Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a Walker Baptist Medical Center ("WBMC"), appealed a circuit court's denial of its postjudgment motion seeking relief from the judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Armando Cantu ("Armando"), as father and next friend of Daniel Jose Cantu ("Daniel"), a minor, on Armando's medical-malpractice claim. In 2009, Armando and his wife, Eulalia, took then three-month-old Daniel to WBMC's emergency room for treatment following symptoms including decreased appetite, coughing, and a fever that had lingered for several days. At that time, Daniel was diagnosed by the attending emergency-room physician as suffering from a viral illness (specifically, an upper-respiratory infection) and was discharged with instructions to continue fluids and to seek further treatment if the symptoms continued. Thereafter, Daniel's condition allegedly further deteriorated into vomiting, suspected dehydration, decreased activity, and "irritab[ility] whenever his neck was touched." Daniel received a second-opinion from his pediatrician, who performed a "spinal tap," revealing Daniel had bacterial meningitis. Daniel was taken to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, where he was treated with antibiotics, and released with a "discharge diagnosis" of: "meningococcal meningitis, hydrocephalus status post ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement, seizure disorder, blindness, and deafness as a result of bacterial meningitis." In October 2011, Armando sued both WBMC and Dr. James Wilbanks (the attending physician at Daniel's first trip to the Emergency Room), alleging a single count pursuant to Alabama's Medical Liability Act. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict finding that Dr. Wilbanks's actions did not meet the applicable standard of care, found WBMC liable for the conduct of Dr. Wilbanks, and awarded Armando $10,000,000 in damages. WBMC filed a postjudgment motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. Among the other claims included in that motion, WBMC specifically asserted that it was entitled to a new trial based on the trial court's admission, over WBMC's objections, of evidence of prior medical-malpractice lawsuits filed against WBMC. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the facts related to the jury regarding prior acts and omissions by WBMC were entirely irrelevant for the purpose of curative admissibility, were highly prejudicial to WBMC, and warranted reversal of the judgment against WBMC. The judgment of the trial court was, therefore, reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Baptist Health System, Inc. v. Cantu" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Andre Barnwell appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of CLP Corporation ("CLP"), the defendant below. In a previous review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed a summary judgment entered in favor of CLP and remanded the case. Barnwell sued CLP, alleging that he was injured when he slipped and fell in the restaurant. CLP moved for a summary judgment, arguing that the alleged fall was caused by an open and obvious danger and that part of Barnwell's testimony about the alleged fall was unreliable and should not be considered. CLP also filed a motion to strike Barnwell's affidavit and part of his earlier deposition. In that motion, CLP argued that Barnwell's affidavit testimony conflicted with his deposition testimony. CLP also argued that part of Barnwell's deposition testimony regarding the accident is contradicted by photographs showing the interior of the restaurant. In August 2016, the circuit court entered an order granting CLP's motion for a summary judgment, without stating a reason. The circuit court did not enter an order indicating a ruling on CLP's motion to strike. In this case, the Supreme Court found no reason to reopen its discussion regarding the admissibility of Barnwell's affidavit and full deposition. The evidence subject to review in the second appeal was the same as that in the first appeal. The Court noted that, although most of CLP's arguments in this appeal were made in the first appeal, CLP briefly presented new arguments questioning the reliability of Barnwell's testimony. However, those arguments could have been raised in the first appeal but were not, and the Court thus declined to further address them here. The Court again reversed and remanded. View "Andre Barnwell v. CLP Corporation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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This wrongful-death action was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of "all defendants," which included the entity that operates Bullock County Hospital, ERMDS, LLC, and the estate of Dr. Ireneo Domingo, Jr. The trial court entered a judgment on that verdict. James Ansley ("James") presented to the emergency room of Bullock County Hospital ("BCH"), complaining of chest pain he had been experiencing for one or two days. James's condition deteriorated, and, at approximately 4:30 p.m., the decision was made to transfer James to a different hospital, Baptist Medical Center South ("Baptist South"). James later died at Baptist South of pulmonary emboli (blood clots that had traveled to his lungs). Plaintiff Alisa Ansley, administrator of James’ estate, filed a postjudgment motion for a new trial. In her brief, Ansley suggested that she was entitled to relief because, she says, Dr. Domingo breached the standard of care in failing to transfer James to Baptist South immediately upon creating a differential diagnosis, which identified pulmonary embolism as a possible cause of his symptoms. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Ansley did not demonstrate the trial court exceeded its discretion in denying her motion for a new trial. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Ansley v. Inmed Group, Inc. d/b/a Bullock County Hospital, et al." on Justia Law

