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JML - Negligence - Foreseeability: Dekalb-cherokee Counties Gas District V. Raughton

DeKalb-Cherokee Counties Gas District v. Raughton, [Ms. 1160838, Feb. 23, 2018] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2018). This decision by Justice Sellers (Stuart, C.J., and Bolin and Wise, JJ. concur; Shaw, J., concurs in the result), reverses and renders judgment in favor of defendant DeKalb-Cherokee Counties Gas District (DC Gas) in a negligence case in which the DeKalb Circuit Court had entered judgment on a jury verdict in the amount of $100,000 in favor of Plaintiff Raughton.

Raughton, an employee of the City of Fort Payne landfill, was injured when he was standing next to a DC Gas dump truck which was dumping a load of bricks and concrete blocks. The evidence showed that the DC Gas dump truck driver was executing a clutch-release procedure commonly performed by dump truck drivers to dislodge materials. Ms. *2-3. When the driver performed the maneuver, a sidewall of the dump truck fell off and struck Raughton. Ms. *3.

Raughton argued the DC Gas driver Ridgeway acted negligently in performing the clutch-release maneuver while Raughton was standing in close proximity to the truck. Ms. *5. The Court rejected this basis of liability, pointing to a lack of evidence showing that it was foreseeable to the driver that the sidewall of the truck would become detached during a clutch-release procedure. Ms. *8. Raughton also argued that DC Gas was liable for having negligently failed to properly inspect the dump truck. Ms. *5. While noting that the evidence showed that DC Gas had never had the truck professionally inspected or physically checked for loose sidewalls, Ms. *11, the Court pointed to a lack of evidence “indicating that the sidewall of the dump truck had become detached in the past or that DC Gas’s agents knew that it might become detached.” Ms. *12. The Court further noted that

no evidence was presented clearly showing how the sidewall was attached to the truck or showing exactly why and how it had become detached. Thus, there was no evidence presented indicating that an inspection would have revealed that it might become detached and, therefore, that an inspection would have prevented the accident.

Ms. *12. The Court noted that “‘while a person is expected to anticipate and guard against all reasonable consequences, yet he is not expected to anticipate and guard against that which no reasonable man would expect to occur.’” Ms. *8, quoting City of Birmingham v. Latham, 230 Ala. 601, 606, 162 So. 675, 678 (1935).

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