Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Mobile Infirmary Association v. Fagerstrom
The circuit court entered a judgment on a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff Wayne Fagerstrom, individually and as the administrator of the estate of Sylvia Fagerstrom, deceased. The defendants were Mobile Infirmary Association d/b/a Mobile Infirmary Medical Center ("MIMC") and Gulf Health Hospitals, Inc., d/b/a Thomas Hospital. Defendants argued on appeal that the trial court erred in denying their renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law at the close of all the evidence, in which they asserted that plaintiff failed to offer sufficient evidence demonstrating that the proximate cause of Sylvia's death was sepsis resulting from an infected pressure ulcer allegedly caused by the defendants' breaches of the standard of care. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed with defendants and reversed the trial court's judgment. View "Mobile Infirmary Association v. Fagerstrom" on Justia Law
Perez v. Roman’s Restaurant, L.L.C.
Plaintiff Octavi Perez appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Roman’s Restaurant, LLC, d/b/a Roman’s Night Club, on claims for damages under Alabama’s Dram Shop Act. In July 2019, 18-year-old Edgar Perez had been a patron of the nightclub and was killed when the vehicle he was driving left the roadway and hit a tree. An autopsy indicated Edgar was intoxicated at the time of his death. Plaintiff filed suit against Roman’s alleging it served alcoholic beverages to a minor, and Edgar’s subsequent intoxication precipitated Edgar’s death. Roman’s moved for summary judgment, arguing in relevant part that: (1) Plainitff lacked standing to sue on Edgar’s behalf because Plaintiff was neither Edgar’s parent nor stood in loco parentis; and (2) Plaintiff could not maintain an action under the Dram Shop Act because plaintiff had not been “injured in person, property or means of support.” The court record reflected Plaintiff was Edgar’s uncle, and Edgar contributed to the household expenses in the apartment he shared with Plaintiff and his father, Rigoberto Perez. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in entering summary judgment in Roman’s favor and affirmed. View "Perez v. Roman's Restaurant, L.L.C." on Justia Law
Byrne v. Fisk
Douglas Byrne appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Vera Fisk regarding Byrne's premises-liability negligence claim against Fisk. On December 8, 2018, Byrne was a mail carrier working for the United States Postal Service. That evening, Byrne was responsible for a delivery route different from his usual route. Byrne attempted to deliver mail to Fisk's residence. Although Fisk's home was not on his usual delivery route, Byrne had likely delivered mail there before, including within the preceding year. It was dark outside, and it was raining. Fisk's porch lights were not turned on, but Byrne was wearing a headlamp, which was on at the time. Byrne was also wearing slip-resistant boots, as required by his employer. Byrne crossed the five tiled steps leading to Fisk's tiled front porch, where her mailbox was located, "holding the handrail and being careful." However, Byrne slipped and fell backward down the steps. Byrne suffered three fractures in his right femur and a fracture in his hip socket. He was hospitalized for nine days, underwent multiple weeks of rehabilitation, and returned to work in May 2019. In December 2020, Byrne filed suit against Fisk and fictitiously named parties, alleging there were defects in Fisk's premises about which Fisk knew or should have known and that Fisk should have remedied the defects or should have warned him about or guarded him from the defects. Byrne's complaint asserted a negligence claim and a "wantonness/recklessness" claim. Fisk answered Byrne's complaint, moved for and received a summary judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether a defect or unreasonably dangerous condition existed on Fisk's premises; whether Fisk had knowledge of the alleged defect; whether the alleged defect proximately caused Byrne's injuries; and whether the darkness of Fisk's premises or the rainfall present there constituted open and obvious hazards. View "Byrne v. Fisk" on Justia Law
Sampson v. HeartWise Health Systems Corporation, et al.
