by
Walker Brothers Investment, Inc., and James Walker (collectively, "Walker Brothers") appealed a circuit court order granting a motion for a summary judgment in favor of the City of Mobile ("the City"). In 2012, the City filed a complaint against Walker Brothers seeking a preliminary and a permanent injunction, alleging Walker Brothers owned a building, known as the Tobin Building, located in a historic district in downtown Mobile and that Walker Brothers had allowed the building to deteriorate in violation of the Mobile City Code. The City asked the circuit court to enter an order requiring Walker Brothers to "mothball" the Tobin Building in accordance with plans submitted by Walker Brothers and subsequently approved by the Board. Walker Brothers argued that the City, through the HDC and the Board, had treated Walker Brothers unequally from other developers of historic properties, and it alleged that the City had engaged in selective enforcement of the City's rules and regulations in a manner that "amounted to malicious prosecution and abuse of process." Walker Brothers filed an objection to the City's motion to dismiss, stating that it had intentionally left part of the mothballing plan uncomplete so that it could file a counterclaim against the City. The circuit court purported to grant the City's motion to dismiss later the same day. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed Walker Brothers’ appeal, finding the City's "motion to dismiss" was a valid notice of dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(i), and, the circuit court was without the power to act on Walker Brothers' attempt to reinstate the City's action so that Walker Brothers could file a counterclaim. Accordingly, any order entered after the City filed its notice of dismissal was void, including the summary judgment in favor of the City that was the basis of Walker Brothers' appeal to the Supreme Court. View "Walker Brothers Investment, Inc. v. City of Mobile" on Justia Law

by
Hershel Easterling, both individually and as the personal representative of the estate of Charlotte Easterling, appealed the grant of a summary judgment in favor of Progressive Specialty Insurance Company ("Progressive") on his claims seeking uninsured/underinsured-motorist ("UIM") benefits. In December 2014, Hershel and his wife, Charlotte Easterling, were injured when their vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Ashley McCartney. In April 2015, the Easterlings sued McCartney, alleging she behaved negligently and/or wantonly at the time of the accident. The Easterlings' complaint also named Progressive, their insurer, as a defendant and included a count seeking to recover UIM benefits from Progressive. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, finding that by virtue of her bankruptcy filing, McCartney was not been relieved of legal liability for the harm she caused Hershel; instead, Hershel could prove the merits of his claim but was merely prevented by law from seeking to collect damages from McCartney for that harm even after his legal entitlement to recover those damages has been established. Any injunction against proceeding directly against the debtor, therefore, in no way extends to Hershel's own insurer. The trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Progressive on Hershel's UIM claim. View "Easterling v. Progressive Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Pharmacist Joseph McNamara, Jr. appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Benchmark Insurance Company ("Benchmark") in Benchmark's indemnity action against McNamara. Benchmark commenced the indemnity action in an effort to recover funds expended to settle a medical-malpractice action brought against Southern Medical, Inc., Benchmark's insured and McNamara's employer. The medical-malpractice action was brought against Southern Medical by Ricky Avant and Kim Avant and was based, at least in part, on the alleged tortious acts and omissions of McNamara. Because the act complained of occurred in January 2010 and Benchmark sued McNamara in February 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Benchmark's indemnity action was time-barred under section 6-5-482, Ala. Code 1975. Thus, the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Benchmark and in denying McNamara's motion for a summary judgment. View "McNamara v. Benchmark Insurance Co." on Justia Law

by
Edwyna Ivey ("Edwyna") appealed a circuit court judgment denying her petition for an omitted-spouse share of the estate of her late husband, R.E. Ivey ("R.E."). In 1975, R.E. executed a will leaving the entirety of his estate to his first wife, Nancy, or, in the event Nancy preceded him in death, to his and Nancy's four children: Sharyl Eddins ("Sharyl"), William "Robbie" Ivey, Dell Moody, and Ty Ivey, in equal shares. R.E.'s 1975 will was the only will he ever executed and that he never executed a codicil to that will. Sharyl was named executor of R.E.'s estate. Even though Sharyl offered evidence indicating that R.E. and Edwyna had agreed that "what was hers would stay hers and what was his would stay his" in an attempt to prove that R.E. intentionally omitted Edwyna from his will, the Alabama Supreme Court determined she failed to offer evidence proving either that R.E.'s will indicated that Edwyna's omission was intentional or that R.E. intentionally disinherited Edwyna because he had made nontestamentary transfers to her intended to be in lieu of a testamentary provision. By failing to prove that either exception enumerated in section 43-8- 90, Ala. Code 1975 applied, Sharyl failed to prove that the omission of Edwyna from R.E.'s will was intentional, despite what other evidence might have indicated. The Court's reversal of the denial of Edwyna's omitted-spouse claim is therefore in accord with the legislature's intent in enacting 43-8-90 –- to avoid the unintentional disinheritance of a spouse who marries a testator after the execution of the testator's will. View "Ivey v. Estate of R.E. Ivey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

