Justia Civil Procedure Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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Lawrence Taylor appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Charles Hanks in Taylor's will contest. Taylor challenged the will of his father, Billy Lee Hite, alleging, among other things, that Hite had lacked testamentary capacity when he made the will, which did not mention Taylor. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that a genuine issue of material fact existed regarding whether Hite had testamentary capacity, judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "Taylor v. Hanks" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Crag Dyas and Dyas, LLC appealed a circuit court's orders disposing of some of their claims against some of the defendants below. Because those orders did not constitute a valid, final judgment that would support an appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal. View "Dyas v. Stringfellow et al." on Justia Law

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Lonas Goins was injured when a train locomotive that he was operating collided with a garbage truck at a railroad intersection. Goins sued the owner and the driver of the truck. After a five-day trial, a jury found in favor of Goins and awarded him damages. Dissatisfied with the jury's damages award, Goins appealed the judgment, arguing that the trial court committed multiple errors that warranted a new trial. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court rejected Goins's arguments and affirmed the judgment. View "Goins v. Advanced Disposal Services Gulf Coast, LLC" on Justia Law

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Shirley English sued Murphy Oil USA, Inc., after she slipped and fell in the restroom of a Murphy Oil gas station. Murphy Oil moved for summary judgment, but the trial court denied the motion. After a bench trial, the court entered a judgment in favor of English. The trial court made no findings of fact during the trial and instead took the matter under consideration after inviting the parties to submit briefs. One day after the briefing deadline had passed, the trial court entered a judgment in favor of English and awarded her compensatory damages in the amount of $125,000. The trial court did not make any written factual findings as a part of its judgment. It appeared from the record that Murphy Oil did not move for a new trial or for judgment as a matter of law, and it did not otherwise challenge the sufficiency of the evidence before it appealed to the Alabama Supreme Court. Murphy Oil argued on appeal that: (1) the trial court erred by denying its summary-judgment motion; (2) English offered no evidence at trial to sustain a judgment holding it liable for negligence; and (3) the trial court erred by admitting evidence of medical expenses that was unsupported by expert testimony. The Supreme Court determined none of Murphy Oil's arguments provided a ground for reversing the trial court judgment: Murphy Oil did not establish the Supreme Court should disregard the general rule against reviewing a trial court's denial of a summary- judgment motion after a trial on the merits. And its argument about the sufficiency of the evidence at trial was not properly before the Supreme Court. Finally, based on the record before it, the Supreme Court could not say that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of English's medical expenses. View "Murphy Oil, USA, Inc. v. English" on Justia Law

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Chris and Suzanne Moore, as parents and next friends of Sydney Moore, a minor, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Pamela Tyson and Jennifer Douthit, two employees of the Huntsville City Board of Education ("the Board"), with regard to negligence and wantonness claims asserted against Tyson and Douthit by the Moores arising from injuries suffered by Sydney at her elementary school. Tyson was employed by the Board as a teacher at Goldsmith-Schiffman Elementary School. Douthit was employed as the principal of the school. Sydney was enrolled at the school as a third-grade student in Tyson's class. Tyson left the students unsupervised in the classroom while she went to the restroom. During that time, Sydney and another student in the class left their seats, and, according to Sydney, the other student caused her to fall and hit her head and face on a counter in the classroom. Sydney suffered injuries from her fall, including fractures of her left orbital bone, her eye socket, and her nose and entrapment of her eye. Sydney was admitted for treatment at a hospital and underwent surgery as a result of the injuries. THe Alabama Supreme Court determined the Moores did not demonstrate the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of Tyson and Douthit based on immunity. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Moore v. Tyson" on Justia Law

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Defendant Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Allstate"), appealed a circuit court's order granting the posttrial motion of the plaintiff, Doyle Harbin, which sought the imposition of sanctions based on Allstate's purported violation of a pretrial mediation order. In 2015, Harbin was injured as the result of a motor-vehicle accident that he alleged was caused by Irvin Stewart. Harbin subsequently filed a complaint in the trial court asserting a negligence claim against Stewart. In the same complaint, Harbin also named Allstate, Harbin's automobile insurance carrier, as a defendant and sought to recover uninsured/underinsured-motorist ("UIM") benefits under his Allstate policy. Following Stewart's dismissal, Harbin, without opposition from Allstate, requested that the scheduled trial date be continued and the matter referred to mediation. Unable to reach a settlement, the matter proceeded to trial. A jury returned a $690,000 verdict in Harbin's favor. Approximately two weeks later, Harbin filed a "Motion for Entry of Judgment and Motion for Sanctions," essentially contending Allstate in bad faith failed to abide by the Order which set the Court-ordered mediation in which Allstate had agreed to participate. The motion requested Allstate pay Harbin's trial-related attorneys' fees. The Alabama Supreme Court found the evidence failed to show Allstate violated the trial court's mediation order, thus it exceeded its discretion by issuing Harbin's requested sanctions. The Court therefore reversed the portion of the trial court's order imposing sanctions exceeding Harbin's request for costs and fees totaling $57,516.36, and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "Allstate Property & Casualty Ins. Co. v. Harbin" on Justia Law

