabama in 2006 when he was assigned to Fort Rucker. General Motors Corporation, known as Motors Liquidation Company after July 9, 2009 ("GM"), designed the Sierra. GM Canada, whose principal place of business was in Ontario, Canada, manufactured certain parts of the Sierra, assembled the vehicle, and sold it to GM in Canada, where title transferred. GM then distributed the Sierra for sale in the United States through a GM dealer. The Sierra ultimately was delivered to the O'Reilly dealership for sale. Hinrichs, appealed the trial court's decision to dismiss General Motors of Canada, Ltd. ("GM Canada"), from the case. Finding that the trial court correctly concluded that it had neither general nor specific jurisdiction over GM Canada, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Hinrichs v. General Motors of Canada, Ltd." on Justia Law
Dolgencorp, LLC v. Spence
Dolgencorp, LLC appealed the judgment entered on a jury verdict in the amount of $100,000 in favor of Michelle Spence in her action arising from her arrest for shoplifting. The charges against Spence were dismissed after two court appearances because no witnesses appeared to testify against her. Following a two-day trial, the jury returned a general verdict in favor of Spence and against Dolgencorp in the amount of $100,000 in compensatory damages. Dolgencorp appealed the denial of its renewed motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (JML) and motion for a new trial. After review, the Supreme Court determined that the malicious-prosecution and defamation claims were improperly submitted to the jury. Dolgencorp submitted a motion for a JML specifically directed to the various claims; that motion was denied. "We cannot assume that the verdict was based only on those of Spence's claims that were properly submitted to the jury. Accordingly, the judgment based on the jury verdict for Spence must be reversed." The case was remanded for a new trial on Spence's claims that were properly submitted to the jury, i.e., negligent training, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and assault and battery. The Court reversed the judgment for Spence and remanded the case to the trial court for the entry of a JML in favor of Dolgencorp on Spence's claims of malicious prosecution and defamation and for a new trial on Spence's remaining claims of negligent training, invasion of privacy, false imprisonment, and assault and battery. View "Dolgencorp, LLC v. Spence" on Justia Law
Ex parte Tier 1 Trucking, LLC
In late 2015, Jimmy Lee and Jackie Mixon sued defendants Tier 1 Trucking, LLC and James Gray, Jr. in the Wilcox Circuit Court, alleging negligence and/or wantonness in connection with an automobile accident that occurred on November 3, 2014. Jimmy was driving his vehicle on a highway in Conecuh County when his vehicle collided with a tractor-trailer owned by Tier 1 and operated by Gray, who was an employee of Tier 1. Gray lived in Conecuh County. The accident was investigated by the Castleberry Police Department, also in Conecuh County. The Mixons lived in Wilcox County, and Tier 1 had done some business in Wilcox County. Tier 1's principal office is in Jay, Florida. Defendants filed a "motion to dismiss/transfer for improper venue." In that motion, defendants argued that Wilcox County was not a proper venue for this action because, they said, Tier 1 had not conducted business in Wilcox County and, thus, this civil action could not be brought in Wilcox County. When this motion was denied, they applied for a writ of mandamus to direct the Wilcox Court to vacate its order and transfer the case to Conecuh County. Finding that defendants demonstrated a clear legal right to mandamus relief, the Supreme Court granted their petition and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Tier 1 Trucking, LLC" on Justia Law
Baptist Ventures, Inc. v. Hoke
ENT Associates of Alabama, P.A., A. Craig Chapman, M.D., and Baptist Ventures, Inc., d/b/a Montgomery Surgical Center, LLP ("MSC"), separately appealed a circuit court's interlocutory order denying their motions for a summary judgment. In 2011, Lauryn Hoke received medical care from Dr. Chapman, ENT Associates, and MSC (collectively, "the defendants"). On April 10, 2013, one day shy of two years after she was provided medical care by the defendants, Hoke filed a medical-malpractice claim against the defendants, complaining that the defendants deviated from the acceptable standard of medical care when, despite being aware of the fact that she was allergic to latex, they failed to provide a latex-free environment during both her surgery and her recovery and that, as a result, she suffered a severe allergic reaction that caused serious injuries. The complaint was signed by John Loeschen as "counsel for plaintiff" with an asterisk next to Loeschen's signature, noting below his