GUEST STATUTE -- WANTONNESS - MANDELLA V. PENNINGTON
In Mandella v. Pennington, [Ms. 2100131, Jun. 17, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. Civ. App. 2011), the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals affirmed a trial court's summary judgment in favor of the defendant with respect to the plaintiff's wantonness claim. This case arose out of an automobile accident where the defendant Pennington drove his automobile to the edge of a parking lot, stopped at the stop sign located there, waited for several automobiles to pass, and then proceeded across the highway. Pennington's automobile was then struck broadside on the passenger side by a truck and his passenger, Robert, was injured. Robert sued Pennington stating claims of negligence and wantonness. Pennington moved for summary judgment asserting (1) that he was entitled to summary judgment on the negligence claim by virtue of the guest passenger statute and (2) that he was entitled to a summary judgment on the wantonness claim by virtue of Ex Parte Essary, 992 So. 2d 5 (Ala. 2007). Robert conceded that Pennington was entitled to summary judgment on the negligence claim, but argued that he was not entitled to a summary judgment with respect to the wantonness claim. When the facts in this case were taken in a light most favorable to Robert, there was evidence that Pennington had tried to beat the traffic across the street. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals held that, under the Supreme Court's decision in Essary, an attempt to beat the on-coming traffic is not wantonness. Therefore, the Court held that the trial court had not erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Pennington on Robert's negligence and wantonness claims.