Recently in Personal Injury Category

June 20, 2015

Cain v. Lee - Punitive Damages Weighed in Injury Lawsuit

In an injury lawsuit, there are often two kinds of damages: Compensatory and punitive.
gavel.jpg
Compensatory damages are those incurred by plaintiff for actual losses. These can range from medical bills and lost wages to pain and suffering and loss of life enjoyment. They are not necessarily tangible, but the goal is to restore those injured to whatever extent that's possible.

Punitive damages, meanwhile, are those intended to punish defendant. It's still the plaintiff who benefits from these damages, but whether plaintiff may seek them has little to do with his or her injuries and more to do with the egregiousness of defendant's conduct. Punitive damages are often far in excess of compensatory damages, particularly if defendant is a larger entity.

Continue reading "Cain v. Lee - Punitive Damages Weighed in Injury Lawsuit" »

June 12, 2015

Kent v. City of Columbia Falls - Bike Path Accident Lawsuit to Proceed

In a 4-3 decision, justices of the Montana Supreme Court remanded the case of Kent v. City of Columbia Falls to trial to be decided on its merits. bikepath.jpg

At its heart, this is a premises liability case. All other defendants aside from the local city government settled with plaintiff. Now, the primary question is whether the city is liable for negligent oversight of design and development of a subdivision where this tragic accident occurred. Initially, a trial court granted city's motion for summary judgment on the public duty doctrine, which holds government entities can only be held liable for individual injuries when there was a breach of duty owed to the individual, rather than the public-at-large. It's a tough hurdle because generally, the government owes a duty to the public, rather than individuals.

A number of states now refuse to recognize the public duty doctrine, but Alabama is not among them. The Kent case shows the tide may be turning within the courts.

Continue reading "Kent v. City of Columbia Falls - Bike Path Accident Lawsuit to Proceed" »

May 24, 2015

Ross v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp. - Slip-and-Fall Not a Medical Liability Claim, Court Rules

Not all injuries that occur in a hospital are medical liability claims.
shinyfloor.jpg
This may seem an obvious point, but it's one a fair amount of health care providers make when faced with premises liability claims.

It's a key distinction because claims of medical liability are bound to a very stringent standard of filing and notification requirements, as well as a higher proof burden. Although state guidelines vary on these requirements, this is generally true across the board in all 50 states.

For example in Alabama, the evidentiary and procedural laws are quite extensive. While most civil cases simply requires proof to the jury's reasonable satisfaction, a medical malpractice claim requires proof by substantial evidence. And a poor outcome is not enough. It must be shown the medical professional breached the applicable standard of care for someone in his or her position.

Continue reading "Ross v. St. Luke's Episcopal Hosp. - Slip-and-Fall Not a Medical Liability Claim, Court Rules" »

April 6, 2015

Cline et al. v. Publix Supermarkets - Wrongful Death of Child Blamed on Cookie

The plaintiff in Cline et al. v. Publix Supermarkets, Inc. et al. had a son who was severely allergic to nuts. She kept Benadryl and an epinephrine pen with her at all times. She carefully read ingredient labels and always questioned whether cross-contamination may have occurred when obtaining food from restaurants, friends or grocery stores. cookie.jpg

Despite all of this, the Alabama woman says her son died of an allergic reaction he suffered after biting into a grocery store cookie that contained walnuts. This was after she says the store employee assured her there were no nuts in the cookie. After taking the cookie home, she even took two bites herself to confirm there were no nuts in it before giving the rest to her son.

However, according to the lawsuit, the boy took three bites before he ran to tell her his mouth was burning. His aunt administered the Benadryl while his mother gave him an epinephrine shot in the thigh. But the boy's condition continued to worsen. As he lost consciousness, his family called for emergency help. His throat swelled. Emergency workers tried to revive him as they rushed him to the hospital. He did not survive.

Continue reading "Cline et al. v. Publix Supermarkets - Wrongful Death of Child Blamed on Cookie" »

December 12, 2014

Bilesky v. Shopko - Spoliation of Evidence Met With Sanctions

Evidence is the crux of any legal case. The truth, of course, is of paramount importance, but what is also key is what can be proven. Without the right amount and type of evidence, a case will go no where.
gavel21.jpg
This is as true for personal injury cases as it is for those involving crimes.

