Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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Dolgencorp, LLC ("Dollar General") filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting relief from a discovery order entered by the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court on February 8, 2017. In 2016, Daisy Pearl White Freeman was operating her vehicle in the Northwood Shopping Center in Northport, Alabama. She lost control of her vehicle, ran over the curb and onto the sidewalk, and struck Deborah Gilliam, who had just walked out of a Dollar General store located in the shopping center. Gilliam sued Dollar General, among others. As to Dollar General, the complaint stated claims of negligence and wantonness. Gilliam then filed a notice of intent to serve subpoenas on nonparties Dolgencorp of New York, Inc.; Dolgen Midwest, LLC; Dolgencorp of Texas, Inc.; Dollar General Partners; DG Louisiana, LLC; and DG Retail, LLC (collectively as "the nonparty Dollar General entities"). Dollar General filed a motion to quash the nonparty subpoenas, arguing that the nonparty subpoenas were unduly burdensome. When the trial court refused, Dollar General petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief from the discovery order. The Supreme Court concluded that even though the trial court modified the scope of discovery in this case, the discovery ordered was as oppressive and burdensome as the discovery requests in Ex parte Compass Bank, 686 So. 2d 1135 (Ala. 1996), and Ex parte Mobile Fixture & Equipment Co., 630 So. 2d 358 (Ala. 1993). Therefore, the burden on Dollar General to comply with that order was out of proportion to any benefit Gilliam would obtain from the requested information. Therefore, the Court concluded Dollar General established it had a clear legal right to relief from the trial court's February 2017 discovery order. View "Ex parte Dolgencorp, LLC." on Justia Law

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The petitioner, the estate of Fredrick O'Brian Elliott, deceased, by and through his personal representative, Sonya Windham ("the estate"), filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Alabama Supreme Court to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its March 7, 2018, order insofar as it denied certain requests for production of documents made by the estate. The estate filed a wrongful-death action against Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a Princeton Baptist Medical Center ("PBMC"), and Courtney Johnston (collectively, "the defendants") and various fictitiously named defendants. Elliott was admitted to Princeton Baptist Medical Center complaining of nausea, vomiting, and gastritis; that, as part of his treatment, Elliott "was ordered to undergo full bowel rest by having Trans-Peritoneal Nutrition (TPN) administered through a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC Line)." Johnston, Elliott's nurse, came into Elliot's room and discarded a partially full TPN bag, "following doctor's orders," which Elliott's family questioned since Elliott had not finished his entire nutritional dose. The complaint alleged that because Johnston misread the chart and prematurely discarded the TPN bag, it started an irreversible chain reaction: Elliott became febrile, his temperature spiked, he developed an infection such that it damaged his heart, leading to cardiac arrest. Nine days after the TPN incident, Elliot died. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in denying the estate's motion to compel certain information requested in interrogatories based solely on the assertions of defendants' counsel: they did not satisfy their burden of establishing that the information requested was privileged. As such, the Supreme Court granted mandamus relief and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Ex parte the Estate of Fredrick O'Brian Elliott, deceased, by and through his personal representative, Sonya Windham." on Justia Law

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American Sweeping, Inc. ("ASI"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Circuit Court to vacate an order denying its motion to dismiss the claims asserted against it in the underlying action as time-barred and to enter a dismissal in its favor. On May 22, 2014, two separate accidents occurred on the Interstate 65 bridge crossing the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. ASI was performing sweeping and cleaning operations on the bridge pursuant its contract with the Alabama Department of Transportation ("ALDOT"). The first accident on the bridge occurred when a vehicle collided with the rear of the "buffer vehicle" that was following the ASI street sweeper. That accident caused traffic on the bridge to come to a complete stop. Shortly thereafter, the second accident occurred when the tractor-trailer truck being driven by William McRae and owned by TK&S Trucking, LLC, collided with the rear of the tractor-trailer truck being operated by Robert Sanders. That collision caused both tractor-trailer trucks to explode, killing McRae and injuring Sanders. In August 2015, ALDOT filed a complaint against, among others, TK&S Trucking and the Estate of William McRae, seeking to recover the costs of the repairs made to the bridge as a result of the tractor-trailer explosion. In December 2015 and April 2016, Sanders and his wife, Barbara, filed individual complaints in intervention, asserting claims against the same defendants seeking monetary damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. In 2016, the Sanderses amended their complaints in intervention to assert claims against fictitiously named defendants whose conduct, they alleged, wrongfully caused or contributed to the tractor-trailer accident involving Mr. Sanders. In 2017, the Sanderses once again amended their complaints to substitute ASI for a fictitiously named defendant, asserting that ASI had caused or contributed to the tractor-trailer accident. ASI filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it on the ground that it was barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations. The trial court held the amendments related-back to the original complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court, granted the petition for mandamus relief and directed the trial court to enter an order dismissing claims asserted against ASI. View "Ex parte American Sweeping, Inc." on Justia Law

