Archive for the ‘Alabama’ Category

Worst Seat in the House – Triable Issue as to Whether Park Had Notice of Dangerous Bleachers (AL)

August 18, 2015

Shirley v. Tuscaloosa County Park and Recreation Authority (Alabama)

Plaintiff was sitting on bleachers at Munny Sokol Park in Alabama watching a youth football game.  Certain welds on the bleachers broke, causing plaintiff to fall and suffer personal injury.  Plaintiff filed a complaint against the parks and recreation authority that owned the property, alleging negligence and wantonness.  Plaintiff later amended her complaint to assert a claim under the Alabama Extended Manufacturer’s Liability Doctrine against several fictitiously named defendants.  The property owner filed a motion for summary judgment arguing it was entitled to immunity under Alabama’s recreational use statute.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

On appeal, plaintiff argued that the trial court improperly entered summary judgment because there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the park was being used for commercial purposes and whether the property owner had “actual knowledge or an unreasonable risk of death or serious bodily harm” (both exceptions to the statutory immunity).

The Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama noted that plaintiff presented no evidence indicating that the use of the park was commercial in nature.  However, the Court found that the plaintiff did present evidence that the property owner had actual knowledge regarding the unreasonably dangerous condition of the bleachers and that it failed to guard or warn against the consequences.  The evidence established that an employee of the property owner arrived at the scene of the incident and commented, “I told them earlier to put a cone or a sign on this bleacher until we could get somebody out here to repair it.”  Another witness also confirmed that the the condition of the bleachers was known and should have been “coned off.”  The property owner disputed the facts, but the Court noted that it was required to review the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-movant.  Therefore, the Court reversed the decision and remanded the trial for further proceedings.

Short Ride – Minor Child Falls From Horse During Birth Party; Statutory Immunity Applies (AL)

June 19, 2015

Estes v. Stepping Stone Farm, LLC (Alabama)

A four year old child attended a birthday party that included equestrian activities.  She fell from a horse during the party and was injured.  Her father filed a lawsuit against the equine center, the center’s owner, and the center’s employees, alleging claims of negligence, wantonness, and negligent failure to train or supervise.  The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment citing the Alabama Equine Activities Liability Protection Act (“Act”), which limits the civil liability of those involved with equine activities as it pertains to risks inherent in the activities.  The trial court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.
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Oil and Water

December 17, 2010

Post from Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog (Alabama)

(Alabama Governor Bob Riley urges BP and President Obama to ensure injured residents need not sign unreasonable liability waivers in order to accept claims payments.)

A post from the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Blog discussed an interesting issue as the claims process in connection with the BP oil spill moved into its second stage. Obviously, to the extent that BP pays damage claims in connection with the spill, it is interested in capping its exposure and alleviating further liability. However, there is concern being expressed regarding the signing of potential waivers and releases of liability in connection with the claims payments. Governor Riley expressed concerns because the release documents applying to “anyone who is or could be responsible or liable in any way for the incident,” as opposed to just BP. There is also concern about the release being too broad as to the scope of claims, as well as it being applicable to spouses, heirs, parents, partners and others affiliated with the injured parties. Although this news item is not related to sports, recreation, or entertainment, it is instructive as to the need to pay close attention to, and to analyze, the breadth and scope of waiver and release documents that are offered in settlement of claims. The terms do matter, and they can certainly impact important future rights.

NOTE: In the end, BP is not going to settle final claims without some protections. This issue will come down to tailoring the waiver and release documents to a scope acceptable by all parties. As Governor Riley has expressed, “If a release is absolutely necessary, write one that is limited to the person making the claim, the company paying the claim, the damages asserted in the claim, and the information available as of submission of the final claim.”

Home Court Disadvantage

September 17, 2010

Galaxy Cable, Inc. v. Davis (Alabama)
(11-year-old playing basketball at a friend’s house tripped over a guy wire maintained by a cable company; liability found for the cable company due to a missing yellow cable guard, but lower court’s ruling as to punitive damaged overturned.)

An 11-year-old boy tripped over a guy cable attached to a telephone pole while retrieving a basketball, lacerating his leg. The minor (through his parents) sued the cable company (among others) for creating a dangerous condition and failing to remedy the condition. A plastic yellow guard that wrapped around the guy cable and provided a visible warning of the cable had been moved, and the cable company had failed to replace or fix the condition despite having routinely inspected the pole. The defendant cable company argued that the condition was open and obvious, but the trial court found in favor of the plaintiff, awarding compensatory damages and punitive damages. The defendant appealed, and ultimately the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling of liability, but overturned the determination of punitive damages due to a lack of evidence establishing “wantonness.”

NOTE: Much of the discussion revolves around whether the plaintiff was an invitee on the premises where the incident occurred. The plaintiff was on land belonging to another, which land was the subject of an easement in favor of the defendant. The parties never agreed on plaintiff’s legal status and the court determined that the defendant had waived the issue as to whether it owed the plaintiff a specialized duty at trial.

Fair Game

June 22, 2007

Cottrell v. NCAA (Alabama)
(Former Assistant Football Coach Sues NCAA and an Independent Scout for Defamation [among other things]; No Liability for NCAA; New Trial Granted to Scout Following Verdict in Favor of Recruiting Coordinator)

Former assistant football coaches at a state university had been charged with recruiting violations. After the charges, the coaches brought a lawsuit against the NCAA and an independent recruiting scout, alleging defamation, false-light invasion of privacy, conspiracy and negligence. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendants on all of the coaches’ claims except for the defamation claim asserted against the scout by the coach who served as recruiting coordinator. A jury awarded a verdict in favor of the recruiting coordinator. However, the Circuit Court then granted the scout’s motion for a new trial. Appeals were filed.

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