by
This case involved two competing claims to a 40-acre tract of land ("the property") and whether the rule of repose could be applied to resolve that dispute. The complications in this case began in 1964, when one of Felix's children, James Freeman ("James"), purported to deed all the property to another child of Felix's, Joseph Freeman ("Joseph"). The 1964 deed was duly recorded. Nothing in the record established that, before that deed was executed, James owned more than the one-tenth interest in the property he had inherited from Felix in 1961. The 1964 deed from James to Joseph began a series of conveyances involving various parties over several years. That line of conveyances ended with two deeds in 2004, when DRL, LLC, purported to convey one-half of the surface estate of the property to Thomas and Cindy Hinote and one-half of the surface estate of the property to David and Rebecca Dowdy. DRL also purported to convey a portion of the mineral rights in the property to the Hinotes and the Dowdys; DRL retained a portion of the mineral rights for itself. The various transactions created a situation with two sides laying claim to the property. In 2011, four of Felix's descendants sued the Hinotes and the Dowdys. In pertinent part, the plaintiffs sought a judgment determining the ownership of the property, and they requested a sale of the property for a division of the proceeds. The Hinotes and the Dowdys primarily argued that the plaintiffs' action is barred by the 20-year rule of repose; the plaintiffs dispute that their action is barred by the rule of repose.After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the rule of repose was inapplicable in this case and thus did not bar the plaintiffs' action. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. View "Hinote v. Owens et al." on Justia Law

by
Altapointe Health Systems, Inc., and Altapointe Healthcare Management, LLC (collectively referred to as "Altapointe"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Mobile Circuit Court to vacate its order compelling Altapointe to respond to certain discovery requests and to enter a protective order in its favor in an action pending against it. Jim Avnet, as father and next friend of Hunter Avnet, sued Altapointe. Altapointe operated group homes for adults suffering from mental illness. Avnet asserted that Hunter, a resident at one of Altapointe's group homes, was assaulted by another resident with a blunt object, and was stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife. Avnet asserted various claims of negligence and wantonness against Altapointe, including claims that Altapointe failed to comply with various unspecified regulations and guidelines designed to protect Hunter's safety and that Altapointe was negligent or wanton in hiring, training, and supervising its employees. Along with his complaint, Avnet served Altapointe with written discovery requests. Avnet's discovery requests sought the total amount of Altapointe's liability-insurance coverage limits; information regarding prior claims or lawsuits against Altapointe alleging personal injury or assault at the home; information concerning whether Altapointe was aware of any previous "aggressive acts" by the resident; and information and documents regarding Altapointe's own investigation of the incident. Altapointe objected to Avnet's discovery requests, contending that the information and documents requested were protected by certain discovery privileges. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Altapointe offered sufficient evidence demonstrating that it was entitled to the quality-assurance privilege provided in 22-21-8, Ala. Code 1975 as to Avnet's request for information and documents relating to Altapointe's own investigation of the incident. Accordingly, the petition for writ of mandamus was granted as to that request. As to the remaining requests, however, Altapointe did not sufficiently establish that the discovery protections of the AMLA or the psychotherapist-patient privilege applied. Thus, as to those requests, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Altapointe Health Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Plaintiffs Managed Health Care Administration, Inc. ("MHCA"), and Alabama Psychiatric Services, P.C. ("APS") appealed the denial of their motion to compel Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama ("Blue Cross") to arbitrate their claims. In 1986, Blue Cross contracted with APS, a subsidiary of MHCA, to provide mental-health services to Blue Cross's insureds. In 1991, Blue Cross's contract with APS was transferred to MHCA. In 1995, Blue Cross and MHCA entered into a new contract in which MHCA agreed to provide or arrange for mental-health services to Blue Cross's insureds. In 2006, Blue Cross and MHCA entered into yet another contract in which MHCA agreed to provide or arrange for mental-health services to Blue Cross's insureds. In late 2012, Blue Cross decided to replace MHCA, as its behavioral health benefits management vendor, with New Directions Behavioral Health, L.L.C. In 2013, Blue Cross and New Directions Behavioral Health, L.L.C. ("New Directions"), entered into a contract in which New Directions agreed to "arrange for the provision of all Covered Services to Members in accordance with the terms and conditions set forth in this Agreement," which gave New Directions authority to delegate certain services to third parties. pursuant to the authority granted it under the Blue Cross-New Directions 2013 contract and at the request of Blue Cross, New Directions entered into a contract which MHCA in which New Directions sub-delegated to MHCA certain of New Directions' obligations under the Blue Cross-New Directions 2013 contract. A disagreement arose concerning the amount of compensation MHCA was to receive for its services. In 2015, the plaintiffs sued Blue Cross and several fictitiously named defendants alleging fraudulent misrepresentation, fraudulent suppression, breach of an implied contract, and promissory estoppel, claims pertaining to plaintiffs' 2006 contract and for payments of delegated duties. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded plaintiffs demonstrated they had a right to arbitration. The circuit court erred in denying the plaintiffs' motion to compel arbitration, and the Court reversed the circuit court's judgment denying the plaintiffs' motion to compel arbitration in its entirety. View "Managed Health Care Administration, Inc. v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama" on Justia Law

