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Hurst v. Sneed

Supreme Court of Alabama

February 3, 2017

Sherri Hurst
v.
Rankin Sneed, as administrator ad litem for the Estate of Brenda M. Ray

         Appeal from Madison Circuit Court (CV-15-901544)

          BOLIN, Justice

         Sherri Hurst appeals from a summary judgment in favor of the estate of Brenda M. Ray[1] on Hurst's negligence claim. We reverse and remand.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Hurst and Ray had been friends and neighbors for approximately 20 years before the incident that is the basis of the underlying action. Hurst and Ray would shop together once or twice a month, sharing rides over the years in order to reduce the expenses of gasoline and wear and tear on their respective vehicles. They would alternate as to whose vehicle they would take on each shopping trip.

         On August 22, 2013, Ray telephoned Hurst and asked her to accompany her to a Wal-Mart discount store. Ray was taking Nona Williams, her elderly aunt, to purchase Williams's medication and other merchandise that day, in preparation for Williams's move to Ohio. Hurst stated that Ray told her: "I really need you if you can go with me to Wal-Mart and go run some errands." Hurst testified that Williams was "very old" and that she walked "slowly." According to Hurst, although Williams walked "slowly, " she was able to walk without assistance. Hurst additionally stated that Ray suffered from congestive heart failure and a variety of other illnesses but that Ray also was able to walk without assistance. Hurst testified that her purpose in accompanying Ray to the Wal-Mart store was to "help her with her aunt [by] assisting her in the store [and] ... by standing with [Williams] [and] making sure [Williams] got to her correct destination." When asked specifically what assistance Ray had requested when she asked Hurst to go to the store with her, Hurst replied: "[S]he just wanted me to stay with [Williams] while she would go park the car or come into the store, whatever she needed."

         Williams testified that Ray asked Hurst to accompany them to the Wal-Mart store because "both [Ray] and I had limited mobility, and [Ray] wanted [Hurst] to come along in case either of us needed help moving around."

         Ray drove her vehicle to the Wal-Mart store, and Williams and Hurst rode as passengers. When they arrived at the Wal-Mart store, Ray pulled her vehicle along the curb in front of the store to allow Williams to get out of the vehicle at the entrance. After Williams got out of the vehicle, Ray asked Hurst to stand with Williams on the curb while she parked the car. Hurst then began to get out of the vehicle, but, before she had completely exited the vehicle, Ray pulled the vehicle forward, causing Hurst to fall to the ground. Hurst sustained injuries when the back tire of the vehicle ran over her leg.

         On August 21, 2015, Hurst sued Ray's estate ("the estate"), alleging negligence and seeking to recover damages for her injuries. The estate answered the complaint, raising as a defense, among other things, the Alabama Guest Statute, § 32-1-2, Ala. Code 1975. On May 25, 2016, the estate moved for a summary judgment, arguing that Hurst's negligence claim was barred by the Guest Statute. On June 7, 2016, Hurst filed a cross-motion for a summary judgment or, in the alternative, to deny the estate's motion for a summary judgment. Following a hearing, the trial court, on June 20, 2016, entered an order granting the estate's motion for a summary judgment and denying Hurst's cross-motion for a summary judgment. Hurst appeals.

         Standard of Review

         The standard by which this Court reviews a summary judgment is well settled:

"This Court reviews a summary judgment de novo. Turner v. Westhampton Court, L.L.C., 903 So.2d 82, 87 (Ala. 2004). We seek to determine whether the movant has made a prima facie showing that there exists no genuine issue of material fact and has demonstrated that the movant is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Turner, supra. In reviewing a summary judgment, this Court reviews the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. Turner, supra. Once the movant makes a prima facie showing that he is entitled to a summary judgment, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to produce 'substantial evidence' creating a genuine issue of material fact. Ala. Code 1975, § 12-21-12; Bass v. SouthTrust Bank of Baldwin County, 538 So.2d 794, 797-98 (Ala. 1989). 'Substantial evidence' is 'evidence of such weight and quality that fair-minded persons in the exercise of impartial judgment can reasonably infer the existence of the fact sought to be proved.' West v. Founders Life Assurance Co. of Fla., 547 So.2d 870, 871 (Ala. 1989)."

Muller v. Seeds, 919 So.2d 1174, 1176-77 (Ala. ...


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