Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
Watters, et al. v. Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology, et al.
Plaintiffs Karen Watters and Cheryl Yarbrough appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology ("Alabama Oncology"), and Brian Adler on their claims alleging defamation and wantonness. Plaintiffs were formerly employed by Alabama Oncology. In August 2019, an anonymous letter was delivered to various physicians at several Alabama Oncology locations. The letter alleged that there had been illegal and unethical behavior by four staff members, two of whom were plaintiffs, and that there was "a massive lawsuit brewing." The letter also warned that an attorney would be contacting Alabama Oncology regarding a class-action lawsuit. In response to the letter, Alabama Oncology's executive director, Chris Barnes, contacted Alabama Oncology's outside legal counsel, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP ("Bradley Arant") for advice on responding to the letter and preparing for the threatened litigation. Bradley Arant began conducting an internal investigation regarding the allegations in the anonymous letter. Ultimately, after the conclusion of the internal investigation, Alabama Oncology terminated plaintiffs' employment. Plaintiffs sued Alabama Oncology, and certain executive staff, alleging that their employment had been wrongfully terminated based on the executives' conspiracy to defame the plaintiffs and the results of what they alleged was a "sham investigation." The Alabama Supreme Court found that plaintiffs' "bare assertion that they satisfied their burden to defeat the summary-judgment motion" was insufficient to warrant reversal; the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Watters, et al. v. Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology, et al." on Justia Law
State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Wood
State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm") appealed a judgment entered against it on a jury verdict in an automobile-accident case. Brian Wood ("Brian") was driving through an intersection in Auburn when his vehicle was T-boned by a vehicle being driven by Mark Stafford. Brian and his wife Jennifer sued Stafford, an uninsured motorist, alleging claims of negligence, wantonness, and loss of consortium. Because Stafford was uninsured, the Woods also sued State Farm, their automobile-insurance company, seeking uninsured-motorist benefits under their policy. The jury returned a verdict in the Woods' favor, awarding them $700,000 in compensatory damages, and the trial court entered a judgment on that verdict. The jury did not award any punitive damages. State Farm filed a postjudgment motion challenging the judgment on various grounds, including whether the wantonness claim should have gone to the jury. The postjudgment motion was denied by operation of law, and State Farm appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded State Farm failed to establish the trial court erred by not setting aside its judgment entered on the jury's verdict, therefore the judgment was affirmed. View "State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Wood" on Justia Law
Dolgencorp, LLC v. Gilliam
Dolgencorp, LLC, appealed a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Deborah Gilliam. In March 2016, Daisy Pearl White Freeman was operating her vehicle in the parking lot of the Northwood Shopping Center. Freeman lost control of the vehicle, ran over a six-inch curb, crossed a sidewalk, and crashed through the storefront of a Dollar General store, striking Gilliam -- a customer of the store. Gilliam sustained serious and permanent injuries. According to an Alabama Uniform Traffic Crash Report, Freeman reported that, immediately before the accident, she had been traveling across the shopping center parking lot when the vehicle's steering wheel began to shake, the vehicle jerked to the left, and the vehicle's brakes failed. The traffic report also indicated that witnesses had observed Freeman's vehicle traveling across the parking lot at a "high rate of speed." The traffic report listed the speed limit in the parking lot at 15 miles per hour; it was estimated that Freeman's vehicle had been traveling approximately 33-34 miles per hour when it collided with the storefront. Gilliam filed suit against, among others, Dolgencorp, which owned the Dollar General store, alleging that Dolgencorp had been negligent and wanton in failing to erect barriers such as bollards outside the store's entrance, which, she claimed, could have prevented Freeman's vehicle from crashing into the storefront and injuring her. Dolgencorp moved for a summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that Gilliam's claims were precluded as a matter of law. The Alabama Supreme Court concurred with the company, finding Gilliam's negligence claim failed as a matter of law. It therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and rendered judgment in favor of Dolgencorp. View "Dolgencorp, LLC v. Gilliam" on Justia Law
Womble v. Moore
Gary and Sheila Womble, a married couple, appealed a circuit court order denying their motion filed pursuant to Rule 60(b)(1), Ala. R. Civ. P., seeking to set aside a judgment that dismissed, with prejudice, their action against Collie Moore III. In 2020, the Wombles sued Moore alleging claims of negligence, wantonness, and loss of consortium in connection with an automobile accident that had occurred March 28, 2018, in which Moore's automobile collided with the rear of the Wombles' automobile. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the Wombles did not demonstrate that the trial court exceeded its discretion in denying their Rule 60(b)(1) motion; therefore, it affirmed the trial court's order denying their motion. View "Womble v. Moore" on Justia Law
Ex parte Midsouth Paving, Inc., et al.
