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SE Property Holdings, LLC ("SEPH") appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Bank of Franklin ("BOF") on BOF's claim demanding specific performance of a contractual provision. In March 2005, Vision Bank, a Florida company, loaned Bama Bayou, LLC, formally known as Riverwalk, LLC ("the borrower"), $6,000,000. Multiple individuals allegedly personally guaranteed repayment of the loan ("the guarantors"). In June 2008, pursuant to a "participation agreement," Vision Bank conveyed to BOF a 25 percent interest in the loan. Vision Bank conveyed additional participation interests in the loan to other banks. The borrower and the guarantors allegedly defaulted on their obligations with respect to the loan, and in January 2009 Vision Bank filed suit against them. The borrower and the guarantors asserted counterclaims against Vision Bank and brought BOF into the action as an additional counterclaim defendant. In April 2009, Vision Bank foreclosed on a mortgage securing the loan. Vision Bank was the highest bidder at the foreclosure sale and thereafter executed foreclosure deeds in favor of BOF and the other participating banks. In 2012, Vision Bank sold its operating assets to Centennial Bank and relinquished its Florida bank charter. Vision Bank and SEPH entered into an "agreement and plan of merger," whereby Vision Bank merged "with and into" SEPH. In October 2016, the trial court entered an order setting aside the foreclosure sale and declaring the foreclosure deeds void. Among other things, BOF asserted in its cross-claim that SEPH had an obligation to repurchase BOF's participation interest in the loan. In support, BOF pointed to the participation agreement between BOF and SEPH's predecessor, Vision Bank. The court granted BOF's motion for summary judgment on its claim for specific performance based on the participation agreement. SEPH argued on appeal that the trial court erred in determining that a "proceeding" involving Vision Bank's termination of existence was "commenced," so as to invoke the contractual provision; it asserted Vision Bank's voluntary merger with SEPH was not a "proceeding." The participation agreement in this case stated that BOF's participation interest was conveyed without recourse, but the contract provision provided BOF at least some security in the form of a right to force the repurchase of its participation interest in the event of the financial deterioration of the originating bank, i.e., Vision Bank. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the voluntary merger like the one entered into by Vision Bank and SEPH is not a "proceeding" as that term is used in the participation agreement, and reversed the trial court's judgment ordering SEPH to purchase BOF's participation interest. View "SE Property Holdings, LLC, f/k/a Vision Bank v. Bank of Franklin" on Justia Law

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Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc. ("Hinkle") was in the business of selling heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning supplies and equipment. Gabriel Butterfield was employed as a branch manager at Hinkle's Pelham office. In 2015, a GMC Sierra pickup truck owned and driven by Butterfield struck Diane Feltman as she was attempting to walk cross 20th Street in downtown Birmingham. As a result of that accident, Feltman sustained multiple injuries. Feltman sued Butterfield and Hinkle, alleging that Butterfield, while acting within the line and scope of his employment with Hinkle, had been negligent and wanton in causing the accident and that Hinkle was vicariously liable based on a theory of respondeat superior. Hinkle moved for summary judgment on all claims against it, arguing it was not vicariously liable for Butterfield's alleged actions because, it said, Butterfield was not acting within the line and scope of his employment with Hinkle at the time of the accident. The motion was denied, trial proceeded, and judgment was entered against Hinkle on vicarious liability. Hinkle's motion for judgment as a matter of law was denied, and a verdict was returned for $375,000 in favor of Butterfield. Finding that the trial court did not err in denying Hinkle's motion for judgment as a matter of law, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment in Butterfield's favor. View "Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc. v. Feltman" on Justia Law

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Clifford Wright ("Wright"), the administrator of the estate of Mary Evelyn Wright ("Mary") appealed a summary judgment entered in favor of Dawn Reid, Phyllis Harris, and Tuwanda Worrills (collectively referred to as "the nurses"), who, during all relevant times, were employed by the Cleburne County Hospital Board, Inc., d/b/a Cleburne County Nursing Home ("the Hospital Board"). Mary complained she suffered injuries from a fall while a resident of a nursing home operated by the Hospital Board. Mary allegedly died from her injuries the day after her complaint was filed. Wright was appointed the administrator of Mary's estate and was substituted as the plaintiff. As amended, Wright's complaint asserted claims against the nurses, the Hospital Board, and various fictitiously named parties under the Alabama Medical Liability Act. Wright's claim against the Hospital Board included 13 separate allegations of negligence. Wright's claims against each of the nurses included 13 separate allegations of negligence. Additionally, Wright alleged that the Hospital Board was vicariously liable for the actions of its agents, specifically, the actions of the nurses. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion in certifying the summary judgment in favor of the nurses as a final judgment pursuant to Rule 54(b). Accordingly, the trial court's Rule 54(b) certification was invalid; this appeal was from a nonfinal judgment; and the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Wright v. Harris, et al." on Justia Law