Because certain evidence can be considered critical to a case, and those with vested interest in not having that evidence presented may be in possession of it for a time. The courts have long recognized the importance of sanctions for loss or destruction of evidence - regardless of whether it was intentional. When important evidence is lost, it's called spoliation. By imposing sanctions for spoliation of evidence, the court provides incentive to protect key evidence that may be helpful to the opposing side.

Sanctions can include anything from a special instruction to the jury to a default judgment on the issue of liability or damages. It can result in the party disadvantaged by the loss of evidence winning the case.

Continue reading "Bilesky v. Shopko - Spoliation of Evidence Met With Sanctions" »

November 30, 2014

RGR, LLC v. Settle - $2.5M Railroad Crash Verdict Affirmed in Part

Railway crashes and accidents result in hundreds of deaths each year, according to the Federal Railway Administration, which reported a total of 1,734 train accidents in 2012. traintracks1.jpg

In comparison to the enormous carnage seen on America's roadways involving solely motor vehicles (causing an estimated 33,000 deaths annually), it might seem a minor problem. However, 700 deaths in a single year - 2012 - is cause for concern. That's only slightly fewer than the number of people killed in recreational boating incidents, so it warrants the attention of motorists.

Just recently in Alabama, a 27-year-old former contestant on the hit show "Survivor" was killed in Birmingham while working as a conductor when an axle on one of the cars derailed and he was thrown into another car in the yard.

Some of the more common causes of train accidents in Alabama include:


  • Failing mechanics

  • Malfunctioning lights or signals

  • Inadequate track maintenance

  • Failure to install/maintain safety gates

  • Unprotected crossings

  • Conductor negligence

  • Defective train or parts

Continue reading "RGR, LLC v. Settle - $2.5M Railroad Crash Verdict Affirmed in Part" »

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.
asphaltcrack.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Bruns v. City of Centralia - Distraction in Premises Liability" »

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.
cogsandwheels.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Rose v. Highway Equipment Co. - Overcoming Pure Contributory Negligence Standard in Alabama" »

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.
stairs1.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Ainsworth v. Chandler - Plaintiff Status in Premises Liability Claim" »

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.
wetwood.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Henkel v. Norman - Private Property Owner's Duty to Warn" »

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.
lighthighway.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Travelers Property Casualty Co. v. Moore - Company Liability for Workers Off-the-Clock" »

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.
handcuff.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Lane v. Ballot - When Crimes and Torts Overlap" »

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.
shoppingcart.jpg
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.

Continue reading "Burlington Coat Factory v. Butler - Alabama Appeals Court Weighs Retail Store Liability" »

May 1, 2014

Alabama Train Accidents Target of Awareness Campaign

"See tracks? Think Train!"

That's the slogan for a new national awareness campaign designed to warn both motorists and pedestrians of railroad dangers. Here in Alabama, we have one of the highest rates of fatality for highway-railroad crossings in the country.
railroadtracks.jpg
Our Injury lawyers in Montgomery note Alabama ranks 15th in the country for overall railroad deaths. That's according to the Federal Railroad Administration, which tallied 85 train-related collisions with vehicles and 19 deaths, including those in vehicles and on foot, in Alabama during 2013.

Continue reading "Alabama Train Accidents Target of Awareness Campaign" »

April 18, 2014

Building Code Violations May be Grounds for Negligence Claim Following Injury

When a person suffers injury as a result of conditions on a property that fail to meet the current building code standards - either by state or local ordinance - this could be grounds for filing a premises liability lawsuit. houserailing.jpg

Of course, there are exceptions, which is why it's important to have your case carefully examined by an experienced personal injury lawyer in Montgomery before proceeding.

The Alabama Supreme Court weighed this issue in the 2005 case of Parker Bldg. Servs. Co. v. Lightsey. Here, the case stemmed from an injury to a 5-year-old boy in Homewood, resulting from his presence on commercial property where building code violations existed. The ceiling caved in, causing the boy to fall to the floor and hit his head, resulting in a stroke and permanent paralysis.

Continue reading "Building Code Violations May be Grounds for Negligence Claim Following Injury" »


Martindale-Hubbell AV Rated
for Over Twenty Years


Certified Civil Trial Specialist
National Board of Trial Advocacy


American Board of Trial Advocates
Rank of Advocate


Super Lawyers - 2010