Midsouth Paving, Inc. ("Midsouth"), and Christopher Nivert petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Tallapoosa Circuit Court ("the trial court") to enter a summary judgment in their favor in an action commenced against them by Yvonne Mason. Mason worked for PeopleReady, a temporary staffing agency, at Midsouth jobsites. PeopleReady initially provided Mason with a hard hat, sunblock, water, and a vest with "Midsouth" printed on it, and Mason kept those items in her automobile. At the job site, Midsouth employees directed and supervised Mason's job duties. Mason was working at a Midsouth job site when Nivert unintentionally drove his pilot vehicle into Mason while he was making a three-point turn. Mason's leg was severely injured, and she received multiple surgeries and remained in a hospital and then a rehabilitation facility for over a month. PeopleReady began paying workers' compensation benefits to Mason after the accident and also paid or her continued medical care. Pursuant to the labor-supply agreement, Midsouth was an insured alternate employer under PeopleReady's workers' compensation insurance policy. Mason also filed the underlying lawsuit alleging claims of negligence; wantonness; negligent hiring, training, and supervision; and negligence per se. Midsouth's motion for summary judgment was denied, leading to the mandamus relief requested in this case. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court found Mason's claims against Midsouth and Nivert were barred by § 25-5-11, § 25-5-52, and § 25-5-53, Ala. Code 1975, of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act ("the Act"), § 25-5-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition and directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in favor of Midsouth and Nivert. View "Ex parte Midsouth Paving, Inc., et al." 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. In December 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 in Huntsville. 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 traversed the five tiled steps leading to Fisk's tiled front porch, where her mailbox was located. According to Byrne's testimony, he was 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 commenced this action against Fisk and fictitiously named parties. Byrne alleged that 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. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded genuine issues of material fact existed 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. Consequently, the circuit court erred by entering a summary judgment in favor of Fisk. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Byrne v. Fisk" on Justia Law
Taylor v. Methodist Home for the Aging d/b/a Fair Haven, et al.
Angelia Taylor, as personal representative of the Estate of Willie Latham, appealed the denial by operation of law of her Rule 59(e), Ala. R. Civ. P., motion seeking to vacate an arbitration award entered in favor of Methodist Home for the Aging d/b/a Fair Haven and its administrator, Maria Ephraim (collectively, "Fair Haven"). While a resident, Latham fell and broke her hip. Latham was eventually transported to a hospital for surgery, and she died a few days later. In November 2019, Taylor, as the personal representative of Latham's estate, filed a wrongful-death action under the Alabama Medical Liability Act of 1987. In December 2019, Fair Haven moved to compel arbitration pursuant to an arbitration agreement Latham had signed. The parties filed a joint stipulation to submit the case to arbitration, and in February 2020 the circuit court entered an order compelling arbitration. In November 2021, an arbitrator issued a final award in favor of Fair Haven. A month later, Taylor filed a notice of appeal. Thereafter, she filed a motion to set aside or vacate the arbitration award. In response, Fair Haven filed a motion for the entry of a final judgment. On February 2, 2022, the circuit court entered an order noting that the purported postjudgment motions were not ripe, because the circuit clerk had not entered the arbitration award as a final judgment. On February 22, 2022, the circuit clerk entered the arbitration award as a final judgment. Taylor's motion to vacate was denied by operation of law 90 days later, on May 23, 2022. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Taylor failed to demonstrate a recognized basis under 9 U.S.C. § 10 for vacating the arbitration award; the denial by operation of law of her Rule 59 motion to vacate the arbitration award was therefore affirmed. View "Taylor v. Methodist Home for the Aging d/b/a Fair Haven, et al." on Justia Law
Flickinger v. King
Birmingham attorney Daniel Flickinger posted a message on his personal Facebook social-media page in which he appeared to reference the death George Floyd, which occurred while Floyd was being arrested and was recorded. The social-media post, along with an allegedly "counterfeit" social-media "profile," was later shared with Flickinger's supervising attorney at his law firm by Lawrence Tracy King, an attorney with the Birmingham law firm of King Simmons Ford & Spree, P.C. Shortly thereafter, Flickinger was forced to resign. Flickinger's post was also shared by members of a "private" Facebook group, who then posted a series of offensive comments about him both personally and professionally. Flickinger sued King and the King law firm asserting claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and tortious interference with a business relationship. The King defendants filed a motion to dismiss Flickinger's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., and the circuit court granted the motion. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment insofar as it dismissed Flickinger's defamation and invasion-of-privacy claims. However, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment insofar as it dismissed Flickinger's tortious-interference claim, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Flickinger v. King" on Justia Law
Murey v. City of Chickasaw, et al.
