October 30, 2014

Bufkin v. Felipe's - Pedestrian Injury, Premises Liability and Open-Obvious Doctrine

A pedestrian injured by a bicyclist while crossing a bustling street as he reached a private construction zone won't be entitled to seek relief from the construction company, even though the company's large trash bin obstructed the view of those traveling the road.
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Bufkin v. Felipe's et al., was a complex injury case that involved consideration not just of relevant traffic laws, but also duties owed under premises liability law.

Specifically, the issue was whether the trash bin should be considered an inherent hazard and if the hazard was open and obvious.

Generally, the mere fact that someone was injured doesn't entitle that person to pursue or collect monetary damages.

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October 20, 2014

Ballesteros v. Roney - Servicemembers Civil Relief Act and Vehicle Accidents

Military service members on active duty are entitled to special consideration in matters of civil law when it comes to certain time limits and statutory requirements.
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When a member of the military is injured in a civilian auto accident, and later called to active duty before completion of the civil case, he or she can seek relief from the court for certain deadlines that would otherwise prohibit a case form moving forward. Here in Montgomery, we have the Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base, and a fair amount of military members living in and around our communities.

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, codified in 50 U.S.C. App. 501-597b, protects servicemembers from default judgments when the servicemember is materially affected by reason of service in making a defense to the action. Additionally, a servicemember is entitled to a stay of proceeding when a commanding officer can attest the current military duty will prevent appearance and that military leave will not be authorized for the purpose of allowing an appearance.

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October 10, 2014

Bruns v. City of Centralia - Distraction in Premises Liability

Typically the topic of "distraction" in injury law is most closely associated with motor vehicle accidents. And of course, it's relevant in that context, as distraction behind the wheel is extremely dangerous. But it's worthy of discussion in other areas of personal injury law as well, including premises liability.
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The "distraction doctrine" holds that if the property owner had reason to suspect an individual on site may not have appreciated a danger - even an open and obvious one - due to distraction or preoccupation - he or she would still have had a duty to correct or warn.

In the recent Illinois Supreme Court case of Bruns v. City of Centralia, plaintiff asserted the distraction doctrine as an exception to the open and obvious danger of a large, hazardous crack in a sidewalk in front of an eye clinic on which the elderly plaintiff tripped and fell. Plaintiff argued the city should have reasonably foreseen a pedestrian would become distracted while walking up to the clinic, and the appellate court agreed. However, the state supreme court reversed on the grounds that the simple act of looking up does not impose on defendant a duty to protect a plaintiff from an open and obvious defect.

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October 1, 2014

Curtis v. Lemna - Lawsuit Against Co-Worker Depends on Scope of Employment

Workers' compensation in Alabama, as in most other states, is intended an exclusive remedy for injuries incurred on the job. However, there are some options for additional compensation under certain conditions.
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One of those might be when injuries are caused by a co-worker - but only if that co-worker was acting outside the scope of his or her employment. Some examples would be if he or she was off-the-clock or if the injury was intentional. Otherwise, the co-worker would likely be indemnified under worker compensation laws.

The individual facts of the case are going to weigh heavily on whether the court allows third-party litigation against a co-worker, but it's important to have the case carefully vetted by an experienced Alabama workers' compensation lawyer.

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September 25, 2014

Rose v. Highway Equipment Co. - Overcoming Pure Contributory Negligence Standard in Alabama

The product liability lawsuit brought in Massachusetts by a man whose hand was mangled by lawn machinery failed after a jury apportioned him 73 percent fault for his own injury. In that state, plaintiffs who hold 50 percent of the fault or more for their own injury are barred from collecting on a claim.
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In Alabama, our Montgomery injury lawyers know our courts follow a much stricter standard. In fact, we are one of just five states following the pure contributory negligence model, which holds a plaintiff who holds any percentage of fault for his own injuries will be barred from bringing a claim.

Per the 2002 Alabama Supreme Court ruling in H.R.H. Metals, Inc. v. Miller, a defendant proves contributory negligence by showing the plaintiff failed to exercise reasonable care.