address (which was Roanoke, Virginia) "motion pro hac vice to follow." The complaint included a certificate of service, signed by Loeschen, but did not include the name or signature of an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama. It was undisputed that the complaint was filed electronically by an attorney licensed to practice law in Alabama, Benjamin Pool. The complaint did not include the addresses of the defendants or any instructions to the circuit clerk for service of process. On June 4, 2013, approximately 55 days after Hoke's complaint was filed, Loeschen filed a verified application for admission to practice under Rule VII of the Rules Governing Admission to the Alabama State Bar. On June 28, 2013, Dr. Chapman and ENT Associates filed a motion to strike the complaint and a motion to dismiss. On July 10, 2013, MSC also filed a motion to dismiss. The defendants argued that the complaint was signed and filed by an out-of-state attorney who had not been admitted to appear pro hac vice as an attorney in Alabama and that, under Rule VII, the complaint was a nullity and due to be stricken. Furthermore, they argued that because the two-year statute of limitations that applied to Hoke's medical-malpractice action had expired, the case should have been dismissed in its entirety with prejudice. The circuit court denied defendants' motions. Finding that Hoke's complaint was not "commenced" for statute-of-limitations purposes before the applicable statute of limitations expired, the Supreme Court found that the underlying action here was time-barred. The circuit court's judgment denying defendants' motions for summary judgment was reversed, and this case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Baptist Ventures, Inc. v. Hoke" on Justia Law
Cottles v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.
Before the incident that precipitated this lawsuit, Jeff Cottles had worked as a track switchman for Norfolk Southern Railway Company for seven years. The process of "throwing" a switch involves pulling the handle up, moving it in an arc from right to left, stopping in the upright position, and then continuing to move the handle down and to the left. Cottles testified that the track 4 switch was harder to throw than the other switches in the Daikin plant. One early morning during his shift, Cottles attempted to throw the track 4 switch again. This time when he pushed the handle down the switch suddenly froze about one foot from the ground, and, according to Cottles, he felt pain in his back and neck. Within a week of the incident, Cottles's pain from his injuries had become so severe that he was unable to continue his job. He was diagnosed with bulging disks in his neck and a pinched nerve in his back. Cottles has not been able to return to work since rotator cuff surgery. It was undisputed that Daikin, not Norfolk Southern, owned the tracks and switches inside its plant. Regardless of who was notified, Daikin itself was required to address the issue and then to notify Norfolk Southern that the problem had been fixed. After Norfolk Southern received word from Daikin that maintenance had been performed, a Norfolk Southern track inspector would inspect the switch to confirm that the repairs had been completed. Cottles filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) action against Norfolk Southern alleging that Norfolk Southern "failed to provide [Cottles] with a reasonably safe place to work" and that, as a result, Cottles sustained permanent damage to his neck and his back. In addition to his claims of negligence, Cottles asserted that Norfolk Southern was strictly liable under the Federal Safety Appliance Act ("FSAA") and/or "applicable FRA standards." Norfolk Southern moved for summary judgment, contending that Cottles' own testimony that he had thrown the track 4 switch three to six times earlier during his shift "without incident" and the fact that his own visual inspection before each throw had not revealed any defects in the switch demonstrated that Norfolk Southern had no notice that the track 4 switch was defective. At the hearing on Norfolk Southern's motion for a summary judgment, Cottles's counsel conceded that Cottles' strict liability claim under the FSAA should have been dismissed. The trial court later entered summary judgment in favor of Norfolk Southern on the FELA claims too. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that Cottles presented substantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Norfolk Southern negligently failed to provide him with a reasonably safe workplace. Accordingly, the Court reversed summary judgment in favor of Norfolk Southern, and remanded the action to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Cottles v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co." on Justia Law
Ex parte Lincare Inc.
