Justia Injury Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
McKenzie v. Janssen Biotech, Inc.
In July 2012, Dr. William Sullivan prescribed Remicade, a medication manufactured by Janssen Biotech, Inc. ("JBI"), to Tim McKenzie as a treatment for Tim's psoriatic arthritis. Tim thereafter received Remicade intravenously every two weeks until November 2014, when he developed severe neuropathy causing significant weakness, the inability to walk without assistance, and the loss of feeling in, and use of, his hands and arms. Although Tim stopped receiving Remicade at that time, he and his wife, Sherrie, alleged they were not told that Remicade was responsible for his injuries. In December 2015, Tim traveled to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, to receive treatment for his neuropathy. The McKenzies stated that while at the Mayo Clinic, Tim was eventually diagnosed with demyelinating polyneuropathy, and doctors told them that it was likely caused by the Remicade. In 2016, the McKenzies sued JBI and Dr. Sullivan in Alabama Circuit Court, asserting failure-to-warn, negligence, breach-of-warranty, fraud, and loss-of-consortium claims. The complaint filed by the McKenzies was not signed, but it indicated it had been prepared by Sherrie, who was not only a named plaintiff, but also an attorney and active member of the Alabama State Bar. Keith Altman, an attorney from California admitted pro hac vice in November 2017, assisted with the preparation of the complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court found it apparent from even a cursory review of the complaint, that it was copied from a complaint filed in another action. The complaint included numerous factual and legal errors, including an assertion that Tim was dead even though he was alive, and claims invoking the laws of Indiana even though that state had no apparent connection to this litigation. The trial court struck the McKenzies' initial complaint because it was not signed as required by Rule 11(a) and because it contained substantial errors and misstatements of fact and law. The trial court later dismissed the failure-to-warn and negligence claims asserted by the McKenzies in a subsequent amended complaint because that amended complaint was not filed until after the expiration of the two-year statute of limitations applicable to those claims. Because the trial court acted within the discretion granted it by Rule 11(a) when it struck the McKenzies' initial complaint and because the McKenzies did not establish that the applicable statute of limitations should have been tolled, the trial court's order dismissing the McKenzies' claims as untimely was properly entered. View "McKenzie v. Janssen Biotech, Inc." on Justia Law
Posted in: Drugs & Biotech, Health Law, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Supreme Court of Alabama
Ex parte City of Tuskegee.
The City of Tuskegee ("the City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to vacate its order denying the City's motion for a summary judgment as to negligent inspection and negligent failure to provide hydrant and/or water pressure claims asserted against it, and to enter a summary judgment for the City as to those claims on the grounds of both substantive immunity and municipal immunity under 11-47-190, Ala. Code 1975. This case arose from the 2012 death of Yvonne Redd ("Yvonne") in a house fire that occurred at a Tuskegee residence. Significant among the allegations brought against the City was that the City’s safety inspector negligently inspected the rental home Yvonne had lived in, particularly with regard to the lack of hard-wired smoke detectors in Yvonne’s rented unit; and negligent inspection of fire hydrants closest to Yvonne’s residence. In its motion for a summary judgment, the City presented evidence: (1) indicating that TFD tested the hydrants in the City annually; (2) when TFD arrived on the scene, the tanks on Engine 1 and Engine 2 were both full of water; (3) the firefighters did not experience any problems with water pressure until the Macedonia fire department hooked its hose up to a hydrant south of the residence; (4) when Macedonia firefighters hooked up to that hydrant, they caused a "water hammer" that blew up the water main that supplied the fire hydrants, which caused a decrease in water pressure; and (5) fire trucks from the Shorter Fire Department and the VA Fire Department resupplied Engine 2 with water and that TFD was able to continuously fight the fire, even after the water-hammer issue. Based on this evidence, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the City was entitled to substantive immunity from the negligent-inspection claims. The Court thus granted the City’s application and issue the writ. View "Ex parte City of Tuskegee." on Justia Law
Imperial Aluminum, LLC v. Taylor
Tyler Taylor injured his right index finger while in the line and scope of employment with Imperial Aluminum-Scottsboro, LLC ("Imperial"). The issue this case presented for the Alabama Supreme Court's review centered on whether the defendant-employer engaged in third-party spoliation of evidence that would have been essential to the plaintiff's products-liability claim against the company. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, finding Imperial culpable for negligent spoliation of evidence, and affirmed the award of compensatory damages to Taylor. The Court reversed, however, judgment relating to the award of punitive damages based on a finding of wanton conduct. View "Imperial Aluminum, LLC v. Taylor" on Justia Law
Ex parte KKE, LLC
Ronny Sanders and his employer KKE, LLC, sought to transfer a wrongful-death case filed against them in Bibb County, Alabama to Chilton County, where the automobile accident giving rise to the case occurred. KKE was a trucking company with its principal place of business in Bibb County. In 2016, Sanders, a Bibb County resident, was driving a logging truck owned by KKE eastbound on U.S. Highway 82 in Chilton County when the truck collided with a westbound vehicle being driven by Destini Davis. Davis and her three passengers, Londyn Rivers, Tarlanda Davenport, and Makiyah Davenport, were killed in the collision. After the trial court denied Sanders and KKE's motion to transfer the action from Bibb County to Chilton County, they petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that the transfer was required by section 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, the forum non conveniens statute. The Supreme Court concluded Sanders and KKE did not establish that Chilton County was a significantly more convenient forum than Bibb County or that Bibb County's connection to the action was weak. Because they did not establish a clear legal right to the transfer they seek, Sanders and KKE were not entitled to mandamus relief. View "Ex parte KKE, LLC" on Justia Law
Ex parte Reed.
