Madison Cnty. Dep’t of Human Res. v. T.S. ex rel. F.M., 53 So.3d 38 (Ala.2010)

In 2006, the Madison County Department of Human Resources (DHR) had temporary legal custody of a 13-year-old, known as T.S. The child was a hearing-impaired, and mute quadriplegic who lived in the group home Ability Plus, Inc. With cerebral palsy, and her severely mentally disability, T.S. was unable to perform basic living skills without assistance, including feeding, bathing, and dressing. On November 14, 2006, an attendant in the group home filled a bathtub with approximately 140 degree Fahrenheit water. The employee sat T.S. in the scalding water, leaving her unattended. She sat there until another employee noticed what turned out to be pieces of T.S.’s skin floating around in the tub, and she was immediately removed. T.S. had suffered second and third degree burns to much of her lower body, including her feet, legs and buttocks.

On August 22, 2008, a civil complaint was filed on behalf of T.S. against Ability Plus, the group home where T.S. suffered her burn injuries; the plumbing company that installed a heater in the bathtub a week before the burn incident; and other employees and officers of Ability Plus. The lawsuit alleged negligence and wantonness, vicarious liability, negligent hiring and retention, negligent and wanton supervision, product liability, breach of warranty, failure to warn, and loss of consortium.

In November 2008, the parties agreed to mediation, eventually reaching a settlement of $787,500.

Olympia Spa v. Johnson, 547 So. 2d 80 (Ala. (1989)

Wilbur G. Johnson and his wife Margaret joined the Olympia Spa in 1984, seeking therapy in the mineral pools for her arthritis. The Johnsons regularly visited the spa, two or three times a week, bathing in the mineral pool. On August 22, 1984, the couple and their son Frank went to the spa, soaking for about ten minutes in the mineral pool. Mr. Johnson and his son went to the men’s dressing room, and after waiting for about 15 minutes for Mrs. Johnson, they asked an attendant to check on her. The attendant found Mrs. Johnson lying on the steam room floor, with reddened and peeling skin. She was shaking and mumbling. Emergency services were called, but Mrs. Johnson passed away. Dr. Gary Dean Cumberland performed an autopsy, finding second and third-degree burns over 30% of her body, concluding that she died because of the burn injury.

Wilbur Johnson filed a wrongful death lawsuit for the death of his 75-year-old wife while she was inside of a steam room against Olympia Spa, David Polur, Brenda McCall, and Honeywell, Inc. The complaint alleged negligent failure to maintain the steam room; failure to properly supervise the steam room; failure to maintain thermostats; failure to warn; failure to monitor the steam room temperature; wanton negligence; and manufacturer’s liability. The defendants countered with defenses for contributory negligence and assumption of the risk.

At the conclusion of the presentation of the plaintiff’s evidence, a directed verdict was granted as to wanton misconduct by Olympia Spa, David Polur, and Brenda McCall. The other counts went to trial, with the jury returning a verdict against Olympia Spa, David Polur, and Brenda McCall in the amount of $3 million. The trial judge found clear and convincing negligence on the part of the defendants. The defendants appealed the case up to the Supreme Court of Alabama. Upon review, the Supreme Court found in favor of the plaintiffs, finding no evidence to conclude that the trial court erred in denying the defendants’ motion for a new trial, and affirming the trail court’s conclusion that the $3 million verdict was not excessive.

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