Alicia Sampson ("Alicia"), as administratrix of the estate of her deceased husband, Joshua Sampson ("Josh"), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of HeartWise Health Systems Corporation; HeartWise Clinic, LLC (collectively referred to as "HeartWise"); Isaac Health & Prevention Partners, LLC ("Isaac Health"); William Nixon, M.D.; and Jeffrey Saylor, M.D., in a wrongful-death action. At its HeartWise clinic, Isaac Health administered a battery of up to 31 physical tests that were intended "to assist in the detection of early evidence of vascular and cardiac abnormalities." In 2015, 29-year-old Josh visited the Isaac Health clinic. Months earlier, Josh's father died at age of 56 from "right ventricular dysplasia," which was a "congenital heart defect." Lowell's death led the Sampson family to seek heart evaluations to determine whether they had inherited the heart defect. Josh underwent the full battery of testing provided at the Isaac Health clinic; Josh's data from the left ventricular echocardiogram was within the "normal" range. Josh's mother, who also received the testing, stated that the nurse practitioner did not tell Josh in any way that he "needed to have any further diagnostic work-up or testing relative to his heart." On October 5, 2015, Josh collapsed at home while working on a construction project. He was taken to the Emergency Room, but died that day. The Sampson family procured a private autopsy; the report concluded that Josh died due to an arrhythmia secondary to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition. Alicia thereafter filed suit against the clinic, HearWise and the doctors, alleging fraud and negligence. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed summary judgment entered in favor of Isaac Health and Drs. Nixon and Saylor with respect to Alicia's negligence allegations against them because those allegations were never properly presented to the circuit court for adjudication. The Court also reversed summary judgment in favor of HeartWise with respect to Alicia's fraud allegations against HeartWise because Alicia presented substantial evidence of Josh's reasonable reliance upon HeartWise's representations about its program. The Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Isaac Health with respect to Alicia's fraud allegations against Isaac Health because Alicia failed to present substantial evidence that Josh's course of conduct would have changed if he had not seen HeartWise materials in the Isaac Health clinic's waiting room. The Court also affirmed summary judgment in favor of HeartWise with respect to Alicia's negligence allegations against HeartWise for multiple reasons. View "Sampson v. HeartWise Health Systems Corporation, et al." on Justia Law
Gross v. Dailey
Selanmin Gross appealed the grant of a new trial in a case filed by Christopher Dailey against Gross stemming from a motor-vehicle accident. Dailey alleged Gross' negligence and/or wantonness in operating his motor vehicle on August 5, 2019, had resulted in a collision with Dailey's motor vehicle and that Dailey had suffered physical, mental, and emotional injuries as a result of the accident. Dailey's action was consolidated with an action commenced by Ken Houston against Gross that stemmed from the same accident. The trial court dismissed Houston's action following the filing of a joint stipulation of dismissal. Trial proceeded on Dailey's claims. The trial court entered the jury-verdict forms into the record, which showed that the foreperson had signed both verdict forms. The first form simply stated: "We the jury find for the defendant" and had the date filled in by hand above a blank line labeled "Date" and the signature of the foreperson on a second blank line labeled "Foreman." The second verdict form stated: "We the jury find for the plaintiff, Christopher D. Dailey, and assess damages of $0 dollars." That form likewise had the date filled in by hand above a blank line labeled "Date" and the signature of the foreperson on a second blank line labeled "Foreman." Dailey moved for a new trial "Due to Inconsistent Verdict." Gross opposed it, noting that the trial judge announced a verdict for defendant in open court and had polled each juror and that each juror had confirmed the verdict for defendant. He argued that "the verdict was in no way inconsistent: the verdict form for the Plaintiff awarded zero (0) dollars in damages which is perfectly consistent with a verdict for the Defendant." The trial judge granted Dailey's motion. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in concluding the second verdict form awarding zero dollars in damages to Dailey meant that the jury reached an inconsistent verdict. "The cases relied upon by the trial court do not support that conclusion, and the evidence concerning the verdict overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the jury reached a verdict in favor of the defendant, Gross." Accordingly, the trial court's order granting a new trial is reversed, and the trial court was instructed to reinstate the verdict in favor of Gross and to enter a judgment on that verdict. View "Gross v. Dailey" on Justia Law
Luxottica of America, Inc., et al. v. Bruce
Luxottica of America, Inc., Jeremiah Andrews, Jr., and Anthony Pfleger appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Jackie Lee Bruce on Bruce's claims alleging that Andrews and Pfleger, Luxottica employees, defamed him and publicly placed him in a false light by accusing him of shoplifting. Andrews was the manager of the "Sunglass Hut" store at a shopping center in Montgomery. Luxottica owned the store. Andrews was working when Bruce entered the store. Another man, who was known by Andrews to have recently shoplifted from the store, entered the store immediately behind Bruce. Andrews suspected Bruce was acting as the shoplifter's accomplice on this particular occasion. Surveillance video showed Bruce walking back and forth five or six times before walking away from the store. Bruce explained his pacing as simple indecision about whether to visit another store or to instead leave the shopping center. Shortly after Bruce walked away, the shoplifter left the store with sunglasses without paying for them, which Andrews witnessed. Bruce testified that a friend named Orlando had driven Bruce to and from the shopping center and he denied knowing the shoplifter or seeing him steal sunglasses. Andrews reported the incident to Montgomery police and to defendant Pfleger, who was a former police officer and the asset-protection manager for Luxottica responsible for investigating shoplifting. After attempting without success to obtain the assistance of police, Pfleger contacted Central Alabama Crimestoppers, giving the organization photographs of the shoplifter, Bruce, and the shoplifter's other alleged accomplices so that Crimestoppers could make the information public in an attempt to identify the suspects. In addition to photographs, Pfleger provided Crimestoppers with a written synopsis of multiple incidents at the store. After review of the trial court record, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Andrews could not be held liable because, under the McDaniel/Burney rule, he did not publicize any statements about Bruce. And, because Pfleger enjoyed a qualified-privilege defense, he too could not be held liable. The Court surmised the only basis for Luxottica's possible liability was vicarious liability for Andrews's and Pfleger's actions. Because those parties were not liable, neither was Luxottica. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the matter. View "Luxottica of America, Inc., et al. v. Bruce" on Justia Law
Rogers v. Cedar Bluff Volunteer Fire Department, et al.