Dara Myelia Reed petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Reed's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring the underlying action to the Marshall Circuit Court. In 2017, a vehicle driven by Reed collided with a vehicle driven by Judy Watwood, at or near the intersection of Gilliam Springs Road Northwest and U.S. Highway 231 in Marshall County. Reed was a resident of Jefferson County; Watwood was a resident of Cullman County. In 2018, Watwood sued Reed in the Jefferson Circuit Court, alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking damages for her accident-related injuries. Reed filed a motion for a change of venue under Alabama's forum non conveniens statute, requesting that the action be transferred to Marshall County in the interest of justice. Watwood filed a response in opposition to the motion for a change of venue. Following a hearing on the matter, the circuit court denied the motion. Reed then filed this petition. The Supreme Court determined the trial court should have granted Reed’s motion, and granted her petition. View "Ex parte Reed." on Justia Law
Donaldson v. Country Mutual Insurance Company
Daniel Donaldson appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Country Mutual Insurance Company ("Country Mutual"). The underlying action stemmed from a November 2015 accident in which Donaldson, while working in a construction zone on the west side of Bailey Cove Road in Madison County, Alabama, was struck by a sport-utility vehicle, owned and driven by Gregory Johnston. As a result of the collision, Donaldson suffered severe injuries to one of his legs that ultimately required the amputation of the leg. Donaldson sued Johnston and Country Mutual, asserting claims of negligence and wantonness against Johnston and asserting that Country Mutual was vicariously liable for Johnston's conduct under theories of agency and respondeat superior. At the time of the underlying accident, Johnston was working as an insurance agent under an "agent's agreement" with Country Mutual and a number of other companies that were collectively referred to in that agreement as "Country Insurance and Financial Services." Country Mutual filed a motion for a summary judgment, arguing that Johnston was not its agent or employee but, instead, was an independent contractor. Country Mutual further argued that, even assuming Johnston was its employee, his actions in relation to the accident were outside the line and scope of his alleged employment. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Donaldson failed to submit substantial evidence of the existence of a genuine issue of material fact to support its claims against Country Mutual to defeat Country Mutual's summary judgment motion. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Donaldson v. Country Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law
Ghee v. USAble Mutual Insurance Company d/b/a Blue Advantage Administrators of Arkansas
Douglas Ghee, as the personal representative of the estate of Billy Fleming, appealed a circuit court order dismissing a wrongful-death claim brought against USAble Mutual Insurance Company d/b/a Blue Advantage Administrators of Arkansas ("Blue Advantage"). Fleming presented to the emergency department complaining of constipation and abdominal pain. He would ultimately need a colectomy, but the hospital informed him Blue Advantage had decided that a lower quality of care (continued non-surgical management) was more appropriate than the higher quality of care (surgery) that Fleming's surgeon felt was appropriate. Fleming and his family had multiple conversations with agents of Blue Advantage in an unsuccessful attempt to convince the company that the higher surgery was the more appropriate course of care. Ultimately, an agent of Blue Advantage suggested to Fleming that he return to the hospital in an attempt to convince hospital personnel and physicians to perform the surgery on an emergency basis. For five days, Fleming would present to the emergency room, each time he was treated by non-surgical means, then returned home. On the evening of July 15, 2013, Fleming's condition had deteriorated such that he had to be intubated. He died after midnight of septic shock due to a perforated sigmoid colon with abundant fecal material in the peritoneal cavity. A lawsuit was filed against Blue Advantage, asserting that the combined negligence of the hospitals and clinics involved and Blue Advantage, proximately caused Fleming's death. Because the trial court determined that Ghee's allegations against Blue Advantage as stated in the original complaint were defensively preempted by ERISA, the Alabama Supreme Court found Ghee should have had the right to amend his complaint to clarify his state-law claims. Because the Court concluded that Ghee should have been afforded the right to amend his complaint, it reversed the judgment of the trial court and remanded for further proceedings. View "Ghee v. USAble Mutual Insurance Company d/b/a Blue Advantage Administrators of Arkansas" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure, Insurance Law, Medical Malpractice, Personal Injury, Supreme Court of Alabama
Wiggins v. Mobile Greyhound Park, LLP