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Homer Watson, as personal representative of the estate of Mary Fejeran, deceased, appealed the grant of summary judgment in a wrongful death action in favor of defendants the University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C., and Graham C. Towns, M.D. The defendants filed a motion for a summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56, Ala. R. Civ. P., on the basis that Watson lacked the representative capacity to bring the wrongful-death action. In support of their summary judgment motion, the defendants attached a copy of a March 24, 2014, final-settlement order indicating that Watson had been discharged as the personal representative of Fejeran's estate. Watson moved the probate court to clarify its March 24, 2014, order or, alternatively, to correct a clerical error in the order pursuant to Rule 60(a), Ala. R. Civ. P. Watson specifically alleged in his motion to clarify and/or to correct that his petition for final settlement sought relief only for liability arising from estate-administration activities and that the petition did not seek closure of the estate or termination of his letters of administration. On the same day, the probate court entered an order, dated March 23, 2017, purporting to clarify and/or to correct its March 24, 2014, order. Based on review of the probate court’s “clarification,” the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Watson was legally discharged as personal representative of Fejeran's estate, lacked the representative capacity to bring the wrongful-death action, therefore the action was therefore a nullity. Accordingly, the summary judgment in favor of the defendants was affirmed. View "Watson v. University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C." on Justia Law

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Larry Curry appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit against Gable Miller, Jr., and Auto Owners Insurance Company ("Auto Owners") on the ground of failure to prosecute. In 2014, Curry was injured when the vehicle in which he was driving was struck from the rear by a vehicle being driven by Miller. Curry retained attorney Russell Johnson to represent him in the matter. Johnson, on Curry's behalf, filed a personal-injury action against Miller. Johnson’s claim against Auto Owners sought uninsured/underinsured-motorist benefits. In 2017, the trial court set the case for a bench trial. At some point Curry's relationship with Johnson began to deteriorate, and Curry terminated Johnson's employment. On April 3, 2017, the trial court granted Johnson's motion to withdraw. On the same day, Johnson filed with the trial court a lien for attorney fees and expenses. Johnson stated in the lien that, during his representation of Curry, Miller had made an offer to settle Curry's claims for $17,000; that Curry had accepted the offer to settle but had refused to sign the necessary releases; and that Johnson had filed the personal-injury action on Curry's behalf to prevent Curry's claims from being barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court entered an order stating that the status conference had been held on April 11, 2017; that defense counsel had attended the conference; that Curry failed to appear at the conference; and that Curry was to notify the court within 30 days of his intention either to proceed pro se or to retain counsel. The order further stated that failure to comply with the order could result in sanctions, including dismissal of the lawsuit. On the same day, the trial court rescheduled the bench trial. On May 19, 2017, Miller and Auto Owners moved to dismiss Curry's claims for failure to prosecute, asserting that Curry had not attended the April 11, 2017, status conference and had not complied with the trial court's subsequent orders. The trial court deferred ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss for one week to give Curry ample opportunity to respond. Curry failed to respond, and the trial court entered an order dismissing, with prejudice, Curry's lawsuit against the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed this outcome, finding Curry simply offered the trial court no plausible explanation as to why, out of all the documents mailed to him at his address, he would have received only one of those documents: defense counsel's motion to dismiss the action for want of prosecution. The trial court had before it sufficient evidence to reject Curry's assertion that he did know that a lawsuit had been filed on his behalf. Accordingly, the trial court did not exceed its discretion in concluding that Curry's failure to prosecute his lawsuit was "willful" for purposes of Rule a 41(b) involuntary dismissal. View "Curry v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Larry Curry appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit against Gable Miller, Jr., and Auto Owners Insurance Company ("Auto Owners") on the ground of failure to prosecute. In 2014, Curry was injured when the vehicle in which he was driving was struck from the rear by a vehicle being driven by Miller. Curry retained attorney