Pruitt v. OliverAnnotate this Case
Randall Pruitt appealed the grant of summary judgment against him and in favor of James Oliver with respect to Pruitt’s claims of negligence and wantonness stemming from a collision between Oliver’s car and Pruitt’s wheelchair. At the time of the accident, Pruitt’s wheelchair was equipped with a seat belt, two six-beam flashlights on the footrest, two flashing red bicycle lights on the back of his arm rests, some red reflectors on the back, and an orange vest with reflective yellow tape draped over the back. The maximum speed of the motorized wheelchair was five miles per hour. On a “pretty” night in April 2013, Pruitt was dropped off from the bus; his apartment was located across a four-lane road across from the bus stop. According to a witness, Oliver appeared to be trying to “beat a yellow light. He made the turn at a high rate of speed and hit the electric wheelchair from behind. The man in the chair was launched out of his seat and landed in the roadway. I could tell the chair had significant damage.” Oliver contended at trial Pruitt’s wheelchair was a “motor vehicle” under Alabama’s motor-vehicle and traffic code, and because the chair lacked certain safety equipment, Pruitt was “contributorily negligent per se” and should have been barred from recovering on his negligence claim. In the alternative, Oliver contended Pruitt, as a pedestrian, violated the rules for crossing a street where there was no crosswalk because he failed to yield the right-of-way to Oliver’s car, and failed to walk “as near as practicable to the outside edge of the roadway.” The Alabama Supreme Court concluded motorized wheelchairs were indeed “motor vehicles” under the pertinent provision of Alabama’s motor-vehicle and traffic code, but an issue of fact existed as to whether Pruitt’s violation of safety-feature-requirements for motor vehicles was the proximate cause of the accident. Furthermore, the Court concluded the trial court erred in finding there was not substantial evidence of Oliver’s alleged subsequent negligence, and therefore, that issue had to be submitted to a jury. Summary judgment in favor of Oliver with respect to Pruitt’s wantonness claim was affirmed.