Katerial Wiggins, individually and as the administrator of the estate of Dominic G. Turner, deceased, and as the next friend of Dominic Turner, Jr. ("D.T."), appealed the grant of summary in favor of Mobile Greyhound Park, LLP ("MGP") and Mobile Greyhound Racing, LLP ("MGR"). In 2015, a vehicle driven by Willie McMillian struck Wiggins' vehicle from behind on Interstate 10 in Mobile County. Wiggins's fiancé, Turner, and their child, D.T., were riding in the backseat of Wiggins' vehicle when the collision occurred. As a result, Turner died and Wiggins and D.T. were injured. After obtaining evidence indicating that McMillian was under the influence of alcohol, law-enforcement officers arrested McMillian. He later pleaded guilty to reckless murder and was sentenced to imprisonment for 15 years. Wiggins sued MGR and MGP alleging that on the day of the collision, MGR and MGP sold alcohol to McMillian at the dog-racing track while he was visibly intoxicated; she requested compensatory damages and punitive damages, pursuant to section 6-5-71, Ala. Code 1975 ("the Dram Shop Act"), for Turner's death and the injuries she and D.T. had sustained. MGR moved for a summary judgment in the dram-shop action and submitted evidence in support of its motion. Among other things, MGR argued that Wiggins had failed to present sufficient evidence indicating that McMillian had appeared "visibly intoxicated" while purchasing alcohol at the dog-racing track operated by MGR. MGP also moved for a summary judgment. In relevant part, MGP asserted that it was a limited partnership that owned a minority interest in MGR. MGP asserted that it was not responsible for the operation of the dog-racing track. The Alabama Supreme Court determined a genuine issue of material fact remained regarding whether McMillian appeared visibly intoxicated when purchasing alcohol from MGR on the night of the collision. The circuit court's summary judgment in favor of MGR was, therefore, reversed. To the extent that Wiggins sought to recover damages stemming from Turner's death under both the Dram Shop Act and the Wrongful Death Act, the circuit court's order granting MGR's motion to strike Wiggins's request for damages under the Wrongful Death Act was affirmed; Wiggins could recover only damages based on Turner's death under the provisions of the Dram Shop Act. Because Wiggins waived any challenge to the summary judgment in favor of MGP, the circuit court's decision in that regard was affirmed. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Wiggins v. Mobile Greyhound Park, LLP" on Justia Law
Bell v. Smith
Ella Bell, a member of the Alabama State Board of Education ("ASBE"), appealed a circuit court's dismissal of her complaint asserting claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, the tort of outrage, negligence and wantonness, and conspiracy against Cameron Smith, Advance Local Media, LLC ("ALM"), and the R Street Institute ("R Street"). In June 2017, Bell attended a special-called meeting of the ASBE concerning elementary- and secondary-education matters. Among other matters, the ASBE decided during the meeting not to renew the Alabama State Department of Education's contract with ACT Spire Solutions, which provided ACT Spire Assessments for the purpose of tracking academic progress of Alabama's public-school students in kindergarten through 12th grade. In the course of the discussion between ASBE members about that contract, Bell made some comments regarding special-education students and their effect on the aggregate test scores of public-school students throughout the state. In August, AL.com published an article written by Cameron Smith in which he addressed some of Bell's comments in the June 2017, ASBE meeting. At the conclusion of the article, AL.com included the following tagline: "Cameron Smith is a regular columnist for AL.com and vice president for the R Street Institute, a think tank in Washington, D.C." Immediately after the tagline, AL.com included the following statement: "Ella Bell's contact information may be found on the [ASBE] website" and contained an embedded link to the Web site of the ASBE. Following that statement, AL.com embedded a video of the discussion by ASBE members, which included Bell's comments that Smith addressed in the article. Bell alleged Smith made statements that he knew were false about Bell's comments in the June 2017 ASBE meeting. The Alabama Supreme Court found a fair reading of Smith's article revealed it to be an expression of opinion that did not mislead readers about the content of Bell's actual statements, it was not necessary for the circuit court to wait until the summary-judgment stage to dispose of the claims against Smith, ALM, and R Street. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in dismissing Bell's defamation suit. View "Bell v. Smith" on Justia Law
Ex parte Tim Seriana.
Plaintiff Tim Seriana sought mandamus relief to order the circuit court reverse its grant of a motion for change of venue filed by Joe Stevens, LLC. In 2015, Seriana and his wife, Karen, sued Joe Todd Stevens (and his LLC) and various fictitiously named defendants, alleging Stevens was a contractor who did business in northeast Alabama who negligently failed to barricade, cordon off, or otherwise warn pedestrians of a big ditch then excavated by Stephens. Seriana fell into the ditch, and sustained an injury. In his petition, Seriana argued the trial court erroneously transferred this case to Talladega County because, he contended, Stevens waived any objection it might have had to venue in Calhoun County when it answered the amended complaint without raising the defense of improper venue. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed, granted the writ of mandamus, and directed the trial court to vacate its motion for change of venue and transfer this case to Talladega County. View "Ex parte Tim Seriana." on Justia Law