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Police officer Charday Shavers and the City of Montgomery ("City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for a summary judgment in a tort action filed against them by Carlishia Frank and to enter a summary judgment for them. In 2013, Shavers was driving her patrol car when she received a dispatch about a vehicular accident. Shavers activated her siren and proceeded through an intersection. As Shavers's patrol car began to cross the intersection, Frank's vehicle entered the intersection and collided with the driver's side of Shavers's patrol car. The collision occurred between four and five seconds after Shavers began slowly proceeding into the intersection, approximately nine seconds after Shavers had activated her emergency lights and approximately five seconds after she had activated her siren. Shavers and the City moved for summary judgment on immunity grounds. Finding that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion, the Alabama Supreme Court found mandamus relief was warranted here. The Court directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for summary judgment, and to enter an order granting that motion. View "Ex parte City of Montgomery and Charday P. Shavers." on Justia Law

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On January 7, 2018, John Doe, a minor, by and through his mother S.C., filed the underlying action against the Montgomery County Board of Education, seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages arising from an alleged assault on Doe by a school employee at the elementary school Doe attended, as a result of which Doe was injured. The complaint asserted a single count of negligence against the Board and other unidentified fictitiously named defendants. Specifically, Doe alleged the Board breached its duty "to not place him in harm or specifically harm him" and that the Board failed to properly train and supervise the employee allegedly responsible for the assault. The Board petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to dismiss Does' lawsuit, on sovereign immunity grounds. Finding the Board was an entity of the State, it enjoyed immunity from Doe's action under section 14 of the Alabama Constitution. Accordingly, the Board has demonstrated a clear legal right to a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit against it, and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Montgomery County Board of Education." on Justia Law

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Integra LifeSciences Corporation ("Integra") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief in a suit brought by Tawni Brooks and her husband, Bobby Brooks. In 2014, Brooks underwent a double mastectomy and breast-reconstruction procedure at Springhill Memorial Hospital in Mobile. Brooks experienced complications following her surgery, and a subsequent surgery performed in 2015, revealed that those complications were potentially related to surgical mesh implanted in her body as part of the 2014 procedure. In 2016, Brooks sued the doctor who performed the procedure and various fictitiously named defendants, including "the manufacturer of the mesh used in [Brooks]'s operation." Integra was ultimately determined to be the manufacturer of the mesh; the company moved for summary judgment on grounds that the applicable statute of limitations had run, and that Brooks' second amended complaint did not relate back to the original complaint. As to Brooks' Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("AEMLD") claim against Integra, the Alabama Supreme Court granted Integra's petition and issued a writ directing the trial court to enter a summary judgment in favor of Integra. With respect to the breach-of-warranty claim, however, Integra did not establish a clear legal right to relief; as to that claim, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Integra LifeSciences Corporation." on Justia Law