Carol Rogers, the administratrix of the estate of Susan Bonner, deceased, filed a wrongful-death action against (1) the Cedar Bluff Volunteer Fire Department; (2) the Cherokee County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments, Inc.; and (3) Howard Guice, a former volunteer firefighter and emergency medical technician with the CBVFD. The incident from which this case arose happened in June 2017 when Bonner's car left the roadway and ended up submerged in a creek. Bonner ultimately died of anoxic encephalopathy, and the primary allegations in the suit was that the emergency response was negligently rendered. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Cedar Bluff and the Association. Although the trial court certified its judgment as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that certification was improper, and this appeal was therefore dismissed. View "Rogers v. Cedar Bluff Volunteer Fire Department, et al." on Justia Law
Springhill Hospitals, Inc. v. West
This appeal stemmed from a medical-malpractice wrongful-death action filed by Patricia West ("Mrs. West"), the personal representative of the estate of her husband, John West, Jr. ("Mr. West"), against Springhill Hospitals, Inc., d/b/a Springhill Memorial Hospital ("SMH"). In 2014, then 59-year-old Mr. West accidentally sliced most of the tip of his left thumb off when he was using a table saw in his shop. He went to the emergency room, at which he had surgery to suture the wound from the saw cut. Mr. West was given two pain medications for postsurgical care: Dilaudid, the brand name for hydromorphone, and Percocet, the brand name for the opioid oxycodone. Mr. West was admitted to the hospital following surgery for observation. He was given the prescribed pain medications while in the hospital. The hospital admitted prescribed doses of Dilaudid were administered to Mr. West, but Percoset was not. Mr. West was found unresponsive after the doses of Dilaudid, and no drugs to counteract opioid overdoses were given. Mrs. West's lawsuit alleged negligence against the hospital for failing to assess monitor her husband while in the hospital. A jury returned a verdict against SMH and awarded $35 million in punitive damages. The trial court thereafter entered judgment on the jury's verdict finding SMH liable. After a hearing concerning a remittitur of the punitive-damages award, the trial court reduced the amount of the award to $10 million. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed both the judgment entered on the jury's verdict finding SMH liable and the trial court's order reducing the punitive-damages award. View "Springhill Hospitals, Inc. v. West" on Justia Law
Hughes v. Marley
Willie Hughes, Sr. ("Willie"), and Marjahn Marley were involved in an automobile accident. Approximately six months later, Willie died from enterococcal sepsis. Dottie Hughes ("Hughes"), as the personal representative of Willie's estate, filed a wrongful-death action against Marley, asserting that Marley's negligence and wantonness had caused the accident and the accident had led to Willie's eventual death from sepsis. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Marley, which Hughes appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Hughes failed to establish the existence of a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Marley's conduct proximately caused Willie's sepsis and subsequent death, and affirmed the trial court judgment. View "Hughes v. Marley" on Justia Law
Terrell v. Joshua
Brenda Terrell argued a circuit court erred by denying her motion for new trial following the entry of a judgment on a jury verdict against her and in favor of Alfonza Joshua that awarded Joshua $675,000 in compensatory damages. In 2005, Joshua was run off the road by a sleeping driver; Joshua injured his neck and back. In November 2013, Joshua was rear-ended in which he again sustained injuries "to his neck and low back." On November 2014, Joshua was a passenger in a vehicle that was T-boned by another vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed that ran a red light and hit Joshua's side of the vehicle. Joshua was not wearing a seat belt at that time, and he landed in the driver's lap after hitting his head on the ceiling of the vehicle. Joshua reported sustaining neck and back injuries after the 2014 accident, and he received treatment from a chiropractor and from physical therapists following that accident. In November 2015, Joshua was again hit, this time by a vehicle driven by Terrell. Terrell's vehicle sustained the most damage in the accident, which was caused by the front of her car hitting the trailer hitch on Joshua's truck. Joshua was able to drive away from the accident and to continue using his trailer hitch after the accident. Joshua did not seek medical attention immediately after the 2015, accident. However, a few days later, Joshua complained about having neck pain and back pain to his chiropractor. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred by excluding from trial all evidence of and any references to Joshua's previous automobile accidents and the medical treatment he received following the November 2014 accident. Furthermore, the Court concluded that error injuriously affected Terrell's substantial rights during the jury trial in this case. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Terrell v. Joshua" on Justia Law