Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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In 2017, a vehicle driven by Lisa Huffstutler collided with a tractor-trailer driven by Charles Craig, an employee of Tyson Chicken, Inc. Emergency responders, including state troopers and medical personnel, investigated the accident, treated Huffstutler for her injuries at the scene, and then transported her to the hospital for further medical treatment. The accident occurred in Cullman County, Alabama; Huffstutler sued Tyson, Craig and multiple fictitiously named defendants in the Marshall Circuit Court alleging multiple causes of action sounding in tort. Tyson and Craig jointly moved for a change of venue to the Cullman Circuit Court under Alabama's forum non conveniens statute. After the trial court denied that motion, Tyson and Craig filed this mandamus petition. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Tyson and Craig demonstrated a clear legal right to have the underlying action transferred to Cullman County. Therefore, it granted the petition and issued a writ of mandamus directing the Marshall Circuit Court to vacate its order denying the motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring this action to the Cullman Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Tyson Chicken, Inc., and Charles Gregory Craig." on Justia Law

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Sue Shadrick, as personal representative of the estate of William Harold Shadrick ("William"), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Wilfredo Grana, M.D. In 2010, William presented to the emergency room reporting that he had been experiencing shortness of breath and chest pain. An emergency-room physician, Dr. Gary Moore, concluded that William had suffered a heart attack. Dr. Moore placed separate telephone calls to Osita Onyekwere, M.D., who was the cardiologist on call at the time, and to Dr. Grana, who is a board-certified internist and a hospitalist for the hospital. Dr. Moore discussed William's condition with Dr. Onyekwere and Dr. Grana. Thereafter, Dr. Grana admitted William to the hospital. Dr. Grana testified that, based on the echocardiogram, he believed that William was in cardiogenic shock, which means that his heart was unable to pump enough blood to meet his body's needs. Dr. Grana testified that he believed an emergency heart catheterization was necessary, which would have revealed the reason for the cardiogenic shock, such as a blocked blood vessel. As an internist, however, Dr. Grana could not perform that invasive procedure. After his telephone conversation with Dr. Grana, Dr. Onyekwere went home for the night without personally seeing William. The next morning, Dr. Grana learned that William's condition had worsened and that Dr. Onyekwere had not yet seen William. Dr. Onyekwere's nurse extender told Dr. Grana that William was being transferred to the hospital's intensive-care unit and that Dr. Onyekwere was en route to the hospital. William suffered cardiac arrest, later dying from insufficient oxygen to his brain. A heart catheterization performed after William had suffered cardiac arrest indicated that he had heart blockages that might have been bypassed through surgery had they been discovered earlier. Shadrick sued Dr. Onyekwere and Dr. Grana. She settled her claims against Dr. Onyekwere, and Dr. Grana filed a motion for a summary judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Shadrick was required to support her claims against Dr. Grana with the expert testimony of a similarly situated health-care provider. The trial court did not err in determining that her expert did not qualify as such. Accordingly, the trial court did not err in entering a summary judgment in favor of Dr. Grana. View "Shadrick v. Grana" on Justia Law

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Eduard Kennedy sued Tomlin Construction, LLC, and its employee, Stuart McQuaid Campbell, Jr., seeking damages for personal injuries Kennedy suffered when the Plymouth Grand Voyager passenger van he was driving collided with a 2007 Caterpillar motor grader belonging to Tomlin Construction and being operated by Campbell; the accident occurred in a construction zone. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Kennedy, awarding him compensatory damages in the amount of $3,000,000. Campbell and Tomlin Construction filed a postjudgment motion for a judgment as a matter of law ("JML"), a new trial, or a remittitur of damages; the trial court denied that motion. Campbell and Tomlin Construction appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found the trial court entered a very detailed order finding no flaw in the jury’s verdict; the Court concluded Campbell and Tomlin Construction presented nothing to undermine that order, and that the record supported denial of their motion for JML, new trial or remittitur. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court’s order and the jury’s verdict. View "Campbell v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