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Defendants Aurora Healthcare, Inc., and Aurora Cares, LLC, d/b/a Tara Cares (referred to collectively as "Aurora"), and Birmingham Nursing and Rehabilitation Center East, LLC ("Birmingham East") appealed a circuit court denial of their motion to compel arbitration of an action filed against them by Sharon Ramsey, as administratrix of the estate of her mother, Mary Pettway, deceased. Ramsey cross-appealed the decision denying her motion for a partial summary judgment concerning the validity of the subject arbitration agreement. In 2003, Mary Pettway, then 75 years old, was discharged from the hospital at the University of Alabama at Birmingham ("UAB Hospital"). On the same day, Pettway was admitted to a nursing home owned and operated by the defendants. During Pettway's admission to the nursing home, Ramsey met with Faye Linard, an administrative assistant, who presented Ramsey with an admissions agreement that included several documents, including a "Resident and Facility Arbitration Agreement." Ramsey refused to sign the arbitration agreement; signing it was not a prerequisite to Pettway's admission to the nursing home. Pettway developed an infection, and, as a result, she was returned to UAB Hospital. Pettway was readmitted to the nursing home a few days later. Ramsey stated in an affidavit that late in the evening on November 26, 2003, she received a telephone call from the admissions office at the nursing home and was asked to return to the nursing home because "there were some documents that I had not signed the first time my mother was admitted and I needed to come in to sign them." An arbitration agreement containing a signature with the name "Sharon Ramsey" dated November 26, 2003, appeared in the record. Ramsey contended the signature was not authentic, and she asserted that, even if it was genuine, the signature was obtained by misrepresentation. After her appointment as administratrix of Pettway's estate, Ramsey filed a complaint against defendants alleging a variety of statutory and common-law claims allegedly arising from Pettway's death, including a wrongful-death claim. Defendants sought to compel arbitration. The Alabama Supreme Court discerned the parties' appeal and cross-appeal were premature because they sought review of a nonfinal judgment. As such, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeals. View "Ramsey v. Aurora Healthcare, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Numerous plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action under section 6-5-410, Ala. Code 1975, against Continental Motors, Inc. ("CMI"), and RAM Aircraft, LP ("RAM"), among others, on behalf of the heirs of Mark Goldstein, Marjorie Gonzalez, and Luis Angel Lopez Barillas (collectively, "the decedents"). On March 10, 2010, the decedents died in an airplane crash in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The crash was allegedly a result of a defective starter-adapter assembly that had been manufactured by CMI and/or the failure of the airplane's engine, which had been refurbished by RAM. Mark and Marjorie were citizens and residents of Honduras; Luis was a citizen and resident of Guatemala. The administration of each of the decedents' estates was conducted in their respective countries of citizenship and residence. CMI and RAM filed motions for a summary judgment arguing that none of the plaintiffs was a personal representative of the decedents and, thus, that plaintiffs lacked the authority to pursue the wrongful-death claims. The circuit court denied CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions. CMI and RAM separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to set aside its orders denying their summary judgment motions and to enter an order granting their summary judgment motions, thereby dismissing the plaintiffs' wrongful death action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Alabama Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions in part and denied them in part. The Court concluded CMI and RAM failed to demonstrate the administrator-plaintiffs were without authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Mark's heirs. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court denied CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court also concluded CMI and RAM demonstrated that none of the plaintiffs were personal representatives of Marjorie's or Luis's estate and, thus, lacked authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Marjorie's or Luis's heirs. Accordingly, the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the wrongful-death claims brought on behalf of Marjorie's and Luis's heirs, and CMI and RAM were entitled to have their summary-judgment motions granted in that respect and to have those claims dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus and ordered the circuit court to grant CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions, and dismissed the wrongful-death claims asserted by the heirs of Marjorie and Luis. View "Ex parte Continental Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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DISA Industries, Inc. ("DISA"), appeals from a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Gregory Bell awarding $500,000 in compensatory damages. Bell sued DISA, Union Foundry Company ("Union Foundry"), and Duca Manufacturing and Consulting, Inc. ("Duca"), as well as fictitiously named defendants, based on injuries he suffered as an employee of Union Foundry. Bell worked as a furnace attendant on a mid-level platform next to a trough, which had been modified. Bell's supervisors trained him to step over the trough. Workers, including supervisors, frequently stepped over the trough to perform work on the other side of the mid-level platform. Bell took a lunch break, and a relief man worked as the furnace attendant in his place. During the break, the furnace was temporarily shut down, and the relief man lit a torch to prevent iron from hardening. At some point, the furnace restarted. The relief man, however, did not extinguish the torch. When he returned from lunch, Bell put on his personal protective equipment, including safety glasses, a tinted face shield, a heat jacket, heat pants, chaps, heat gloves, ear plugs, and the steel-toed boots required by Union Foundry, and returned to the mid-level platform. After the relief man left, Bell noticed that the torch, which was on the other side of the platform, needed to be extinguished. As he stepped over the trough, he tripped and his boot dipped into the molten metal. The boot began melting onto his foot. Bell tried to take the boot off, but there was a knot in his shoelace. Bell was transported to a burn clinic where he underwent four surgeries, including amputation of his toes. One week after the accident, Union Foundry installed a guardrail around the modified trough to prevent workers from stepping over the trough. DISA appealed the denial of its summary judgment motion. The Alabama Supreme Court determined DISA did not have ultimate control over the foundry project; the scope of DISA's contract did not extend to areas beyond the molding line, which was below the mid-level platform and modified trough. In addition, there was no evidence indicating that DISA actually trained the furnace attendant on the modified trough and platform. Therefore, the Court could not conclude that a DISA employee supervising the start up of the molding line on the floor of the foundry, which was below the mid-level platform where the accident occurred, should have informed Union Foundry of the need to install guardrails around Union Foundry's modified trough. The Court therefore concluded the Bells failed to overcome their burden of producing substantial evidence creating a factual dispute requiring resolution by the jury. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment based on the jury's verdict, and rendered judgment in favor of DISA. View "DISA Industries, Inc. v. Bell" on Justia Law

