Black Belt Wood Co. v. Sessions

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtMADDOX; TORBERT; PER CURIAM; TORBERT; MADDOX
Citation455 So.2d 802
PartiesBLACK BELT WOOD COMPANY, INC. v. Leonard SESSIONS, as Administrator of the Estate of James Karl Sessions, Deceased. S & T TRUCKING COMPANY, INC., a corporation, and Robert Poole v. Leonard Earl SESSIONS, as Administrator of the Estate of James Karl Sessions, Deceased. 82-906, 82-907.
Decision Date23 March 1984

Page 802

455 So.2d 802
BLACK BELT WOOD COMPANY, INC.
v.
Leonard SESSIONS, as Administrator of the Estate of James Karl Sessions, Deceased.
S & T TRUCKING COMPANY, INC., a corporation, and Robert Poole
v.
Leonard Earl SESSIONS, as Administrator of the Estate of James Karl Sessions, Deceased.
82-906, 82-907.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
March 23, 1984.
On Rehearing July 16, 1984.
Rehearing Denied Aug. 24, 1984.

Jack B. Porterfield, Jr. of Porterfield, Scholl, Bainbridge, Mims & Harper, Birmingham, for appellant Black Belt Wood Company, Inc.

Tony S. Hebson of London, Yancey, Clark & Allen, Birmingham, for appellant S & T Trucking Co., Inc. and Robert Poole.

R. Gordon Pate and Alex W. Newton of Hare, Wynn, Newell & Newton, Birmingham, for appellee.

MADDOX, Justice.

The issue on appeal is whether the trial court was correct in ordering a new trial as to all defendants in these cases. We affirm, in part and reverse, in part.

On February 7, 1980, James Karl Sessions, who at the time was driving an automobile along U.S. Highway 11 in Sumter County, Alabama, was killed when a log fell from a truck loaded with pulpwood and crashed through the windshield of his car.

Page 803

The truck hauling pulpwood was owned by S & T Trucking Company, Inc. (S & T). The principal owner of S & T Trucking at the time of the accident was John Tidmore. Robert Poole, an employee of S & T, was the driver of the truck.

The record shows that the logs were loaded onto S & T's truck by employees of Black Belt Wood Company, Inc. (Black Belt), at its woodyard. The load of logs was to be delivered by S & T to the wood mill of American Can Company (American Can). The evidence indicated that Robert Poole checked the load involved in the accident before leaving the woodyard, and, while transporting the logs, stopped three times prior to the accident to tighten the load. He had previously delivered one load of wood to American Can before the accident occurred.

Leonard Earl Sessions, appellant, as administrator of the estate of James Karl Sessions, filed suit against American Can, Black Belt, S & T, Robert Poole, and John Tidmore. In his complaint, he alleged that the defendants, both separately and severally, were negligent in loading, inspecting and operating the truck and by entrusting the work to an incompetent operator (Robert Poole). During the trial, the plaintiff amended his complaint to allege that American Can and Black Belt were liable under the theory of joint enterprise or agency. Prior to the submission of the case to the jury, a directed verdict was entered by the trial court on behalf of John Tidmore. The jury returned verdicts in favor of defendants American Can, Black Belt, and Robert Poole, but found in favor of the plaintiff against S & T. The plaintiff filed a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), or, in the alternative, for a new trial, against defendants American Can, Black Belt, and Robert Poole. S & T likewise filed a motion for a JNOV.

The trial court granted a new trial as to all defendants, except American Can, and stated the following reasons:

"1. The court does not and did not find any evidence in this case [on] which the jury could have properly returned a verdict against S & T Trucking Company, Inc., only.

"2. The evidence in this case does not support a verdict and judgment only against the defendant, S & T Trucking Company, Inc.

"3. The verdict in this case upon which the judgment is entered only against the defendant, S & T Trucking Company, Inc. is improper and not supported by the evidence.

"4. The defendant, S & T Trucking Company, Inc., could be subject to liability in this case, under the facts, only due to the action or inaction of the defendants, Robert Poole, and/or Blackbelt [sic] Wood company, Inc.

"5. The verdict returned by the jury, in this case, is an inconsistent verdict.

"6. The court is unable to determine in this case whether it was the conduct of the defendant, Blackbelt [sic] Wood Company, Inc., which was the basis of the jury verdict against the defendant, S & T Trucking Company, Inc."

This appeal followed.

Appellants S & T and Robert Poole assert that the trial court should have granted their motion for a JNOV because under the doctrine of respondeat superior, a finding by a jury for the agent exonerates the principal. Alternatively, they argue that should this Court determine that the trial judge was correct in granting a new trial, then Robert Poole should...

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2 practice notes
  • Black Belt Wood Co., Inc. v. Sessions
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 3, 1986
    ...case (and the issue of Black Belt's negligence in loading the truck) has been before this Court. See, Black Belt Wood Co. v. Sessions, 455 So.2d 802 (Ala.1984). Leonard Earl Sessions, plaintiff/appellee, originally filed suit against American Can Company, Black Belt, S & T, Robert Poole, an......
  • A.L. Williams & Associates, Inc. v. Williams
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 20, 1987
    ...verdict is the result of confusion or is inconsistent in law, the trial court should grant a new trial. Black Belt Wood Co. v. Sessions, 455 So.2d 802 (Ala.1984). A new trial is necessary, because once the jury is dismissed any attempt to reconcile the inconsistencies in a verdict amounts t......
2 cases
  • Black Belt Wood Co., Inc. v. Sessions
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • October 3, 1986
    ...case (and the issue of Black Belt's negligence in loading the truck) has been before this Court. See, Black Belt Wood Co. v. Sessions, 455 So.2d 802 (Ala.1984). Leonard Earl Sessions, plaintiff/appellee, originally filed suit against American Can Company, Black Belt, S & T, Robert Poole, an......
  • A.L. Williams & Associates, Inc. v. Williams
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • November 20, 1987
    ...verdict is the result of confusion or is inconsistent in law, the trial court should grant a new trial. Black Belt Wood Co. v. Sessions, 455 So.2d 802 (Ala.1984). A new trial is necessary, because once the jury is dismissed any attempt to reconcile the inconsistencies in a verdict amounts t......

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