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September 18, 2014

Ainsworth v. Chandler - Plaintiff Status in Premises Liability Claim

The most common type of premises liability lawsuit in Alabama arises as a result of a "slip-and-fall" or "trip-and-fall." Circumstances vary widely, but tend to involve injuries caused by falling as a result of tripping or slipping as a consequence of liquid or debris on floors, uneven surfaces or defects in the ground, poor lighting or some other hazardous condition.
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However, simply proving injury on a person's property is not enough. State law burdens plaintiffs with many requirements. Included is establishment of duty according to plaintiff's status on site, as well as a prima facie (first impression) showing that the foreign substance or object caused the fall and the defendant knew or should have known of it at the time of the fall and failed to address it. The requirements may differ slightly if the alleged hazard was a property defect, rather than a foreign substance. However, in either case, the plaintiff's on-site status will be key.

Our Montgomery injury lawyers know the differentiation will determine the duty defendant owed the plaintiff.

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September 14, 2014

Henkel v. Norman - Private Property Owner's Duty to Warn

When it comes to premises liability, it doesn't matter if you are the owner of a big-chain box store or a modest property in the suburbs. Property owners have a duty to keep premises reasonably free of hazards. Failing this, the property owner must offer adequate warning.
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Failure to do this resulting in injury could prompt a civil lawsuit.

Our Montgomery fall injury lawyers know the mere fact that someone suffers an injury on-site is not proof of negligence on the part of the property owner. Hose v. Win-Dixie Montgomery, Inc. 658 So.2d 403, 404 (Ala.1995). What must be shown is the premises owner failed to use reasonable care in maintaining its premises in a reasonably safe manner. Injured parties bear the burden of proof in these cases.

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September 7, 2014

Travelers Property Casualty Co. v. Moore - Company Liability for Workers Off-the-Clock

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, which oversees federal appellate cases in Alabama, Georgia and Florida, recently ruled an auto insurance company has no duty to indemnify a defendant under his employer's policy for an incident in which the defendant killed one and wounded another with a shotgun while driving his work van.
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While such a ruling may seem common sense, it's worth noting injuries and wrongful death resulting from the incident had initially been characterized as an "accident" because the defendant purportedly hadn't intended to inflict those injuries. Further, the company insurer was deemed liable because, while the worker was off-the-clock, there was evidence to suggest he did have permission to drive the work van.

Our Montgomery car accident lawyers know that, while this incident involved a unique set of circumstances, the issue of employer liability when a worker or commercial vehicle is involved in a crash is one that arises with fair frequency.

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August 30, 2014

Lane v. Ballot - When Crimes and Torts Overlap

When a civil lawsuit for damages is predicated on a criminal act, the criminal prosecution can serve as an invaluable resource to the civil case, particularly due to the applicable principle of collateral estoppel.
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Also sometimes referred to as issue preclusion, the common law estoppel doctrine prevents a person from litigating an issue more than once. Where the mutual parties and material facts involved are the same as those in the criminal action, it may not be necessary to take the civil case all the way to trial. In fact, our Montgomery personal injury lawyers know that per Ala. Code 15-18-75, a conviction in a criminal trial may necessarily decide the issue of the defendant's liability for pecuniary damages to the victim.

We live in one of a handful of states where legislators were increasingly aware of the burden on victims to relitigate duplicative facts in civil cases. This statute allows for a more efficient means of securing recovery of damages for someone who has already endured a traumatic experience.

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August 22, 2014

Force v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. - Pursuing a Wrongful Death Claim

In cases of wrongful death in Alabama, state legislators have limited the ability to file to the individual acting as the personal representative of the deceased person's estate. From there, any damages awarded will be distributed among legitimate claimants, which can include a spouse, minor children, adult children, parents and other dependents.
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Disputes among family members regarding distribution of these funds is common, whether occurring with the personal representative of the estate or, in other states that allow individual family members to bring wrongful death claims, at the trial level. In either scenario, it's a matter for the courts to decide, and having an experienced Montgomery wrongful death attorney to help guide you through the process can be invaluable.

In the recent case of Force v. Am. Family Mut. Ins. Co., the Wisconsin Supreme Court was tasked with deciding whether the guardians of minor children of a deceased man were entitled to collect damages for wrongful death, even though his estranged spouse was not permitted to make a recovery under the law.