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Boone Newspapers, Inc., the Selma Times-Journal, Blake Deshazo, and Will Whaley (collectively termed "the Newspaper defendants") sought mandamus review of a trial court's order denying their motion requesting that Judge Collins Pettaway, Jr., recuse himself from their case. Faya Rose Toure sued the Newspaper defendants, alleging that they defamed her by falsely "indicat[ing] that [Toure] was illegally removing [C]onfederate flags from a public cemetery" and by "falsely report[ing] ... that [Toure] illegally removed a [political] campaign sign from private property." Toure requested compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages. The Newspaper defendants filed a summary-judgment motion, which Judge Pettaway denied; he later denied their motion for reconsideration, without a hearing. The Newspaper defendants filed a motion for recusal. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the Newspaper defendants failed to demonstrate that they had a clear legal right to Judge Pettaway's recusal. Accordingly, the Newspaper defendants' petition was denied. View "Ex parte Boone Newspapers, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") and its insured, Kaitlin Ogletree, disagreed about the extent of damages incurred in an automobile accident that Ogletree had with an underinsured motorist. During closing arguments, Ogletree's counsel made inaccurate statements unsupported by the evidence presented at trial. The jury returned a verdict for Ogletree, and Allstate appealed on account of the allegedly improper closing argument. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the incorrect statements were prejudicial and adequate grounds for a new trial. Allstate's objection to the argument was properly preserved, and the Court found those statement were not provoked by an improper statement from Allstate's counsel. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Allstate Insurance Co. v. Ogletree" on Justia Law

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Randall Pruitt appealed the grant of summary judgment against him and in favor of James Oliver with respect to Pruitt’s claims of negligence and wantonness stemming from a collision between Oliver’s car and Pruitt’s wheelchair. At the time of the accident, Pruitt’s wheelchair was equipped with a seat belt, two six-beam flashlights on the footrest, two flashing red bicycle lights on the back of his arm rests, some red reflectors on the back, and an orange vest with reflective yellow tape draped over the back. The maximum speed of the motorized wheelchair was five miles per hour. On a “pretty” night in April 2013, Pruitt was dropped off from the bus; his apartment was located across a four-lane road across from the bus stop. According to a witness, Oliver appeared to be trying to “beat a yellow light. He made the turn at a high rate of speed and hit the electric wheelchair from behind. The man in the chair was launched out of his seat and landed in the roadway. I could tell the chair had significant damage.” Oliver contended at trial Pruitt’s wheelchair was a “motor vehicle” under Alabama’s motor-vehicle and traffic code, and because the chair lacked certain safety equipment, Pruitt was “contributorily negligent per se” and should have been barred from recovering on his negligence claim. In the alternative, Oliver contended Pruitt, as a pedestrian, violated the rules for crossing a street where there was no crosswalk because he failed to yield the right-of-way to Oliver’s car, and failed to walk “as near as practicable to the outside edge of the roadway.” The Alabama Supreme Court concluded motorized wheelchairs were indeed “motor vehicles” under the pertinent provision of Alabama’s motor-vehicle and traffic code, but an issue of fact existed as to whether Pruitt’s violation of safety-feature-requirements for motor vehicles was the proximate cause of the accident. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court erred in finding there was not substantial evidence of Oliver’s alleged subsequent negligence, and therefore, that issue had to be submitted to a jury. Summary judgment in favor of Oliver with respect to Pruitt’s wantonness claim was affirmed. View "Pruitt v. Oliver" on Justia Law

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James Olvey was killed when his vehicle was struck head on by a vehicle driven by Donald Wright II, who was driving the wrong way on Interstate 65 ("I-65") while attempting to flee the police. James Griffin, the personal representative of Olvey's estate, sued Wright, the City of Trafford ("Trafford"), the City of Warrior ("Warrior"), and other named and fictitiously named parties, alleging that they shared responsibility for Olvey's death. Over a year later, Griffin amended his complaint to substitute Trafford police officer Dylan McCoy and Warrior police officers Stephen Scott and James Henderson ("the defendant officers") for fictitiously named defendants. The defendant officers moved to enter a judgment in their favor, arguing that the amended complaint was untimely and thus barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The trial court denied their motion, and the defendant officers petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court determined Griffin had ample opportunity to discover the identities of the defendant officers before filing suit - and did not follow through. Therefore, he was not able to avoid the bar of the statute of limitations, and the defendant officers were entitled to the writ of mandamus. View "Ex parte McCoy, Scott, and Henderson." on Justia Law