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Patterson v. Cox

Supreme Court of Alaska

May 9, 2014

TOMMIE PATTERSON, Appellant,
v.
SHEILA COX and FORD MOTOR COMPANY, Appellees

Appeal from the Superior Court of the State of Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, William F. Morse, Judge. No. 3AN-08-11817 CI.

Tommie Patterson, Appellant, Pro se, Anchorage.

John R. Dean, Law Office of John R. Dean, Anchorage, for Appellee Sheila Cox.

John B. Thorsness, Clapp, Peterson, Tiemessen, Thorsness & Johnson LLC, Anchorage, for Appellee Ford Motor Company.

Before: Fabe, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, and Bolger, Justices. [Stowers, Justice, not participating.].

OPINION

Page 1119

BOLGER, Justice.

I. INTRODUCTION

Tommie Patterson's 1997 Ford Explorer was struck from behind when he braked to avoid a car stalled in his lane of travel on Gambell Street in Anchorage. He sued the owner of the stalled vehicle and subpoenaed her for trial, but she refused to appear. We conclude that the superior court should have issued a warrant or an order to show cause to compel the appearance of this party. In addition, the superior court instructed the jury on Patterson's products liability claim against Ford Motor Company, but this claim was erroneously omitted from the special verdict form. We reverse the superior court's judgment and remand for a new trial.

II. FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS

A. Facts

Early in the morning of December 11, 2006, Sheila Cox was traveling south on Gambell Street in Anchorage when her Dodge Neon ran out of gas. Cox left her car in the road while she went to a nearby gas station. It is disputed whether Cox pulled over to the right or turned on her warning lights after she stopped.

At about the same time, Tommie Patterson was also traveling south on Gambell Street, returning home from work. He was driving his 1997 Ford Explorer behind a truck in the right southbound lane. When he passed Fifteenth Street, the truck signaled and merged into the left lane. Immediately afterwards, Patterson saw Cox's car stopped in the right

Page 1120

lane ahead of him, but he had no time to merge left to avoid it. Patterson stopped his vehicle as quickly as he could. It is unclear from the record whether he struck the back of the Neon, but Katie Rutledge, who was driving behind Patterson, rear-ended Patterson's SUV after Patterson braked. Patterson testified that, although his seatbelt was on before the accident, it came unlatched during the collision.

When Cox returned with gas, she noticed that two SUVs had collided immediately behind her car. She left the scene of the accident after she ...


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