Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc.
Diane Brown Feltman
from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-16-900071)
Metals & Supply Company, Inc. ("Hinkle"),
appeals from a judgment based on a jury verdict in favor of
Diane Brown Feltman. We affirm.
Facts and Procedural History
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.
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
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
case eventually proceeded to trial on the issue whether
Hinkle was vicariously liable for Butterfield's
negligence and the extent of damages. 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
Motion for a JML
appeal, Hinkle first argues that the trial court erred in
denying its renewed motion for a JML on the respondeat
"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.
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.
"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).
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.
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.
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 ...