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Dennis v. Blackwell

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

October 26, 2018

Belinda DENNIS
v.
William Bernard BLACKWELL and City of Birmingham.

         Rehearing Denied December 21, 2018.

Page 379

         Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-15-904969).

         Ralph K. Strawn, Jr., of Strawn & Robertson LLC, Gadsden, for appellant.

          Kayla S. Lawrence, asst. city atty., Birmingham Office of the City Attorney, Birmingham, for appellees.

         MOORE, Judge.

         Belinda Dennis appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the trial court") in favor of William Bernard Blackwell and the City of Birmingham ("the City") with regard to her negligence claims against Blackwell and the City. We affirm the trial court's judgment.

         Procedural History

         On December 30, 2015, Dennis filed a complaint against Blackwell and the City asserting, among other things, that Blackwell, a police officer employed by the City, had negligently "caused or allowed the vehicle he was operating ... to suddenly and improperly collide with [Dennis's] vehicle" and that, "[a]s a proximate consequence, [Dennis] suffered severe and permanent injuries." Dennis further alleged that the vehicle operated by Blackwell was "owned, leased, or otherwise controlled" by the City. On January 26, 2016, Blackwell and the City jointly filed an answer to the complaint.

         On November 7, 2017, Blackwell and the City filed a motion for a summary judgment and a brief and evidentiary materials in support thereof. They argued, with regard to the negligence claim, that Blackwell was not liable for negligence because, they said, the accident had resulted from an "act of God." On November 28, 2017, Dennis filed a response to the summary-judgment motion, arguing, with regard to the negligence claim, that "[a]n Act of God [did] not preclude [Blackwell] from his responsibility to act reasonably." Specifically, she argued, in part:

"When circumstances worsened to the point that traveling would make it too dangerous to proceed, [Blackwell] had a choice to avoid the roadways altogether. However, he chose instead to continue his trip back to his home precinct. He failed to check underneath his vehicle prior to putting [the vehicle] in gear and did not notice that the icy conditions had worsened. He was aware of the worsening conditions and simply did not do enough to ensure it was safe for him to

Page 380

attempt to drive down the [steep] terrain of this particular roadway."

         On November 30, 2017, the trial court entered a summary judgment as to fewer than all the claims. The trial court subsequently entered a summary judgment on February 12, 2018, disposing of the remaining claims, including the negligence claim. The trial court specifically found that "Blackwell's actions [did] not constitute a breach in his duty of care owed to... Dennis."

         On March 26, 2018, Dennis filed her notice of appeal to this court. On May 2, 2018, this court transferred the appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court for lack of appellate jurisdiction; that court transferred the ...


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