Lincare Inc. and one of its employees, Angela Stewart, petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its denial of their motion to dismiss certain tort claims asserted against them in the complaint filed by former Lincare employee Sandra Martin and to enter an order dismissing those claims and, as to any claims not subject to dismissal, to vacate its denial of their motion to strike Martin's jury demand as to those claims and to enter an order granting that motion. Stewart was Martin's supervisor. According to the allegations in Martin's complaint, in 2014, Martin submitted a letter of resignation to Stewart. Martin alleged that she resigned because Stewart had created "a difficult work environment." Martin's action alleged a claim for workers' compensation benefits against Lincare, a claim of assault and battery against Stewart and Lincare, and a tort-of-outrage claim against Stewart and Lincare. After review of Lincare and Stewart's arguments, the Alabama Supreme Court granted their petition with respect to the trial court's failure to dismiss Martin's tort claims because those claims were subsumed under the exclusivity provisions of the Workers' Compensation Act. The petition was denied with respect to the motion to dismiss Martin's tort-of-outrage claim against Stewart, and with respect to the trial court's failure to strike Martin's jury demand regarding her claims against Stewart. View "Ex parte Lincare Inc." on Justia Law
Hosford v. BRK Brands, Inc.
Consolidated appeals arose from the death of four-year-old Nevaeh Johnson in a fire that destroyed her family's mobile home in May 2011. Following Nevaeh's death, Nevaeh's mother, Latosha Hosford; Latosha's husband, Chad Barley ("Barley"); and Nevaeh's grandmother, Rhonda Hosford ("Hosford"), sued multiple parties, of note, BRK Brands, Inc. ("BRK"), the manufacturer of two smoke alarms in the mobile home at the time of the fire. The plaintiffs alleged that BRK was responsible for Nevaeh's death inasmuch as a BRK-manufactured ionization smoke alarm allegedly did not respond to smoke caused by the fire and sound an alarm in time to allow Nevaeh to escape. In appeal no. 1140899, Latosha appealed the judgment as a matter of law entered on her failure-to-warn, negligence, and wantonness claims, as well as a judgment entered on the jury's verdict following the trial of her products-liability claim brought under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("AEMLD"). In appeal no. 1140901, Latosha and Hosford, as co-administratrixes of Nevaeh's estate, appealed the judgment as a matter of law entered on their breach-of-warranty claim seeking compensatory damages on behalf of Nevaeh for pain and mental anguish she allegedly suffered before her death. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that with respect to Latosha's AEMLD claim, she did not submit evidence identifying a safer, practical, alternative design that BRK could have used for the ionization smoke alarms purchased by Barley for use in the mobile home; accordingly, BRK was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law on that claim. Inasmuch as Latosha and Hosford conceded that the Supreme Court need not consider any of the other judgments entered by the trial court if the judgment entered on the AEMLD claim was affirmed, the Court affirmed those other judgments. View "Hosford v. BRK Brands, Inc." on Justia Law
Elkins v. Carroll
Jason Elkins and his wife Paula appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Stanley Maguire, Gabriel Collins, and Jeff Carroll. TDY Industries, LLC ("TDY"), hired Jason as a screener operator in 1998. Jason Elkins operated various pieces of machinery in the course of his employment, including a "manipulator." While he was operating the manipulator to dump powder from a drum, the manipulator rose and hit him under the chin and then descended and hit him in the head. Jason filed a workers' compensation action against TDY seeking benefits for his work-related injury. He later amended his complaint to add Paula as a plaintiff and to sue his co-workers Maguire, Collins and Carroll based upon the theory that the co-employees removed a safety device and that the removal of that safety device proximately caused Jason's injury. The trial court granted TDY's motion to dismiss counts two through five of the Elkinses' complaint as amended as to TDY. On that same day, the trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the co-employees as to count two of the Elkinses' amended complaint. The trial court certified the judgment as to count two as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P. After the trial court entered its Rule 54(b) order, and the Elkinses appealed the summary judgment in favor of the co-employees. The Alabama Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court: (1) for the trial court to make an interlocutory order of December 28, 2015, a final judgment as to the co-employees relative to counts three, four, and five pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P.; (2) for the trial court to adjudicate the remaining claims against all parties, thus making the interlocutory order of December 28, 2015, final and appealable; or (3) for the trial court to take no action, in which event the appeal would be dismissed as being from a nonfinal judgment. View "Elkins v. Carroll" on Justia Law
Ex parte Town of Mosses.
