Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Gloria Austill and Mary Ella Etheridge appealed a circuit court order granting summary judgment in favor of Dr. John Krolikowski, a senior medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences ("the ADFS"). They challenged the order insofar as it denied their motion to compel certain discovery. The Baldwin County District Attorney's Office authorized the ADFS to perform an autopsy on the decedent based on potential civil and/or criminal litigation against the nursing home where the decedent resided before his death. Dr. Krolikowski conducted the autopsy on the decedent, at which time the brain was saved and "fixed" in formalin. Following the autopsy, the decedent's body was transported to Radney Funeral Home in Mobile. While the decedent's body was at the funeral home, Mary Ella and Gloria ("plaintiffs") requested that the decedent's brain be referred to the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham ("UAB") for a neuropathological examination. Plaintiffs then learned that the brain had not been returned to the body; it had been retained by Dr. Krolikowski. Plaintiffs then sued Dr. Krolikowski, individually, as well as other fictitiously named parties, alleging that, following the autopsy, Dr. Krolikowski, without any compelling or legitimate reason, "harvested the decedent's entire brain without the family's permission and preserved it in his office for his own use." Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages based on claims of negligence and/or wantonness, trespass, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of implied contract, and the tort of outrage. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded plaintiffs failed to demonstrate, by way of their Rule 56(f) motion and affidavit in support thereof, that the discovery they requested was crucial to the issue of State-agent immunity, the trial court properly denied their motion to compel. Additionally, because plaintiffs did not challenge the merits of the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Dr. Krolikowski, the summary judgment was affirmed. View "Austill v. Krolikowski" on Justia Law

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Defendant Cheryl Price and Greg Lovelace petitioned for mandamus relief. Price was formerly the warden at Donaldson Correctional Facility ("the prison"), which was operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections ("the DOC"). Lovelace was a deputy commissioner of the DOC in charge of construction and maintenance. Plaintiff Marcus Parrish was a correctional officer employed by the DOC. Parrish was supervising inmate showers in a segregation unit in the prison. Parrish left the shower area briefly to retrieve shaving trimmers, and, when he returned, inmate Rashad Byers had already entered a shower cell, which had an exterior lock on it. Byers indicated that he was finished with his shower, and Parrish told him to turn around to be handcuffed, then approached Byers's shower door with the key to the lock on the door in his hand. Byers unexpectedly opened the door, exited the shower cell, and attacked Parrish. During the attack, Byers took Parrish's baton from him and began striking Parrish with it. Parrish was knocked unconscious, and he sustained injuries to his head. Parrish sued Price and Lovelace in their official capacities. Parrish later filed an amended complaint naming Price and Lovelace as defendants in their individual capacities only (thus, it appears that Price and Lovelace were sued only in their individual capacities). Parrish alleged that Price and Lovelace willfully breached their duties by failing to monitor the prison for unsafe conditions and by failing to repair or replace the allegedly defective locks. Price and Lovelace moved for a summary judgment, asserting, among other things, that they are entitled to State-agent immunity. The trial court denied the summary-judgment motion, concluding, without elaboration, that genuine issues of material fact existed to preclude a summary judgment. Price and Lovelace then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that they were immune from liability. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded Price and Lovelace established they were entitled to State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Court directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in their favor. View "Ex parte Cheryl Price & Greg Lovelace." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Shaundalyn Elliott, a resident of Montgomery County, was injured in an automobile accident in the City of Hayneville in Lowndes County. On February 23, 2017, Elliott filed this lawsuit at the Lowndes Circuit Court against her automobile insurer, Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate"), seeking uninsured-motorist benefits related to the accident. Elliot alleged that the accident was caused by a "phantom driver," whose location was unknown. Allstate filed a motion to transfer the action from the Lowndes Circuit Court to the Montgomery Circuit Court. Elliott petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring this case to the Montgomery Circuit Court. In this case, the Supreme Court found that Lowndes County and Montgomery County had connections to this action. The accident, injuries, and police investigation occurred in Lowndes County. On the other hand, Elliott resided in Montgomery County, where she sought treatment for her injuries resulting from the accident and where the parties' contractual dealings arose. Under the specific facts of this case, Lowndes County's connection to the accident was not "little" or "weak," and Montgomery County did not have a significantly stronger connection to the case to justify a transfer of this case under the interest-of-justice prong of § 6-3-21.1. Therefore, the Court held the trial court erred in transferring this action to the Montgomery Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Shaundalyn N. Elliott." on Justia Law

