Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc. v. Feltman

Supreme Court of Alabama

February 15, 2019

Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc.
v.
Diane Brown Feltman

          Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-16-900071)

          SELLERS, JUSTICE.

         Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc. ("Hinkle"), appeals from a judgment based on a jury verdict in favor of Diane Brown Feltman. We affirm.

         I. Facts and Procedural History

         Hinkle is in the business of selling heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning supplies and equipment. Hinkle maintains an office in both Birmingham and Pelham and a warehouse at its Birmingham office. At all times relevant to this action, Gabriel Butterfield was employed as a branch manager at Hinkle's Pelham office.

         On September 11, 2015, a GMC Sierra pickup truck, owned and driven by Butterfield, struck Feltman, a pedestrian, as she was attempting to cross 20th Street in downtown Birmingham. As a result of that accident, Feltman sustained multiple injuries. On January 7, 2016, Feltman sued Butterfield and Hinkle, alleging that Butterfield, while acting within the line and scope of his employment with Hinkle, had been negligent and wanton in causing the accident and that Hinkle was vicariously liable based on a theory of respondeat superior.

         Hinkle filed a motion for a summary judgment on all claims against it, arguing that it was not vicariously liable for Butterfield's alleged actions because, it said, Butterfield was not acting within the line and scope of his employment with Hinkle at the time of the accident. Following the submission of briefs and a hearing on that motion, the trial court denied Hinkle's motion for a summary judgment.

         The case eventually proceeded to trial on the issue whether Hinkle was vicariously liable for Butterfield's negligence and the extent of damages.[1] At the close of Feltman's case and again at the close of all the evidence, Hinkle moved for a judgment as a matter of law ("JML") on the ground that Feltman failed to submit substantial evidence showing that Butterfield was acting within the line and scope of his employment at the time of the accident; each of those motions was denied. The jury returned a verdict in favor of Feltman in the amount of $375, 000, finding Hinkle vicariously liable for Butterfield's negligence. After the trial court entered a judgment on the verdict, Hinkle filed a renewed motion for a JML or, in the alternative, a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the judgment. That motion was denied, and Hinkle filed this appeal.

         II. Motion for a JML

          On appeal, Hinkle first argues that the trial court erred in denying its renewed motion for a JML on the respondeat superior claim.

"The standard of review applicable to a ruling on a [renewed] motion for [a JML] is identical to the standard used by the trial court in granting or denying [a motion for a JML]. Thus, in reviewing the trial court's ruling on the motion, we review the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmovant, and we determine whether the party with the burden of proof has produced sufficient evidence to require a jury determination. ...
"....
"... In ruling on a [renewed] motion for a [JML], the trial court is called upon to determine whether the evidence was sufficient to submit a question of fact to the jury; for the court to determine that it was, there must have been 'substantial evidence' before the jury to create a question of fact. See, § 12-21-12(a), Ala. Code 1975. '[S]ubstantial 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 Florida, 547 So.2d 870, 871 (Ala. 1989)."

American Nat'l Fire Ins. Co. v. Hughes, 624 So.2d 1362, 1366-67 (Ala. 1993)(internal citations omitted); see also Cheshire v. Putman, 54 So.3d 336, 340 (Ala. 2010).

"To recover for damages for injuries sustained in an automobile accident against the driver's employer upon a theory of respondeat superior, it is incumbent upon [the] plaintiff to prove that the collision occurred while the driver was within the scope of his employment, and happened while he was in the accomplishment of objectives within the line of his duties."

Perdue v. Mitchell, 373 So.2d 650, 653 (Ala. 1979)(citing Cook v. Fullbright, 349 So.2d 23 (Ala. 1977)). Thus, Feltman had the burden of presenting substantial evidence showing that the accident occurred while Butterfield was acting within the line and scope of his employment with Hinkle. See Williams v. Hughes Moving & Storage Co., 578 So.2d 1281, 1283 (Ala. 1991).

         Butterfield and three other individuals who were employed by Hinkle at the time of the accident testified at trial: Tim Pate, the general manager of Hinkle; Randy Bergman, the branch manager of Hinkle's Birmingham branch; and Mike Violet, the manager of Hinkle's warehouse in Birmingham. Karen Milbrodt, a records custodian for Verizon Wireless, a cellular-telephone-service provider, introduced Butterfield's call records into evidence. And, finally, Trent Draper, a former radio-frequency engineer, provided an expert opinion regarding historical cell-site analysis of Butterfield's call records from the date of the accident.

         The undisputed evidence presented at trial indicated that, as a branch manager, Butterfield was responsible for managing the Pelham branch's employees, inventory, customer orders, deliveries, and sales. At times, his job duties required him to make deliveries to customers or to travel to Hinkle's Birmingham office to pick up parts or equipment needed at the Pelham branch. Butterfield was paid a car allowance as part of his compensation, and he received fuel reimbursement, which was intended to compensate him for travel to and from work and for travel related to company business.

         It was further undisputed that, on the day of the accident, Butterfield drove from Hinkle's Pelham branch to Birmingham in his GMC Sierra pickup truck between 10:00 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. Using the navigation system installed in the truck, Butterfield activated voice directions to the Jefferson County courthouse, where he intended to file for a homestead exemption for his personal residence. The accident occurred at approximately 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of 20th Street and 5th Avenue North while Butterfield was attempting to make a left turn onto 20th Street. At 10:34 a.m., Butterfield called 911 to report the accident, and the police arrived shortly thereafter. Immediately after the accident, Butterfield ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.