Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Personal Injury
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Doris Sanders petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Macon Circuit Court to vacate its March 13, 2020, order transferring the underlying action to the Montgomery Circuit Court pursuant to section 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, Alabama's forum non conveniens statute. In 2019, Sanders, a resident of Barbour County, was involved in a multi-vehicle accident on Interstate 85 in Macon County. Sanders sued the drivers of the other two vehicles, Sae Him Chung and Shawn Reaves, at the Macon Circuit Court, alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking damages for her accident-related injuries. Sanders also included a claim against her insurer, Alfa Mutual Insurance Company, seeking to recover uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits. Defendants requested the change of venue to Montgomery County, arguing: (1) that the accident occurred in Macon County and was investigated there; (2) that Sanders was employed by the State of Alabama Tourism Department, which is located in Montgomery County; (3) that Chung lived and worked in Montgomery County; and (4) that Kellie McElvaine, a witness to the accident, lived and worked in Montgomery County. Sanders opposed the motion, arguing defendants failed to carry their burden of showing a transfer to Montgomery County was required under the statute. Sanders stated that she did not work in Montgomery County; rather, she said, she worked in Macon County at the Macon County Rest Area. And she received medical treatment for her injuries in Lee County and Barbour County, both of which were closer to Macon County than to Montgomery County. Thus, she asserted that her health-care providers in Lee County and Barbour County would have to travel farther if the case were transferred to Montgomery County. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Macon Circuit Court exceeded its discretion in transferring this case to the Montgomery Circuit Court. The Court therefore granted the petition for mandamus relief, and directed the Macon Court to vacated its March 2020 transfer order. View "Ex parte Doris Sanders." on Justia Law

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Angela Williams, as mother and next friend of Li'Jonas Earl Williams, a deceased minor, appealed a judgment as a matter of law entered in favor of the remaining defendants, Dr. Wesley H. Barry, Jr., and Advanced Surgical Associates, P.C. Li'Jonas Williams was a 17-year-old with sickle-cell disease. In June 2014, Li'Jonas went to the emergency room at Southern Regional Medical Center in Georgia ("the Georgia hospital") complaining of back and chest pain. A CT scan performed at the Georgia hospital showed that Li'Jonas had cholelithiasis, which is stones in the gallbladder. Li'Jonas and Williams saw Li'Jonas's pediatrician in Montgomery, Dr. Julius Sadarian. Dr. Sadarian referred Li'Jonas to Dr. Barry for gallbladder removal. Dr. Barry testified that Li'Jonas tolerated the procedure well; that Li'Jonas did not experience any complications during the surgery; and that Li'Jonas had only about 10ccs (two teaspoons) of blood loss during the surgery. Li'Jonas did not experience any problems when he was in the post-anesthesia-care unit or when he was in the outpatient recovery room. On the evening of August 4, 2014, Li'Jonas was found unresponsive at his home. He was transported by ambulance to the emergency; ultimately efforts to revive Li'Jonas were unsuccessful and he died a half hour after admission to the ER. In her fourth amended complaint, Williams asserted a wrongful-death claim based on allegations of medical malpractice pursuant to the Alabama Medical Liability Act against defendants. Judgment was entered in favor of defendants, and Williams appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found that when the evidence was viewed in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, Williams presented substantial evidence to create a factual dispute requiring resolution by the jury as to the issue whether the surgery performed by Dr. Barry was the proximate cause of Li'Jonas's death. It therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Williams v. Barry" on Justia Law

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In December 2016, Geraldine Daniels was residing at the Hawthorne at Lily-Flagg apartment complex, which was owned by Hawthorne-Midway Lily Flagg, LLC ("Hawthorne-Midway"), and managed by Hawthorne Residential Partners, LLC, and its community manager, Tracy Wiley. Daniels sued Hawthorne-Midway and Wiley for damages resulting from injuries she suffered when she fell while stepping off a sidewalk at the complex. Daniels appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Hawthorne-Midway and Wiley. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed: Daniels did not demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact that prevented Hawthorne-Midway and Wiley from being entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Daniels v. Hawthorne-Midway Lily Flagg, LLC" on Justia Law

