Alabama Power Co. v. Henderson

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtEMBRY; HEFLIN
Citation342 So.2d 323
PartiesALABAMA POWER COMPANY v. Roderick Henry HENDERSON. SC 1717.
Decision Date30 December 1976

Page 323

342 So.2d 323

Roderick Henry HENDERSON.
SC 1717.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
Dec. 30, 1976.
Rehearing Denied March 4, 1977.

Page 325

Brittin T. Coleman, Warren B. Lightfoot and Hobart A. McWhorter, Jr., Birmingham, for appellant.

Terrell Wynn and Alex A. Newton, Birmingham, for appellee.

EMBRY, Justice.

This is a construction site accident case. Plaintiff, Roderick Henderson, was an employee of Custodis Construction Company, a general contractor engaged in the construction of a smoke stack under a contract with Alabama Power Company. The cylindrical stack was being constructed by pouring concrete into metal forms which formed an inner and outer ring around the stack. Henderson was standing at the base of the stack when one of the forms bent and freshly poured concrete fell onto him. He suffered a 60% Permanent disability to his left shoulder and a broken leg which healed with minimal impairment; three and one-half years loss of work and numerous surgical procedures to correct the damage to his shoulder. The jury awarded plaintiff $500,000. Defendant Power Company appeals, alleging numerous errors for reversal. We find no reversible error, therefore affirm.


Alabama Power Company contends the evidence was insufficient to sustain a jury finding that it breached a duty owed plaintiff, as a proximate consequence of which he was injured. It admits responsibility for the kind of ingredients used in mixing the concrete and the quantity of each. It maintained employees at the concrete mixing plant to continuously check the mixture for suitability for use on this particular job; also maintained an employee at the construction site who supervised the pouring of the concrete at all times, and periodically checked the concrete for rate of hardening. The concrete mixture on the day of the accident contained plastiment, which makes the concrete more workable; it also increases the amount of time required for setting or hardening. Henderson's evidence tended to show that, due to the increase in the amount of plastiment in the mixture, the first one to two feet of concrete poured failed to set properly, and, when another three feet were poured, the hydrostatic pressure created by the soft concrete caused the form to buckle and the concrete to pour out. APC maintains that the forms, owned by Custodis, used to hold the concrete in place were faulty; that it, APC, had no duty to know the forms were not designed to hold a full load of wet concrete, or that it was necessary for the concrete to harden at any particular rate.

Page 326

The evidence tended to show APC had great authority, control and supervision over the construction of the stack; evidenced by its contract with Custodis and by maintaining, through its employees, close supervision over the mixing and pouring of the concrete. The ultimate test of defendant's duty to use due care is the foreseeability of the harm which would result if due care was not exercised. Under the evidence APC was chargeable with knowledge: of the suitability of the forms for holding concrete; that the addition of plastiment retarded the rate of hardening of concrete, and failure of the concrete to harden properly would allow hydrostatic pressure to build and result in failure of the forms. The evidence was sufficient to authorize the jury to find APC owed a duty to Henderson which it breached and his injuries resulted.


Defendant challenges admission of opinion testimony of an allegedly unqualified lay witness. The witness, Harold Hatfield, an ironworker and construction worker since 1954, had been employed by Custodis since 1967. His testimony was offered by deposition. Objections to portions of the deposition were heard by the court out of the hearing of the jury. The following testimony was admitted over APC's objection: that the failure of the concrete to set up properly was responsible for the failure of the forms; it was his opinion that the forms bent because there was too much pressure; that the concrete had been poured for two and one-half hours and should have set up by then. APC objected to the admission of such testimony on the ground that the witness was not qualified as an expert on concrete or forms used in pouring concrete. It is notable that both sides presented testimony from other witnesses qualified as experts in the field of concrete and concrete failure.

The use of workers with long years of experience in certain trades and occupations to testify regarding particular elements or circumstances of their work is not unique. If the trial court exercises its authority to qualify the witness with reasonable care, its decision will not be disturbed. Here the trial court was aware of Mr. Hatfield's qualifications as a construction worker, and took care to allow only so much of his testimony to go to the jury as was deemed proper.

The competency of a particular witness of testify as an expert is discretionary with the trial court, its decision will not be disturbed unless palpably erroneous. We find no error regarding admission of the testimony of Hatfield. Hagler v. Gilliland, 292 Ala. 262, 292 So.2d 647 (1974).


Improper conduct of a juror during the trial. During the course of the...

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71 cases
  • Rutledge v. State, 5 Div. 610
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 28 Abril 1987
    ...toward the Southern Poverty Law Center that he should have been subject to a challenge for cause. In Alabama Power Co. v. Henderson, 342 So.2d 323, 327 (Ala.1976), the court stated, as "Probable prejudice for any reason disqualifies a prospective juror. Qualification of a juror is a matter ......
  • Whitehead v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 27 Agosto 1999
    ...discretion was properly exercised.'" Morrison v. State, 601 So.2d 165, 168 (Ala.Crim.App.1992), quoting Alabama Power Co. v. Henderson, 342 So.2d 323, 327 (Ala.1976). "These questions and answers must be viewed as a whole and not in isolation." Id. Taken as a whole, R.A.'s answers during vo......
  • McNabb v. State
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 26 Octubre 2001
    ...and to the answer given by the prospective juror to see if this discretion was properly exercised. Alabama Power Co. v. Henderson, Ala., 342 So.2d 323, 327 "Collins v. State, 385 So.2d 993, 1000 (Ala.Crim.App.1979), rev'd on other grounds, Ex parte Collins, 385 So.2d 1005 (Ala.1980), on rem......
  • Clark v. State, 2 Div. 693
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals
    • 28 Febrero 1992
    ..." 'In challenging a juror for cause, the test to be applied is that of probable prejudice. Alabama Power Co. v. Henderson, 342 So.2d 323, 327 (Ala.1976). While probable prejudice for any reason will serve to disqualify a prospective juror, qualification of a juror is a matter within the dis......
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