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Tombigbee Healthcare Authority d/b/a Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital ("the hospital") petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Marengo Circuit Court to vacate its order compelling the hospital to respond to certain discovery requests and to enter a protective discovery order in its favor. T.N., A.V., O.J., and I.P. (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") brought this action against the hospital, and its radiological technician, Leland Bert Taylor, Jr., who they allege sexually assaulted them while they were patients of the hospital. Along with their complaint, the plaintiffs served the hospital with written discovery requests seeking, among other things, information concerning "other incidents" involving Taylor; its investigation into their allegations of sexual assault by Taylor; and its hiring, training, supervision, and retention of Taylor and the termination of his employment. The hospital objected to the plaintiffs' requests, contending that the requests were protected by certain discovery privileges. The plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery; after a hearing, the trial court granted the motion and denied a request for a protective order. The Alabama Supreme Court denied relief. The hospital failed to demonstrate that the quality-assurance privilege applied to claims arising out of allegations of sexual acts that are wholly unrelated to medical treatment or that investigations related to allegations of sexual assault are undertaken to improve the quality of patient care. "Given the discretion afforded the trial court with respect to discovery matters, we conclude that the hospital has failed to meet its burden of proving the existence of the privilege afforded by 22-21-8 and the prejudicial effect of disclosing the information the plaintiffs seek." View "Ex parte Tombigbee Healthcare Authority d/b/a Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lisa Wilson appealed dismissal of her complaint seeking damages against defendants, University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C. ("UAHSF"); Carla Falkson, M.D.; Tina Wood, M.D.; Ravi Kumar Paluri, M.D.; and Mollie DeShazo, M.D., based on the tort of outrage. Wilson's complaint alleged that, in late 2011, her elderly mother, Elizabeth Monk Wilson ("Elizabeth"), was diagnosed with and underwent treatment for colon cancer. According to Wilson, before the onset of Elizabeth's illness, Elizabeth had executed an advanced health-care directive that "instruct[ed] ... caregivers to use all available means to preserve [Elizabeth's] life" and further named Wilson as Elizabeth's health-care proxy "in the event [Elizabeth] became 'too sick to speak for' herself." Elizabeth subsequently suffered a recurrence of her cancer. In August 2015, she was admitted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, a facility operated by UAHSF. In her complaint, Wilson alleged that, while Elizabeth was in the hospital, she was treated by the doctors. She further alleged that the doctors made numerous and repeated tactless comments to Elizabeth and Wilson about Elizabeth's condition and her impending death, and to the effect that she was wasting resources by being in the hospital instead of dying at home. Wilson's complaint alleged a single claim for damages "for the tort of outrage, and for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress" and sought compensatory and punitive damages. Wilson sought to hold UAHSF vicariously liable for the alleged conduct of the doctors, which conduct, she alleged, occurred within the line and scope of the doctors' employment with UAHSF. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court's holding that the tort of outrage "is limited to three situations" was an incorrect statement of law: the tort can be viable outside the context of the above-identified circumstances and has previously been held to be so viable. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings where the trial court should, under the standard appropriate for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), determine whether the alleged conduct was "so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society." View "Wilson v. University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C." on Justia Law

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Mitchell's Contracting Service, LLC ("Mitchell"), appealed a circuit court’s denial of Mitchell's renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial in a wrongful-death action brought by Robert Guy Gleason, Sr., as the administrator of the estate of Lorena Gleason, deceased. Two of Mitchell’s employees were driving dump trucks when one of the trucks caused Lorena’s vehicle to leave the road, where it collided with a tree, resulting in her death. Gleason asserted claims against Mitchell based on vicarious liability for Pettway's or Turner's negligent and wanton acts and omissions. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Gleason for $2.5 million. Based on all the circumstances, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion in refusing Mitchell's request for a continuance. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Mitchell's Contracting Service, LLC v. Gleason" on Justia Law

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Petitioners-defendants Angela McClintock, Stephanie Streeter, and Christa Devaughn, all of whom were employees of the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources ("JCDHR"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus requesting that the Alabama Supreme Court direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Charges arose from the death of K.W., a newborn who was removed from her home following domestic abuse allegations at the home of T.H., K.W.’s mother. At the time of K.W.'s death, McClintock was the director of JCDHR; Streeter was an assistant director of child welfare for JCDHR; and Devaughn was a child-abuse and neglect investigative worker for JCDHR. In June 2011, T.H. was charged with third-degree domestic violence when S.W., T.H.'s mother, filed charges against her for striking a sibling in the face. K.W. was born in December 2011. While T.H. was still in the hospital, T.H.'s grandmother reported to JCDHR that she had concerns that T.H. would not be able to care for her new baby, that T.H. had left her father's home, and that T.H. had a history of running away. After conducting an investigation, JCDHR allowed T.H. to be discharged from the hospital to the home of K.M., T.H.'s second cousin. K.H., T.H.'s father, filed a dependency complaint, seeking custody of K.W. In January 2012, Devaughn filed a dependency complaint as to T.H. and a request for a pickup order for K.W. K.W. was picked up and placed in the foster home of Dennis Gilmer on that same date. K.W. died on February 24, 2012, while in foster care. K.H. and T.H. filed a complaint against the petitioners, Brandon Hardin, Dennis Gilmer, and JCDHR, stating claims of wrongful death of a minor, negligence, wantonness, and negligent/wanton training and supervision. The Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted their petition for mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Angela McClintock et al." on Justia Law

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Leigh Shelton, as the personal representative of the estate of Margaret Blansit, deceased, appealed a judgment in favor of I.E. Green in a personal-injury action brought by Shelton seeking damages for injuries Blansit allegedly suffered in a slip-and-fall accident at Green's residence. Before Shelton filed her complaint, Blansit died of causes unrelated to the fall. Green filed a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Blansit's cause of action abated upon her death. The trial court agreed and granted Green's motion. Shelton appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Shelton v. Green" on Justia Law

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Timothy Thomas appealed from judgments entered in favor of Randell Heard and Donna Heard and in favor of Laura Wells, as guardian ad litem and next friend of M.A., a minor. The Heards and Wells had separately sued Thomas alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking to recover damages for injuries the Heards and M.A. had suffered as the result of an automobile accident. Thomas argued that the jury's punitive-damages awards were excessive. The trial court denied Thomas's request for a remittitur without explaining its reasoning for doing so. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgments as to the compensatory-damages awards but remanded the cases with instructions for the trial court to enter orders in compliance with Alabama law. The trial court reaffirmed the punitive-damages awards on remand. The only issue before the Supreme Court in this appeal was whether the punitive-damages awards were, as Thomas contended, excessive. The Court concluded that they were not. View "Thomas v. Heard" on Justia Law

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Douglas Ghee, as personal representative of the estate of Billy Fleming, deceased, appealed a circuit court order dismissing his wrongful-death claim against USAble Mutual Insurance Company d/b/a Blue Advantage Administrators of Arkansas ("Blue Advantage"). The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal as being from a nonfinal order. View "Ghee v. USAble Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law