Russell Johnson to represent him in the matter. Johnson, on Curry's behalf, filed a personal-injury action against Miller. Johnson’s claim against Auto Owners sought uninsured/underinsured-motorist benefits. In 2017, the trial court set the case for a bench trial. At some point Curry's relationship with Johnson began to deteriorate, and Curry terminated Johnson's employment. On April 3, 2017, the trial court granted Johnson's motion to withdraw. On the same day, Johnson filed with the trial court a lien for attorney fees and expenses. Johnson stated in the lien that, during his representation of Curry, Miller had made an offer to settle Curry's claims for $17,000; that Curry had accepted the offer to settle but had refused to sign the necessary releases; and that Johnson had filed the personal-injury action on Curry's behalf to prevent Curry's claims from being barred by the statute of limitations. The trial court entered an order stating that the status conference had been held on April 11, 2017; that defense counsel had attended the conference; that Curry failed to appear at the conference; and that Curry was to notify the court within 30 days of his intention either to proceed pro se or to retain counsel. The order further stated that failure to comply with the order could result in sanctions, including dismissal of the lawsuit. On the same day, the trial court rescheduled the bench trial. On May 19, 2017, Miller and Auto Owners moved to dismiss Curry's claims for failure to prosecute, asserting that Curry had not attended the April 11, 2017, status conference and had not complied with the trial court's subsequent orders. The trial court deferred ruling on the defendants' motion to dismiss for one week to give Curry ample opportunity to respond. Curry failed to respond, and the trial court entered an order dismissing, with prejudice, Curry's lawsuit against the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed this outcome, finding Curry simply offered the trial court no plausible explanation as to why, out of all the documents mailed to him at his address, he would have received only one of those documents: defense counsel's motion to dismiss the action for want of prosecution. The trial court had before it sufficient evidence to reject Curry's assertion that he did know that a lawsuit had been filed on his behalf. Accordingly, the trial court did not exceed its discretion in concluding that Curry's failure to prosecute his lawsuit was "willful" for purposes of Rule a 41(b) involuntary dismissal. View "Curry v. Miller" on Justia Law

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Industrial Warehouse Services, Inc. ("IWS"), petitioned for writs of mandamus to direct the circuit court to vacate its order denying IWS's motion for a protective order concerning certain discovery requested by Chapman Wilson, as administrator of the estate of Janie Holt Wilson ("Wilson"), and by Olivia Taylor, as administrator of the estate of Willie James Taylor, Jr. ("Taylor"), and to enter a protective order pursuant to Rule 26(c), Ala. R. Civ. P. In 2017, a truck driven by an employee of IWS, collided with a vehicle driven by Willie James Taylor, Jr. ("Willie"); Janie Wilson ("Janie") was a passenger in the vehicle. Willie and Janie died from injuries incurred as a result of the accident. The circuit court consolidated the resulting lawsuits. Wilson and Taylor requested that IWS respond to several interrogatories and produce numerous documents. Before responding to the discovery requests, IWS notified Wilson and Taylor that they had requested "materials from IWS ... that are proprietary to IWS and contain confidential information and/or trade secrets" and requested that the parties develop an agreed-upon protective order. The parties then engaged in negotiations over the language of the proposed protective order. IWS did not object to producing any of the requested discovery but sought to limit the use of the discovered information to the litigation of these consolidated cases. Wilson's and Taylor's trial attorneys sought to use the discovery for purposes beyond the instant litigation. The Alabama Supreme Court determined IWS was entitled to partial mandamus relief: a movant's failure to present evidence in support of the motion for a protective order is not, in and of itself, a reason to deny such a motion. Wilson and Taylor's argument that IWS was required to present evidence proving that the requested discovery contained information that was a trade secret or confidential was not convincing to the Court. The circuit court was instructed to vacate that portion of its order denying IWS's motion for a protective order regarding the information contained in IWS's bills of lading and to enter an order pursuant to Rule 26(c)(7) concerning that information, and as to that portion of the order its petitions are granted. However, IWS did not demonstrate a clear legal right to mandamus relief with respect to that portion of the circuit court order concerning the information contained in operations and safety manuals. View "Ex parte Industrial Warehouse Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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Industrial Warehouse Services, Inc. ("IWS"), petitioned for writs of mandamus to direct the circuit court to vacate its order denying IWS's motion for a protective order concerning certain discovery requested by Chapman Wilson, as administrator of the estate of Janie Holt Wilson ("Wilson"), and by Olivia Taylor, as administrator of the estate of Willie James Taylor, Jr. ("Taylor"), and