Alabama Appellate Opinions Released March 1, 2019
We are committed to sharing decisions and providing legal updates that may be beneficial to you and your teams. Included below are summaries of cases recently released by Alabama Appellate Courts. Please reach out to any member of our Appellate Practice  group with any questions.

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Alabama Appellate Opinions Released 
March 1, 2019
Alabama Supreme Court
Court Emphasizes Section 14 Immunity Also Applies to State University Officers and Employees 

Ex parte Leon C. Wilson

In Ex parte Leon C. Wilson , plaintiffs Mr. and Mrs. Stevens sued Leon C. Wilson and Quinton Ross (the “defendants”) in their official capacities as the former and current presidents of Alabama State University (the “University”). The Complaint alleged that Mrs. Stevens sustained injuries from a fall that she experienced when she was leaving the University’s graduation ceremony held on May 25, 2017, at the Dunn-Oliver Acadome (“the Acadome”). Other than allegations of the Acadome exit’s negligent design and maintenance, the Complaint also alleged negligence, violation of a duty to warn, and breach of the duty to provide a reasonably safe exit against the defendants. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss asserting that they were immune from the plaintiffs' suit under §14. The trial court ultimately denied the defendants' motion to dismiss prompting them to file a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court.

The main issue before the Alabama Supreme Court was whether §14 immunity applied in this case to bar the plaintiffs’ claims against the defendants. The Court emphasized that §14 immunity applies to state universities and its officers, trustees, and employees serving in their official capacities as well. Thus, because the plaintiffs sued the defendants in their official capacities and sought only monetary damages from them for the plaintiff’s alleged injuries, the Court held that §14 immunity applied, reversing the trial court’s decision. 
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Court Upholds Trial Court’s Workers’ Compensation Award 

Georgia Pacific Consumer Products LP v. Sheryl D. Gamble

On June 17, 2014, Sheryl Gamble (“Gamble”) suffered an on-the-job injury while employed with Georgia Pacific Consumers Products LP “(GP”). GP paid Gamble temporary-total-disability benefits for approximately 17 weeks. GP laid off Gamble on October 27, 2014. In August of 2015, Gamble sued GP, seeking workers’ compensation benefits. The trial court entered a judgment on March 29, 2018, and found that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled as a result of her injures and that Gamble had reached maximum medical improvement ("MMI") on June 9, 2017, the MMI date determined by Gamble’s surgeon Dr. Timothy Holt. The trial court also taxed the costs associated with the action against GP and ordered Gamble to file a costs bill with the clerk within 45 days of the entry of the judgment.

GP filed a motion to appeal the trial court’s judgment. Specifically, GP challenged the trial court’s determination that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled and argued that the court improperly determined the date Gamble had reached MMI. Also, GP asserted that the judgment made GP responsible for all of Gamble’s medical treatment, including unauthorized treatment, and that the trial court considered evidence not admitted at trial. Lastly, GP challenged the trial court's award of litigation costs to Gamble and argued that Gamble had not presented sufficient evidence to support the award at the time of the entry of the judgment.

On appeal, the Court of Civil Appeals concluded that GP had not established that the trial court’s conclusion that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court noted that it is not the court’s duty to determine whether Gamble was permanently and totally disabled. Ultimately, the Court perceived no error insofar as the trial court determined Gamble’s MMI date, that Gamble was permanently and totally disabled, and calculated the benefits due to Gamble. Therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court’s judgment and dismissed GP’s challenge of the trial court’s award of costs as premature. 
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