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August 15, 2014

Burlington Coat Factory v. Butler - Alabama Appeals Court Weighs Retail Store Liability

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals has reversed an earlier judgment in favor of a woman who suffered facial injuries in a retail store when a bracket fell on top of her as she reached for a sale item on a shelf.
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In Burlington Coat Factory of Alabama v. Butler, the court sided with the defendant in finding the injured plaintiff failed to prove the retailer had breached a duty of care by failing to inspect and maintain its premises in a reasonable condition, or that the brackets presented a defective or dangerous condition.

Our Montgomery personal injury attorneys know when it comes to premises liability claims, it's not enough to prove that an injury occurred on-site. Per the 2000 ruling by the Alabama Supreme Court in Kmart Corp. v. Basset, property owners owe a general duty to business invitees (i.e., customers) to, "use reasonable care and diligence to keep the property in a safe condition." If there is a dangerous condition, the business is required to offer up sufficient warning so that, by use of ordinary care, the danger can be avoided.

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August 7, 2014

Allstate Indemnity Co. v. Rice - Umbrella Liability Coverage

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently rejected a claim by a Missouri woman that an umbrella insurance policy belonging to her daughter and son-in-law covered her other son-in-law, and therefore her, in a crash that occurred in October 2010. In Allstate Indemnity Co. v. Rice, the court held the insurer had no obligation to cover excess liabilities when neither claimant was considered an insured.
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Montgomery car accident attorneys recognize that when battling insurance companies for fair compensation, there are a host of legal issues that can arise. This is especially true when those involved might be family members and friends.

In the Rice case, the injured woman was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by her son-in-law. The vehicle belonged to her daughter and another son-in-law. It was a single-vehicle crash, and the woman sustained serious injuries as a result.

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July 25, 2014

Pierson v. Service America Corp. - Sports Game Beer Vendor Faces Dram Shop Liability

In Alabama drunk driving injury cases, it is the intoxicated driver and/or his insurer who will be responsible for compensating victims. However, under some circumstances, the person who served the alcohol to that driver prior to the crash might also be held legally responsible.
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The statutes that govern these matters are called Dram Shop Laws, and they vary from state-to-state. Montgomery drunk driving accident lawyers are familiar with the governing statute in this state, codified in Ala. Code 6-5-71, which holds qualified parties may seek damages from the person's who furnished alcohol to a person who causes a traffic collision.

Typically, this might involve parents who host alcohol-fueled parties for teens or bartenders/bar owners who continue to serve obviously-drunk patrons. But recently, a case before the Indiana Court of Appeals may set a precedent that could also see liability imposed on beer vendors at sports stadiums.

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July 17, 2014

Verdugo v. Target Corp. - Retail Store Had No Duty to Keep Medical Device on Hand

Per a new ruling by the California Supreme Court, large stores in California are not required to keep automatic defibrillators on hand to treat patrons and/or workers who suffer from cardiac arrest. puzzleheart3.jpg

The plaintiffs in the wrongful death lawsuit of Verdugo v. Target Corp. argued the retailer should have kept one of the devices on hand as part of its first-aid plan. Ultimately, however, the state's high court found that would be an unfair burden for the retailer to shoulder.

Still, our Montgomery personal injury attorneys understand the courts left it open for lawmakers to decide whether a requirement to keep the life-saving devices on the premises is necessary.

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July 7, 2014

Loyacono v. Travelers Insurance Company - Prejudicial Statements Result in Remand of Crash Case

A car accident victim will receive a new trial after a state supreme court ruled highly-prejudicial statements regarding the occupation and salary of the plaintiff's husband were allowed before the jury prior to its verdict.
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While the Mississippi Supreme Court declined to back the appellate court's position that the jury's determination contradicted the overwhelming weight of the evidence, justices nonetheless agreed a new trial was in order in Loyacono v. Travelers Insurance Company.

Car accident attorneys in Montgomery know that while this is an out-of-state case, both Mississippi and Alabama are "fault" -based tort systems when it comes to crash liability. Both states also require underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage to be offered by insurers, only to be released with a written waiver from the insured.

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