to enter a protective order pursuant to Rule 26(c), Ala. R. Civ. P. In 2017, a truck driven by an employee of IWS, collided with a vehicle driven by Willie James Taylor, Jr. ("Willie"); Janie Wilson ("Janie") was a passenger in the vehicle. Willie and Janie died from injuries incurred as a result of the accident. The circuit court consolidated the resulting lawsuits. Wilson and Taylor requested that IWS respond to several interrogatories and produce numerous documents. Before responding to the discovery requests, IWS notified Wilson and Taylor that they had requested "materials from IWS ... that are proprietary to IWS and contain confidential information and/or trade secrets" and requested that the parties develop an agreed-upon protective order. The parties then engaged in negotiations over the language of the proposed protective order. IWS did not object to producing any of the requested discovery but sought to limit the use of the discovered information to the litigation of these consolidated cases. Wilson's and Taylor's trial attorneys sought to use the discovery for purposes beyond the instant litigation. The Alabama Supreme Court determined IWS was entitled to partial mandamus relief: a movant's failure to present evidence in support of the motion for a protective order is not, in and of itself, a reason to deny such a motion. Wilson and Taylor's argument that IWS was required to present evidence proving that the requested discovery contained information that was a trade secret or confidential was not convincing to the Court. The circuit court was instructed to vacate that portion of its order denying IWS's motion for a protective order regarding the information contained in IWS's bills of lading and to enter an order pursuant to Rule 26(c)(7) concerning that information, and as to that portion of the order its petitions are granted. However, IWS did not demonstrate a clear legal right to mandamus relief with respect to that portion of the circuit court order concerning the information contained in operations and safety manuals. View "Ex parte Industrial Warehouse Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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The City of Muscle Shoals ("the City") petitioned for a writ of mandamus directing the Colbert Circuit Court to vacate its denial of the City's motion for a summary judgment as to claims asserted against it by Reginald Harden stemming from injuries Harden sustained from falling through a grate at Gattman Park, a City-owned park. Because Harden failed to present substantial evidence in response to the City's properly supported motion for a summary judgment - evidence indicating that one of the two exceptions to municipal immunity detailed in 11-47-190 is implicated in this case- the Alabama Supreme Court felt compelled to conclude that the trial court erred in denying the City's motion. The City was thus entitled to immunity from Harden's action under 11-47-190, and the trial court’s order denying the City's motion for a summary judgment was vacated. View "Ex parte City of Muscle Shoals" on Justia Law

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In this personal-injury action, the DeKalb-Cherokee Counties Gas District ("DC Gas") appealed a circuit court order denying DC Gas's renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law ("JML") or, in the alternative, for a new trial. Plaintiff Timothy Raughton, an employee of the City of Fort Payne, was working at the city landfill. One of his duties on that day was to tell users of the landfill where to dump their refuse. Neal Ridgeway, in his capacity as an employee of DC Gas, drove a dump truck to the landfill. The bed of the dump truck contained bricks and concrete blocks that had been collected from a site on which DC Gas planned to have constructed an office building. While Ridgeway dumped the contents of the truck at the landfill, Raughton stood next to the truck. In an effort to dump the remaining debris, while Ridgeway performed a maneuver, the side wall of the truck bed fell from the truck, striking and injuring Raughton. There was no evidence in this case indicating that the clutch-release maneuver violated any formal safety standards. Raughton sued DC Gas, alleging negligence and wantonness. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of DC Gas on Raughton's wantonness claim, but his negligence claim proceeded to trial. The jury rendered a verdict in favor of Raughton in the amount of $100,000. The trial court entered a judgment on that verdict and denied DC Gas's renewed motion for a JML. DC Gas appealed. After review of the circuit court record, the Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no evidence indicating that the side wall of the dump truck had become detached in the past or that DC Gas's agents knew that it might become detached. Moreover, no evidence was presented clearly showing how the side wall was attached to the truck or showing exactly why and how it had become detached. Thus, there was no evidence presented indicating that an inspection would have revealed that it might become detached and, therefore, that an inspection would have prevented the accident. Accordingly, the Court concluded that DC Gas could not be held liable based on its alleged negligence (failure to properly inspect the truck). Based on the foregoing, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment denying DC Gas's renewed motion for a JML, and rendered judgment in favor of DC Gas. View "DeKalb-Cherokee Counties Gas District v. Raughton" on Justia Law