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The Utilities Board of the City of Foley, Alabama, d/b/a Riviera Utilities ("Riviera Utilities"), and Tom DeBell, James Wallace, Kevin Saucier, and Roby Tomlin (collectively, "the Riviera employees") were defendants in a personal-injury action filed by Charles Hilburn, Jr., and his wife, Christa. Riviera Utilities and the Riviera employees petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Baldwin Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion for a summary judgment as to the claims filed against them by the Hilburns and to enter a summary judgment in their favor. On July 22, 2014, Riviera Utilities was one of eight Baldwin County entities that received an "811 ticket," also known as a line-locate ticket. Gulf Equipment Corporation was in charge of a bridge-repair project pursuant to a contract between Gulf Equipment and the Baldwin County Highway Department. A line-locate technician employed by Riviera Utilities went to the project site to mark underground lines; he saw a bridge, but no equipment was present and no one was working. Finding no underground utilities, the technician did not mark anything regarding utilities or note the presence of overhead lines. Charles was employed by Gulf Equipment on the bridge-repair project. A co-employee was operating a track hoe to drive steel pilings into the ground when the track hoe and/or a steel piling came in contact with an uninsulated overhead electrical power line. The electrical current traveled from the track hoe and/or piling into the body of the track hoe while Charles was touching the body of the track hoe, causing the electrical charge to enter into his hand, travel through his body, and exit via his leg. Charles was permanently disabled by the electrocution injuries he suffered, including a brain injury and memory loss. The Hilburns sued Riviera Utilities and the Riviera employees in their individual capacities. The Hilburns conceded the Riviera employees were entitled to a summary judgment as to the wantonness claims asserted against them and that DeBell, Wallace, and Tomlin were entitled to a summary judgment as to the negligence claims asserted against them. The Alabama Supreme Court found Saucier demonstrated he was entitled to State-agent immunity as to the negligence claim asserted against him, therefore establishing a clear legal right to a summary judgment on that claim. However, because Riviera Utilities did not demonstrate it was entitled to substantive immunity as to the claims asserted against it, it did not establish a clear legal right to a summary judgment on those claims. Therefore, the Alabama Supreme Court granted the petition only as to the Riviera employees and issued a writ directing the Baldwin Circuit Court to vacate its order of August 29, 2017, denying a summary judgment as to the Riviera employees and to enter a summary judgment in favor of DeBell, Wallace, Tomlin, and Saucier as to the claims asserted against them. The Court denied the petition as to Riviera Utilities. View "Ex parte The Utilities Board of the City of Foley, Alabama" on Justia Law