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The Alabama Surface Mining Commission ("the Commission") and Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. ("Black Warrior"), separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss the underlying action seeking judicial review of the Commission's issuance of a surface-coal-mining permit to Black Warrior, or, in the alternative, to transfer the action to the Walker Circuit Court. The underlying action was filed by respondents, John Crane, Dan Jett, and Linda Jett ("the property owners"), who owned property near the location that was the subject of the permit. The Supreme Court found that when originally enacted, the Alabama Surface Mining Act did not include a venue provision. Alabama law was amended to specify that the proper venue for judicial review of a final Commission decision was "in the circuit court of the county in which the commission maintains its principal office." Under the plain language of the applicable statute, the only proper venue for the property owners' action was the Walker County circuit court. The property owners contended that, at the time they commenced their appeal with the Jefferson Circuit Court, the 2015 amendment to the applicable statute was not effective and the earlier version applied. Finding that the 2015 statute was properly enacted, the Supreme Court held "the effective date for such a change in state law should be the date determined by the Alabama Legislature, not the date of approval by the [Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement]," thus the Commission and Black Warrior demonstrated a clear legal right to have their underlying action transferred to the Walker Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Alabama Surface Mining Commission." on Justia Law

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Aaron Smith, an officer employed by the City of Montgomery Police Department, petitions the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Smith immunity pursuant to 13A–3–23(d), Ala. Code 1975, and to enter an order granting Smith immunity under that statute. In the alternative, Smith asked for mandamus relief directing the Montgomery County Circuit Judge enter an order recusing himself from the case. Smith requested a change of venue based on pretrial publicity. The Supreme Court surmised the issue of Smith's credibility would arise at trial because he appeared to be the only witness to the incident underlying these proceedings, and he might be called to testify at trial in support of a defense of self- defense. "The risk of prejudice under these circumstances is evident where the trial judge has already stated that he does not find Smith to be credible and that statement has been widely reported in the local community from which the jury pool would be drawn. Judge Griffin's comments were made and reported approximately six moths ago, in late July 2018. There is no dispute that this case has generated much attention in Montgomery County, and it seems likely to generate continued attention moving forward. It is reasonable to assume that Judge Griffin's comments regarding Smith's credibility will continue to be dispersed in the local media." Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded Smith could not have his case decided by a fair and impartial jury in Montgomery County. Because Smith demonstrated a clear legal right to the relief sought, the Supreme Court granted his petition as to the change-of-venue and recusal issues and directed that this case be transferred to another venue. The Court denied relief as to all other issues raised. View "Ex parte Aaron Cody Smith." on Justia Law

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Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. ("MBUSI"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief, ordering the circuit court to vacate an order denying change of venue from Jefferson County to Tuscaloosa. Gregory Nix was a resident of Jefferson County; he was employed as an assembly worker at MBUSI's manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa County until June 23, 2017. Nix alleges that, during his employment with MBUSI, he suffered on-the-job injuries the cumulative effect of which have left him permanently and totally disabled. The Supreme Court determined there was not sufficient evidence before the trial court to support a conclusion that venue in Jefferson County was proper in this case. "The regular purchasing of parts or materials from a supplier located in a certain county, by itself, does not constitute '[doing] business by agent' in that county under section 6-3-7(a)(3), Ala. Code 1975." The Court therefore issued the writ granting mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Alabama Supreme Court granted certiorari in this case to review the Court of Criminal Appeals' opinion reversing in part the Dale Circuit Court's order granting Emanuel Gissendanner, Jr. a new trial based on ineffective assistance of counsel and a violation of Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963). In 2001, Gissendanner was charged with three counts of capital murder in the death of Margaret Snellgrove: murder during a kidnapping in the first degree; murder during a robbery in the first degree; and murder during a rape. A separate indictment charged Gissendanner with possessing or uttering a forged check drawn on Snellgrove's bank account. He was convicted of two counts of capital murder -- murder during the course of a robbery and murder during the course of a kidnapping -- and of possession of a forged instrument. The jury recommended by a vote of 10-2 that he be sentenced to death on the capital-murder convictions. The Supreme Court determined the Court of Criminal Appeals applied the wrong standard of review to the disputed facts and failed to give considerable weight to the finding of prejudicial ineffective assistance of counsel by Judge Quattlebaum, the original trial judge who also presided over the Rule 32 proceedings. "Judge Quattlebaum did not exceed his discretion in ordering a new trial based on defense counsel's prejudicially ineffective pretrial investigation." Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Criminal Appeals to the extent it reversed Judge Quattlebaum's order granting Gissendanner's petition for postconviction relief, and the Court directed the trial court to take the necessary action to reinstate Judge Quattlebaum's order granting Gissendanner a new trial. In light of this holding, the Court pretermitted discussion of the remaining issues raised in Gissendanner's petition. View "Ex parte Emanuel Aaron Gissendanner, Jr." on Justia Law