The Town of Mosses and its chief of police Jimmy Harris, separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor on certain claims asserted against them by Geraldine Grant Bryson. The Court consolidated their petitions for the purpose of writing one opinion. At the time of the events giving rise to this action, Bryson operated an entertainment venue known as "The Spot." Bryson described "The Spot" as a "community center for all activities." Bryson requested that the Town grant her a liquor license, but the Town's council denied her request. In 2010, Bryson rented "The Spot" to a deejay, who planned to host a "beer bash" on its premises. Approximately 200 people turned out for the event even though the entertainment portion of the event was ultimately canceled by the deejay. Although Bryson, who was at "The Spot" on the night of the event, testified that she did not see anyone consuming alcoholic beverages at the event, she acknowledged that the deejay hosting the event had brought alcohol that he planned to "give ... away [to] the community for showing support for the center." The mayor saw one of the deejay's flyers promoting the event. The mayor, in turn, notified Harris. Harris saw one of the flyers, organized a task force of officers from multiple law-enforcement agencies, and entered "The Spot," observing alcohol being consumed. Bryson was ultimately arrested for selling alcohol without a license. The charges against Bryson were later dismissed because the Town was unable to produce a witness who could testify to paying an admission to "The Spot" and drinking alcohol on the premises. Bryson sued the Town and Harris asserting claims of malicious prosecution, false arrest, false imprisonment, harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel, and slander. When the trial court denied the Town and Harris' motions to dismiss, they sought mandamus relief. The Alabama Supreme Court directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Harris's summary-judgment motion as to the false-arrest, false-imprisonment, and malicious-prosecution claims and to enter a summary-judgment for Harris on those grounds. To the extent Harris sought mandamus review of intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment, libel, and slander, the petition was denied. The trial court was further directed to vacate its order denying the Town's summary-judgment motion and to enter a summary judgment for the Town as to each claim asserted against it. View "Ex parte Town of Mosses." on Justia Law
Hinrichs v. General Motors of Canada, Ltd.
Plaintiff Florian Hinrichs was riding in the front passenger seat of a 2004 GMC Sierra 1500 pickup truck that was owned and operated by his friend Daniel Vinson when they were involved in a motor-vehicle accident. Kenneth Smith was driving under the influence of alcohol and ran a stop sign, colliding with the passenger-side door of the Sierra. The Sierra rolled over twice, but landed on its wheels. Hinrichs suffered a spinal cord injury in the accident that left him a quadriplegic. The accident occurred in Geneva County. Hinrichs alleged that his injuries were caused by the defective design of the roof of the Sierra that allowed the roof over the passenger compartment to collapse during the rollover and by the defective design of the seat belt in the Sierra, which failed to restrain him. At the time of the accident, Hinrichs, a German citizen, was a member of the German military; he had been assigned to Fort Rucker for flight training. He and Vinson were in the same training program. Vinson had purchased the Sierra at Hill Buick, Inc., d/b/a O'Reilly Pontiac-Buick-GMC and/or Hill Pontiac-Buick-GMC in Pennsylvania in 2003. He drove it to Alabama in 2006 when he was assigned to Fort Rucker. General Motors Corporation, known as Motors Liquidation Company after July 9, 2009 ("GM"), designed the Sierra. GM Canada, whose principal place of business was in Ontario, Canada, manufactured certain parts of the Sierra, assembled the vehicle, and sold it to GM in Canada, where title transferred. GM then distributed the Sierra for sale in the United States through a GM dealer. The Sierra ultimately was delivered to the O'Reilly dealership for sale. Finding that the trial court properly concluded it lacked general nor specific jurisdiction over GM Canada, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of GM Canada from this case. View "Hinrichs v. General Motors of Canada, Ltd." on Justia Law