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Bernadine Odom appealed a summary judgment entered in favor of several supervisory officers in the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, Department of Public Safety, Highway Patrol Division, in a lawsuit based on the misconduct of a state trooper. In 2015, Odom was involved in an automobile accident. State Trooper Samuel Houston McHenry II responded to the scene. Odom's vehicle was inoperable, so after McHenry investigated the accident, he gave her a ride, ostensibly to a safe location. At 12:12 a.m., he radioed his post dispatcher that he was en route with Odom to an exit about 10 miles from the accident scene. He did not mention his vehicle's mileage as of the time he left the accident scene. Instead of taking Odom directly to the exit, McHenry took her to a wooded area and sexually assaulted her. At 12:21 a.m., he radioed that he was dropping Odom off at the exit, and at 12:25 he radioed that he had completed the drop-off. Within two days, McHenry's employment was terminated based on his misconduct. McHenry was charged with first-degree rape, and he pleaded guilty to sexual misconduct. Odom then filed this civil lawsuit against McHenry and law enforcement officials alleging violations of various law-enforcement policies and procedures, and well as failing to properly train and supervise McHenry. Because Odom could not demonstrate the supervisory defendants were not entitled to State-agent immunity, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment in their favor. View "Odom v. Helms et al." on Justia Law

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This matter went before the Alabama Supreme Court on consolidated appeals stemming from an action filed by Nancy Hicks for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Hicks appealed when the trial court denied her motion for a new trial. Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") cross-appealed, challenging the trial court's denial of its motion for a partial judgment as a matter of law on the issue of causation of Hicks's injuries. By refusing to allow the jury to consider the mortality table, the trial court hindered the jury's ability to determine the appropriate amount of damages to which Hicks was entitled in a trial in which the only issue was the amount of damages. Because the trial court erroneously determined that the mortality table could not be admitted into evidence, the trial court's denial of Hicks's motion for a new trial was reversed. Because of the Court's holding on this issue, it pretermitted discussion of Hicks's other argument in support of her request for a new trial, namely that the trial court erred by not giving the requested jury instructions on permanent injuries and on the use of mortality tables. Because Allstate did not properly preserve for appellate review its motion for a partial judgment as a matter of law of the issue of causation underlying Hicks's claim, the trial court's denial of that motion was affirmed. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Allstate Insurance Company v. Hicks" on Justia Law

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Christian Dailey, a minor, suffered a catastrophic personal injury at a day-care facility run by Resurrection of Life, Inc., d/b/a Perfect Place Christian Academy ("Resurrection of Life"). Christian's parents, Mark and Valerie Dailey, sued Resurrection of Life and its employee Latoya Mitchell Dawkins (hereinafter "the day-care defendants") on his behalf and, following a jury trial, obtained a sizable compensatory-damages award. The day-care defendants did not challenge the size of that award, but they did challenge the trial court’s refusal to grant them a new trial on the ground of juror misconduct. Because the day-care defendants were not entitled to a new trial, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Resurrection of Life, Inc. v. Dailey" on Justia Law