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Somnus Mattress Corporation d/b/a Posturecraft Mattress Company ("Somnus") appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Stephen Hilson and Crutchfield & Graves Insurance Agency, LLC ("CGIA"), on Somnus's claim that Hilson and CGIA were negligent in advising Somnus not to purchase insurance coverage for business interruption and loss of profits ("business-income coverage"). After review of the circuit court record, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Hilson and CGIA did not have a duty to advise Somnus concerning the adequacy of its insurance coverage. Without such a duty, as a matter of law Somnus could not establish that Hilson and CGIA were negligent in their actions. Therefore, the circuit court did not err in entering a summary judgment in favor of Hilson and CGIA. View "Somnus Mattress Corp. v. Hilson" on Justia Law

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Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C. ("MCG"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its July 30, 2018 order denying MCG's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring the underlying action to the Madison Circuit Court on the basis of the doctrine of forum non conveniens. In late 2017, AAL USA, Inc. ("AAL"), a Delaware corporation doing business in Alabama, and Oleg Sirbu, a resident of Dubai, United Arab Emirates (collectively, "the plaintiffs"), sued MCG, asserting a claim of legal malpractice pursuant to the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act ("the ALSLA"), and seeking, among other relief, disgorgement of all attorney fees paid by the plaintiffs to MCG. AAL maintained, repaired, and overhauled helicopters through various government contracts or subcontracts on United States military bases. MCG represented the plaintiffs from 2014 through October 28, 2016; two MCG attorneys, Jon Levin and J. Andrew Watson III, were shareholders of MCG whose allegedly wrongful conduct was performed within the line and scope of their employment with MCG. The events giving rise to this litigation began in September 2016, when AAL received a "base-debarment" letter notifying it that it no longer had access to certain military bases outside the continental United States. MCG chief financial officer Keith Woolford forwarded this letter to MCG, and, according to the plaintiffs, MCG "immediately embarked in a central role in [MCG CEO Paul] Daigle's and Woolford's scheme to steal the assets of AAL." The complaint alleged that Levin worked closely with Woolford and Daigle to draft the APA pursuant to which Black Hall Aerospace, Inc., Daigle, and Woolford would purchase all of AAL's assets, as a way to cure the base-debarment problem. The plaintiffs alleged that MCG knew that the APA would "gut" the plaintiffs –- its current clients –- while simultaneously benefiting Daigle, Woolford, and BHA –- other clients of MCG -- and that this "clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest ... was never disclosed to [the plaintiffs]." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded MCG carried its burden of showing that Madison County's connection to the action was strong and that Jefferson County's connection to the action was weak. Thus, the circuit court exceeded its discretion in refusing to transfer the case to the Madison Circuit Court in the interest of justice. MCG's petition for a writ of mandamus was granted. View "Ex parte Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C." on Justia Law

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Ace American Insurance Company ("Ace"), an intervenor in the action below, appeals from the Baldwin Circuit Court's dismissal of the action filed by Ace's insured, Willie James Westbrook, against Rouse's Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Rouses Markets ("Rouses Markets"). In August 2016, Westbrook sued Rouses Markets seeking to recover damages for injuries he sustained as the result of the allegedly negligent operation of a pallet jack by a Rouses Markets' employee while Westbrook was delivering goods to the Rouses Markets' location in Spanish Fort during the course of his employment with Cardinal Logistics Management Corporation ("Cardinal"). The Alabama Supreme Court has stated previously that, "'since dismissal with prejudice is a drastic sanction, it is to be applied only in extreme situations' and that, as a result, 'appellate courts will carefully scrutinize such orders and occasionally will find it necessary to set them aside.'" The Court could not say that the circumstances presented by this case presented an extreme situation in which dismissal of Ace's claim for want of prosecution was warranted. Accordingly, it reversed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Ace's claim and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Ace American Insurance Company v. Rouse's Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Rouses Markets" on Justia Law