On May 27, 2016, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Sgt. George Taylor, a police officer employed by the Chickasaw Police Department, discovered an automobile on the shoulder of the on-ramp to an interstate highway. Carlos Lens Fernandez ("Lens") was passed out inside the automobile, and the automobile's engine was running. After he failed to complete various field sobriety tests, Lens acknowledged that he was intoxicated. Sgt. Taylor arrested Lens for driving under the influence and, with assistance from Officer Gregory Musgrove, transported Lens to the Chickasaw City Jail. At the jail, Lens did not advise Sgt. Taylor or any other person that he had any medical issues or that he needed medical attention. According to both Sgt. Taylor and Sgt. Phillip Burson, Lens appeared to be intoxicated, and nothing about their encounter with Lens indicated to them that Lens needed medical attention. At approximated 8 a.m., jailers checked on Lens, but he was not responding to oral commands. Officer Robert Wenzinger stated that when he checked Lens, he could not find a pulse and noticed that Lens was cool to the touch on his arm and neck. Emergency medical services were dispatched; by 8:50 a.m., attempts to resuscitate Lens were unsuccessful, and Lens was pronounced dead at 9:14 a.m. Lens's autopsy report listed the cause of death as "hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease." Carlos Fernando Reixach Murey, as administrator of Lens' estate, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in two separate actions in favor of the City of Chickasaw, and the varios officers and jail officials who checked on Lens when he was arrested and detained. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment in either case, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court. View "Murey v. City of Chickasaw, et al." on Justia Law
Murey v. City of Chickasaw, et al.
Carlos Fernando Reixach Murey, as administrator of the estate of Carlos Lens Fernandez, deceased, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in two separate actions in favor of defendants the City of Chickasaw, Michael Reynolds, Cynthia Robinson Burt, Arellia Taylor, and George Taylor. In May 2016 at approximately 2:00 A.M., a Chickasaw police officer discovered an automobile on the shoulder of the on-ramp to an interstate highway. Carlos Lens Fernandez ("Lens") was passed out inside the automobile, and the automobile's engine was running. After he failed to complete various field sobriety tests, Lens acknowledged that he was intoxicated. Lens was arrested for DUI and transported to jail. Lens did not advise Sgt. Taylor or any other person that he had any medical issues or that he needed medical attention. According to both Sgt. Taylor and Sgt. Burson, Lens appeared to be intoxicated, and nothing about their encounter with Lens indicated to them that Lens needed medical attention. The jailers/dispatchers on duty when Lens was brought in noted Lens' condition and apparent inability to answer questions, but neither fully completed a medical-screening form for Lens. Hours after his arrival, the jailers monitored Lens through a video-monitoring system. Lens did not respond to oral commands; officers physically checked him, found no pulse, attempted to revive him, but Lens was pronounced dead at 9:14 A.M. that morning. The autopsy report listed the cause of death as "hypertensive and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Murey could not establish the officers, City nor jailers were not immune from liability for their actions surrounding Lens' death. Accordingly, judgment in favor of the government defendants was affirmed. View "Murey v. City of Chickasaw, et al." on Justia Law