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Clint Walters appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Montgomery Circuit Court in favor of Montgomery Police Department ("MPD") patrol officer Jessica De'Andrea and Progressive Casualty Insurance Company ("Progressive"). Walters was driving his motorcycle when he came to a complete stop at a red light. De'Andrea was traveling in her MPD police vehicle when she came to a stop directly behind Walters's motorcycle at the intersection of the Eastern Boulevard and Monticello Drive. De'Andrea testified in her deposition that she had completed her patrol shift and that she was on her way to the MPD South Central Headquarters on the Eastern Boulevard to end her shift. When the light turned green, De'Andrea saw that other vehicles were moving. She wasn't sure if Walters' brake light was intact; the officer assumed Walters was moving and proceeded to go, hitting Walters from behind. Walters alleged he suffered multiple injuries as a result of the accident, and filed an action against De'Andrea, Progressive, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"). Walters asserted claims of negligence and wantonness against De'Andrea in her individual capacity; he asserted claims for uninsured-motorist benefits against Progressive and State Farm. State Farm moved for summary judgment, attesting Walters did not have any insurance policies with State Farm in force at the time of the accident. De'Andrea moved for summary judgment, arguing she was entitled to state-agent immunity; Progressive and State Farm also moved for summary judgment, arguing that if De'Andrea was entitled to be dismissed, they too should be dismissed because Walters would not be "legally entitled to recover damages" from De'Andrea. The circuit court entered summary judgments in favor of De'Andrea, Progressive, and State Farm. The summary-judgment order did not detail the circuit court's reasons for its decision. Walters filed a postjudgment motion requesting that the circuit court alter, amend, or vacate its summary-judgment order. The postjudgment motion was denied. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding De'Andrea failed to demonstrate that Walters's claims arose from a function that would entitle her to State-agent immunity. Therefore, the summary judgment in De'Andrea's favor was due to be reversed. Because Progressive's summary-judgment motion was predicated solely on the ground that Walters would not be "legally entitled to recover" uninsured-motorist benefits if De'Andrea was entitled to State-agent immunity, the summary judgment in its favor was also reversed. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Walters v. De'Andrea" on Justia Law

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Following an automobile accident in Lee County, Alabama between Dionne Drisker and Sean Michael Allen, Drisker sued Allen, One Bonehead Trucking, Inc. ("Bonehead"), and FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. ("FedEx"), in Macon County, where Drisker resided. The defendants sought a writ of mandamus directing the Macon Circuit Court to transfer this case to the Lee Circuit Court under the interest-of-justice prong of the forum non conveniens statute. Because the defendants demonstrated that the connection between this case and Macon County was weak and that the connection between this case and Lee County was strong, the trial court exceeded its discretion by denying the defendants' motion to transfer the case to Lee County. The Alabama Supreme Court therefore directed the trial court to transfer this case to Lee County. View "Ex parte Sean Allen, One Bonehead Trucking, Inc., & FedEx Ground Package System, Inc." on Justia Law

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David Turner appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of State Farm Mutual Insurance Company. In August 2017, Turner was on duty as a paramedic and was riding in the passenger seat of an ambulance while responding to an emergency call. While traversing an intersection, the ambulance collided with a vehicle being driven by Michael Norris. Turner suffered multiple injuries, including a broken leg. In November 2017, Turner sued Norris, asserting claims of negligence and "recklessness." Norris answered the complaint, denying that he had been negligent or reckless. Because the Alabama Supreme Court Held that State Farm was discharged from its obligation to pay Turner UIM benefits based on State Farm's payment of a "Lambert" advance and Turner's repudiation of his policy with State Farm, the Court pretermitted consideration of Turner's alternative argument regarding State Farm's failure to disclose the substance of its investigation of Turner's claim for UIM benefits, and expressed no opinion concerning that issue. The Court also expressed no opinion regarding any potential liability State Farm may or may not have to Turner in tort because Turner did not assert such a claim in this action. View "Turner v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law

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In April 2017, Jerry Mohr, a Mobile County resident and an employee of CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), was injured in an on-the-job accident while working on a crew that was repairing a section of CSX railroad track near the Chef Menteur Bridge in Louisiana. Mohr sued CSX in the Mobile Circuit Court, asserting a negligence claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"). The trial court ultimately entered a summary judgment in favor of CSX. Mohr appealed that judgment, arguing there were genuine issues of material fact that could only be resolved by a jury. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Mohr v. CSX Transportation, Inc." on Justia Law