Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Personal Injury
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
Ex parte Lester Lee Thomas.
Jennifer Dell Peach sued, among others, Lester Thomas asserting claims arising from a multivehicle accident that took place after Thomas, a State trooper with the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency, allegedly blocked both lanes of a highway to perform traffic stops of speeding drivers. Thomas moved for a summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that he was entitled to State-agent immunity. The trial court denied that motion. Thomas petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to enter a summary judgment in his favor on the ground of State-agent immunity. The Supreme Court determined that based solely on the arguments and evidence presented to the trial court, Thomas did not establish a clear legal right to an order granting his motion for a summary judgment based on State-agent immunity. Therefore, Thomas's petition for the writ of mandamus was denied. View "Ex parte Lester Lee Thomas." on Justia Law
Mobile Infirmary Association v. Quest Diagnostics Clinical Laboratories, Inc.
Mobile Infirmary Association d/b/a Mobile Infirmary Medical Center ("Mobile Infirmary") appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Quest Diagnostics Clinical Laboratories, Inc. ("Quest"). Quest and Mobile Infirmary entered into a Laboratory Management Agreement ("the LMA"), in which Quest agreed to manage Mobile Infirmary's onsite clinical laboratory facilities and to provide clinical testing services used by Mobile Infirmary's medical staff to diagnose and treat patients. The LMA also contained indemnity provisions. In 2015, James Ward went to Mobile Infirmary's emergency room after suffering weakness, dizziness, loss of fluids, a mild cough, and severe body aches. Ward was eventually diagnosed with diabetic ketoacidosis. When his condition did not improve, Ward was moved into the intensive-care unit, at which point his doctor ordered him to undergo glucose finger-sticks and a basic metabolic panel every four hours to help monitor his serum glucose, kidney function, acid/base status, and electrolytes. According to Mobile Infirmary, those basic metabolic panels were supposed to be performed by Quest, but they were allegedly canceled by one of Quest's employees. At some point, he suffered an "anoxic brain injury" and later died "as a result of multisystem organ failure secondary to severe sepsis and septic shock." Ingrid Mia Ward ("Mia"), Ward's wife and the personal representative of his estate, commenced a wrongful-death action against Mobile Infirmary and other defendants responsible for Ward's treatment and care. Quest was not named as a party to Mia's action. Mobile Infirmary informed Quest of the action and, as the case progressed, apprised Quest of the status of the proceedings, including its negotiations with Mia for potential settlement of the lawsuit. Mia and Mobile Infirmary ultimately settled the wrongful-death action. Before Mia's claims against Mobile Infirmary were dismissed pursuant to a joint motion of those parties, Mobile Infirmary filed a third-party complaint against Quest in which it sought contractual and equitable indemnity related to its defense and settlement of Mia's action. Quest filed a motion to dismiss, which the trial court granted in part by dismissing Mobile Infirmary's equitable- indemnity claim. The Alabama Supreme Court found that nowhere in the LMA did the parties expressly agree or clearly provide a formula that, in the event there was a claim that arises out of partial liability or concurrent acts by both parties, indemnification will be required for a proportionate share. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed. View "Mobile Infirmary Association v. Quest Diagnostics Clinical Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law
Tutor v. Sines, et al.
Jessica Tutor was driving three passengers in her automobile when she hit another vehicle head-on. Two of the passengers, Jack Sines and Devan Frazier, were injured and later sued Tutor. The case went to trial solely on Sines's and Frazier's claims of wantonness, and the jury found in their favor. The trial court then entered judgment against Tutor. She appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Tutor v. Sines, et al." on Justia Law
Ex parte TruckMax, Inc., and Babco Engineering, LLC.
TruckMax, Inc., and its wholly owned subsidiary, Babco Engineering, LLC (collectively, "TruckMax"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to allow TruckMax to amend its answer in this workers' compensation/wrongful-death action so that TruckMax could assert as a defense that one of the plaintiffs, Latosha Caster-Harris, the wife of the decedent involved in this case, lacked the capacity to pursue claims against TruckMax. The parties agreed that TruckMax's lack-of-capacity defense was an affirmative defense that would be waived if not pleaded. Because the Supreme Court concluded that TruckMax did not establish that the trial court's ruling denying its motion for leave to amend its answer should have been reviewed pursuant to a mandamus petition, it denied the petition. View "Ex parte TruckMax, Inc., and Babco Engineering, LLC." on Justia Law
Ex parte Jeffrey Varoff.
After Clifford Bufford, an employee of Borbet Alabama, Inc., injured his left arm in a workplace accident, he sued seven of his co-employees claiming that his injury was the result of their willful conduct. The co-employees sought summary judgment, arguing that they were immune from suit under Alabama's Workers' Compensation Act ("the Act") because, they said, there was no evidence to support Bufford's claims. Bufford voluntarily dismissed his claims against all the defendants except the petitioner, maintenance supervisor Jeffrey Varoff. The circuit court then denied Varoff's motion for summary judgment. He petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to enter judgment in his favor on the basis of the immunity afforded by the Act. We grant the petition and issue the writ. The Supreme Court concurred there was not evidence in the trial court record that would support a finding that Varoff had engaged in willful conduct as that term was described in § 25-5-11(c). The Court held Varoff was immune from liability under § 25-5- 53. Accordingly, the trial court erred by denying Varoff's motion for summary judgment. His petition was therefore granted, and the trial court directed to vacate its order denying Varoff's motion. View "Ex parte Jeffrey Varoff." on Justia Law