Archive for Court Opinions

Guest Passenger Law in Alabama

 Most people are unaware that if you are a passenger in a vehicle and the driver of the vehicle negligently causes a wreck, you are not allowed to sue that driver. This is called the “Guest Passenger” Statute. The Guest-Passenger Statute is unique to Alabama and essentially states that when you choose to ride in a car with someone, you assume the risk that the driver might negligently cause a wreck. Therefore, you are not allowed to recover.

 However, there are exceptions to this rule. The traditional exception to this rule is if you pay someone for the ride. For example, if you are in a taxi or an Uber ride, the Guest Passenger Statute does not apply to you. Even if you have just given someone gas money for the ride, that can be sufficient to overcome the Guest Passenger Statute.

 Just this past week, the Supreme Court of Alabama deepened this exception to the Guest Passenger Statute. The Supreme Court stated that as long as the Passenger conferred a tangible benefit to the driver of the vehicle, the Guest Passenger Statute does not apply. In this particular case, the driver and passenger were going grocery shopping. The passenger was in the vehicle for the purpose of helping the driver with her grocery shopping because the driver was old and needed help completing her grocery shopping. While the Supreme Court recognized that no money was exchanged, they found the Guest Passenger statute was inapplicable because the passenger’s job of helping with the grocery shopping was a benefit to the driver.

 So while this law may seem harsh and unfair at times, it is encouraging to see the Supreme Court recognizing more and more exceptions to this unique Alabama concept.

Mandatory Arbitration Banned in Nursing Homes

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The Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a rule prohibiting the use of pre-dispute binding arbitration agreements for all nursing homes that accept Medicare and/or Medicaid recipients. Arbitration is still allowed in nursing home disputes, but the agreement to arbitrate must occur after a dispute arises between the nursing home and the resident. This rule drastically changes the landscape for nursing home litigation. 

Historically, many nursing homes have used mandatory, pre-dispute, binding arbitration agreements to force residents into resolving their dispute in front of an arbitrator and avoid having to litigate cases in front of juries.  These pre-dispute arbitration clauses have pushed disputes about nursing home safety and quality of care away from the public view and into the hands of professional arbitrators. This practice had allowed the nursing home industry to reduce its legal costs, but it has stagnated a nursing home resident’s ability to receive just compensation for their injuries.

Most of these pre-dispute arbitration agreements were a condition of residency. This means that a new resident had to agree to arbitrate any dispute or they would not be allowed to enter the nursing home. This left many aging individuals with the unenvious position of choosing between forfeiting their constitutionally protected legal right to a trial by jury or being unable to receive adequate medical treatment in their twilight years. This ruling has restored the right to a “day in court” to thousands of residents who have had to fight their legal battles in private arbitration proceedings.

Think Before You Post on Facebook Twitter or Instagram

Have you ever wondered if your social media activity can be used in a legal case against you? Well the answer is still unfolding in the courts all around the nation. Most judges will require the other side to have a good reason to view your information that has been restricted via privacy settings. However most publicly shared information is fair game and can be used to even gain an order for you to produce some of the restricted or private information. Some clients have destroyed their personal injury cases by posting videos or pictures of themselves taking part in activity that calls into question the validity of their injury. For example, if you claim that your leg was injured because of an on-the-job accident then post pictures of yourself using your leg in an activity then the post will likely be used against you. Also remember that deleting content or the account all together can draw suspicion from the court. The judge might think that you are attempting to hide evidence that is applicable and relevant. The best way to avoid any trouble is to keep posting to a minimum and to not delete any data or accounts while engaged in a lawsuit. The lawyers at Hodges Trial Lawyers will be happy to discuss a personal injury case or workman’s compensation dispute and get you the compensation that you need.

 

Spousal Support-Will I Receive It?

There are two types of spousal support: permanent and temporary. Permanent spousal support is becoming increasingly rare, and generally is long term rather than permanent. This type of spousal support is generally reserved for longer marriages where one spouse was the homemaker for an extended period of time. Temporary spousal support is generally for shorter marriages and meant to be rehabilitative. According to the Code of Alabama, spousal support is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Several factors that will be considered are :

  • Length of the marriage;
  • The financial need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay;
  • Standard of living;
  • Future opportunity to gain income/assets;
  • The needs of any dependent children;
  • Any marital misconduct by either spouse

Any property acquired prior to the marriage or by inheritance or gift may not be considered in determining the spousal support amount. Emergency spousal support may also be awarded during the process of the divorce if certain factors are met. If you have questions about spousal support, or are seeking spousal support, our attorneys can advise you of your options and assist you through the process.

Failure to Restrain Dogs Can Lead to a Lawsuit

When you hear about an adult or child being attacked by a dog, your heart sinks for that person. The one person we tend not to think about is the owner of the dog. There have been 18 fatal dog attacks in the United States this year. Failure to restrain a dog can lead to you being sued for negligence. Dog owners in Huntsville must have their dog under effective restraints at all times. In a recent case in Georgia where a child was attacked by a neighbor’s dog, the jury awarded the child’s family $72 million.

According to the law, it is the owner’s responsibility to ensure the dog is restrained, so if the dog gets loose than the owner is liability for the actions of the dog. Adults and children being attacked by dogs is an unnecessary event. As dog owners, ensure the restraint of your dog regardless how friendly and sweet you think they are. The number of dog attacks is in the hands of the owners. Please restrain your animals.