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Linda Unger, as personal representative of the estate of Marshall Unger ("Unger") deceased, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., and its employees, Naomi Phillips (the store greeter) and Billy Odom (the store manager, collectively referred to as "the Wal-Mart defendants" or “defendants”). On May 20, 2014, Unger, who was 77 years old, and his wife, Linda, visited a Wal-Mart discount store in Mobile. In an attempt to dislodge a stuck shopping cart from the front of the store, Unger lost his balance and fell to the floor, allegedly suffering two fractured vertebrae in his thoracic spine. Several Wal-Mart employees went to Unger's assistance and offered to call an ambulance, but Unger told the employees that he did not require an ambulance. In January 2015, Unger sued Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P., Billy Odom, and fictitiously named defendants alleging that, on the day he was injured, Phillips, the store greeter, had been negligent and/or wanton in failing to "stage a clean [shopping] cart for easy access in violation of Wal-Mart's policies"; that "the Wal-Mart employee collecting carts from outside the store overloaded the machine used for collecting carts creating an unsafe condition that consumers would have no knowledge of"; and that Wal-Mart had been negligent and/or wanton in failing to train and/or supervise its employees. Unger died in April 2016, while his action was pending. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded plaintiff failed to establish by substantial evidence that Wal-Mart had a legal duty to provide Unger, a business invitee, with a staged shopping cart when he entered the store on May 20, 2014. Accordingly, the summary judgment in favor of the Wal-Mart defendants was affirmed. View "Unger v. Wal-Mart Stores East, L.P." on Justia Law

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Teresa Gilland petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to grant her motion to dismiss claims filed against her by Diane McCain on the basis of state-agent immunity. McCain, a resident of Jasper, Alabama, was attacked and bitten by a German Shepherd owned by her neighbor, Robert Barton. McCain sued Barton; the City of Jasper ("the City"); Sonny Posey, then mayor of the City; Joe Matthews, director of the City's Public Works Department; Russell Smallwood, superintendent of the City's Street Department; and Gilland, an animal-control officer employed by the City. McCain raised negligence and wantonness claims against Gilland for Gilland's alleged breach of "a duty to ... enforce animal control policies designed to protect the public from dogs running at large." The Alabama Supreme Court determined Gilland demonstrated that she had a clear legal right to the dismissal of McCain's claims against her based on State-agent immunity. The Court therefore granted the petition and issued the writ directing the trial court to dismiss Gilland from the case. View "Ex parte Teresa Gilland." on Justia Law

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The Town of Dauphin Island ("the Town") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief from a circuit court order denying its motion for summary judgment on recreational-use grounds, and asked for entry of summary judgment in its favor on claims brought by Bobbi Rogers individually, and as next friend to her minor daughter Rebecca Hatem. Rebecca sat on a tree swing located in a Town park when she was injured by the limb on which the swing was hanging. She suffered a compound fracture to her leg. Finding that constructive knowledge of the swing's potential danger was not sufficient under the recreational use statutes to hold the Town liable for Rebecca's injury. Therefore, the Supreme Court determined the Town established a clear legal right to the relief sought, and granted the writ. The circuit court was directed to grant summary judgment in favor of the Town. View "Ex parte Town of Dauphin Island." on Justia Law

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Terri Bargsley filed a negligence and wantonness action against the Birmingham Airport Authority ("the BAA") seeking to recover damages for injuries Bargsley allegedly incurred in a fall at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport ("the airport"), which the BAA managed and operated. The BAA filed a motion to dismiss Bargsley's tort action, claiming that it was entitled to immunity under various sections of the Alabama Code 1975. The circuit court granted the BAA's motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part. The circuit court determined that the BAA was entitled to immunity from Bargsley's negligence claim but that it was not entitled to immunity from Bargsley's wantonness claim. The BAA then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate the portion of its order denying the BAA's motion to dismiss as to Bargsley's wantonness claim and to enter an order dismissing Bargsley's wantonness claim. Finding that the BAA demonstrated it had a clear legal right to a dismissal of Bargsley's tort action, including the wantonness claim, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ. The circuit court was ordered to grant the BAA's motion to dismiss in its entirety. View "Ex parte Birmingham Airport Authority." on Justia Law

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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