Coffey v. Moore, 1031268.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtParker
Citation948 So.2d 544
PartiesFelicia COFFEY v. Carolyn Sue MOORE and Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company.
Docket Number1031268.
Decision Date14 July 2006
948 So.2d 544
Felicia COFFEY
Carolyn Sue MOORE and Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
July 14, 2006.

[948 So.2d 545]

Michael C. Bradley of Pittman, Hooks, Dutton, Kirby & Hellums, Birmingham, for appellant.

Robert H. Sprain, Jr., of Sadler Sullivan, P.C., Birmingham, for appellee Carolyn Sue Moore.

Ralph D. Gaines III and Julie D. Pearce of Gaines, Wolter & Kinney, P.C., Birmingham, for appellee Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company.

PARKER, Justice.

Felicia Coffey appeals from summary judgments in favor of Carolyn Sue Moore and Metropolitan Property and Casualty Insurance Company ("Metropolitan"). The primary issue presented by this appeal is whether the owner, or in this case a bailee,1 of a vehicle may become a guest under Alabama's guest statute, § 32-1-2, Ala.Code 1975, during a road trip in which the owner/bailee and a friend share in the driving of a rented vehicle. We hold that the owner/bailee of the vehicle is not the guest of the friend/driver while riding in his own vehicle. Consequently, we reverse and remand.

I. Case History

In November 2000, Felicia Coffey2 rented an automobile from a national rental-car agency in Memphis, Tennessee, to drive to Tallahassee, Florida, to visit her daughter. Coffey asked her friend Carolyn Sue Moore to accompany her on the trip. Moore accepted the invitation and volunteered to drive if Coffey became tired. Coffey and Moore each paid all of their own personal expenses on the trip. Moore was not listed as a potential driver on the rental agreement Coffey executed, nor did she contribute to any of the expenses involved in the operation of the automobile.

On the return trip, Moore was driving while Coffey was asleep in the backseat. Moore attempted to change lanes and lost control of the vehicle when it swung wide and the driver's side rear wheel left the paved roadway. When the rear wheel again made contact with the pavement, the vehicle spun, rolled over about three times, and came to rest straddling a ditch.

On December 2, 2002, Coffey sued Moore, seeking damages for injuries she sustained as a result of the accident; she also sued Metropolitan seeking uninsured/underinsured-motorist benefits under an automobile liability insurance policy she held with Metropolitan. Moore and

948 So.2d 546

Metropolitan filed motions for a summary judgment. In support of her motion, Moore argued that Coffey was a "guest" under Alabama's guest statute, § 32-1-2, Ala.Code 1975, and that, consequently, she could not recover against Moore absent willful or wanton misconduct on Moore's part. Because the parties had stipulated that Moore was not liable for willful or wanton misconduct, Moore argued that she could not be liable to Coffey, who, she says, was a guest in the vehicle. For its part, Metropolitan argued that the bar against Coffey under the guest statute also barred any recovery under the uninsured/underinsured-motorist provisions of Coffey's automobile insurance policy.

The trial court ruled "[t]hat the claims of [Coffey] are barred under Ala.Code [1975,] § 32-1-2, the Alabama Guest Statute, and that there are no genuine issues of material fact and defendants are entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Coffey appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in entering summary judgments for Moore and Metropolitan.

II. Standard of Review

"We review the trial court's entry of a summary judgment de novo." Hollingsworth v. City of Rainbow City, 826 So.2d 787, 789 (Ala.2001). In reviewing a motion for a summary judgment, we determine whether there is a genuine issue of material fact and whether the movant was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Rule 56(c)(3), Ala. R. Civ. P; Bussey v. John Deere Co., 531 So.2d 860, 862 (Ala.1988); and Wright v. Wright, 654 So.2d 542 (Ala.1995). When the movant makes a prima facie showing that no genuine issue of material fact exists, the burden then shifts to the nonmovant to present substantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact. McClendon v. Mountain Top Indoor Flea Market, Inc., 601 So.2d 957, 958 (Ala.1992). Evidence is considered "substantial" if it is of such weight and quality that fair-minded persons in the exercise of impartial judgment can reasonably infer the existence of the fact sought to be proved. West v. Founders Life Assurance Co. of Florida, 547 So.2d 870, 871 (Ala.1989). Further, the evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party. Hobson v. American Cast Iron Pipe, 690 So.2d 341 (Ala.1997).

III. Analysis

The relevant portion of the guest statute reads:

"The owner, operator or person responsible for the operation of a motor vehicle shall not be liable for loss or damage arising from injuries to or death of a guest while being transported without payment therefor in or upon said motor vehicle, resulting from the operation thereof, unless such injuries or death are caused by the willful or wanton misconduct of such operator, owner or person responsible for the operation of said motor vehicle."

§ 32-1-2, Ala.Code 1975.

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5 cases
  • Mosqueda v. Mosqueda, COA11–629.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of North Carolina (US)
    • January 17, 2012
    ......See Coffey...See Coffey v. Moore......
  • Tonini v. Campagna, 2060847.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • March 21, 2008
    ...... of the Toninis' declaratory-judgment action, our supreme court released its opinion in Coffey v. Moore, 948 So.2d 544 (Ala.2006). The trial court relied on that case in entering its summary ......
  • Ex Parte City of Greensboro, 1031591.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • July 14, 2006
  • Fletcher v. Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. Middle District of Alabama
    • July 25, 2013
    ...... See, e.g. , Coffey v. Moore , 948 So. 2d 544 (Ala. 2006) (discussing the statute). If the statute applies in this ......
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