by
The Alabama Supreme Court granted Bobby Saarinen and Chris Williams permission to appeal an interlocutory order of the Franklin Circuit Court denying their motion for a summary judgment in Louis Hall's personal-injury action against them. In 2014, Hall was injured while operating a power saw at his place of employment, a plant owned by Williams Manufacturing, Inc. Hall sued Williams Manufacturing, as well as his co-employees Saarinen and Williams: Williams was the owner of Williams Manufacturing and Saarinen was the plant manager. Hall brought his claims sounding in negligence. The trial court granted Williams Manufacturing's motion to dismiss. The co-employees moved for summary judgment, which was ultimately denied. The Supreme Court found no evidence of willful conduct by the co-employees and reversed: "[u]nder the facts in this case, the failure to install another, presumably safer, saw that was present on the premises but that had not been put into operation and that was manufactured by a different manufacturer than the saw that injured the plaintiff is not the equivalent of the removal of a safety guard so as to constitute willful conduct under § 25- 5-11(c)(2)." View "Saarinen v. Hall" on Justia Law

by
Action Auto Sales, Inc. ("AAS"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Clarke Circuit Court to vacate orders denying AAS' objection to L.M. Stewart and Cathy Cargile's notice of intent to serve subpoenas on nonparties Merchants Bank and accountant Eddie Nicholes and denying AAS's motion for a protective order. The underlying dispute arose out of Stewart and Cargile's purchase of an automobile, still encumbered by a security interest by AAS. AAS, a financing company, made loans to Pine City Motors, LLC; Pine City sold the vehicle to Steward and Cargile. Steward and Cargile alleged that after they took possession of the car, Pine City failed to satisfy its debt to AAS, and AAS or Pine City retained physical possession of the certificate of title for the vehicle. Thereafter, AAS sued Pine City, Stewart, and Cargile, requesting damages and a judgment directing Stewart and Cargile to return the vehicle to AAS. Stewart and Cargile filed a counterclaim against AAS and a cross-claim against Pine City. Pointing to various Alabama statutes, Stewart and Cargile asserted that their rights in the vehicle are superior to AAS's and that AAS or Pine City improperly retained possession of the certificate of title for the vehicle. Stewart and Cargile also demanded compensatory and punitive damages, asserting theories of negligence and wantonness and conspiracy between AAS and Pine City. The Supreme Court found Stewart and Cargile were not entitled to the discovery of the nonparties, and the trial court erred in not granting the motion for a protective order. The Court therefore granted AAS' petition and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Action Auto Sales, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Dow Corning Alabama, Inc., Dow Corning Corporation, Rajesh Mahadasyam, Fred McNett, Zurich American Insurance Company ("Zurich"), and National Union Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA ("National Union"), all petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to transfer the underlying declaratory-judgment action to the Montgomery Circuit Court pursuant to Alabama's forum non conveniens statute. Dow Corning Alabama hired Alabama Electric Company, Inc., an independent contractor, to perform the electrical installation of a vacuum system at Dow Corning Alabama's facility in Montgomery. The contract contained a forum-selection clause. An employee of Alabama Electric was injured while working at Dow Corning Alabama's Montgomery facility. The employee sued the Dow defendants, which in turn tendered their request for defense and indemnity to Alabama Electric and National Trust, both of whom denied coverage. Zurich and National Union settled the Montgomery lawsuit through mediation, and the case was ultimately dismissed. Later, Alabama Electric and National Trust filed an action with the Houston Circuit Court seeking certain declarations concerning their duties and obligations under the master contract and/or the National Trust policy regarding the settlement. The Dow defendants moved to transfer the declaratory judgment action from Houston to Montgomery County pursuant to the forum noon conveniens statute. The Alabama Supreme Court denied the writ application, finding the Dow parties did not satisfy their burden at the trial-court level of demonstrating that a change in venue from Houston County to Montgomery County was warranted under the interest-of-justice prong. View "Ex parte Dow Corning Alabama, Inc." on Justia Law