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Leigh Shelton, as the personal representative of the estate of Margaret Blansit, deceased, appealed a judgment in favor of I.E. Green in a personal-injury action brought by Shelton seeking damages for injuries Blansit allegedly suffered in a slip-and-fall accident at Green's residence. Before Shelton filed her complaint, Blansit died of causes unrelated to the fall. Green filed a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Blansit's cause of action abated upon her death. The trial court agreed and granted Green's motion. Shelton appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Shelton v. Green" on Justia Law

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Sheila Ingle ("Ingle") appealed a circuit court order dismissing her claims against Jason Adkins, individually and in his capacity as superintendent of the Walker County School System; the Walker County Board of Education ("the Board"); and Bradley Ingle, William Gilbert, Dennis Reeves, James Rigsby, and Sonia Waid, members of the Board. Ingle brought this action "in the name of the State of Alabama on the relation of Sheila Mote Ingle ... in her individual capacity as a resident citizen and taxpayer in Walker County, Alabama." Ingle sought a declaration that Adkins's July 2013 salary increase was unconstitutional, illegal, and void; that the December 2014 "employment contract" was unconstitutional, illegal, and void; and that the November 2015 modification of the employment contract was unconstitutional, illegal, and void. Ingle sought to compel the Board members "to vacate and/or rescind" the "employment contract." Further, Ingle sought to recover for the taxpayers of Walker County the allegedly illegal compensation that had already been paid to Adkins, and she sought to recover on her own behalf attorney fees. Additionally, Ingle alleged that, even if the employment contract was not determined to be unconstitutional and void, the Board had overpaid Adkins's travel stipend, and, thus, Ingle sought to recover that overpayment. Later, Ingle amended her petition to withdraw her claim for attorney fees. The Alabama Supreme Court has held that taxpayers have standing to seek an injunction against public officials to prevent illegal payments from public funds. “This standing is based on the fact that taxpayers have an equitable ownership in the public funds and will be responsible for replenishing the public funds if those funds are misappropriated, and, thus, a taxpayer suffers an injury when public funds are illegally spent.” The Court determined that Ingle had standing as a taxpayer to seek an injunction against Adkins and the Board members in their official capacities. The Court reversed the circuit court’s order dismissing Ingle’s claims against the Board members and Adkins with respect to Adkins’ then-current agreement with the Board. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ingle v. Adkins" on Justia Law

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Candy Parkhurst ("Parkhurst"), personal representative of the estate of her husband, Andrew P. Parkhurst ("Andrew"), deceased, file suit to compel Carter C. Norvell and Parkhurst & Norvell, an accounting firm Norvell had operated as a partnership with Andrew ("the partnership"), to arbitrate a dispute regarding the dissolution of the partnership. Pursuant to an arbitration provision in a dissolution agreement Norvell and Andrew had executed before Andrew's death, the trial court ultimately ordered arbitration and stayed further proceedings until arbitration was complete. Subsequently, however, Parkhurst moved the trial court to lift the stay and to enter a partial summary judgment resolving certain aspects of the dispute in her favor. After the trial court lifted the stay and scheduled a hearing on Parkhurst's motion, Norvell and the partnership appealed, arguing that the trial court was effectively failing to enforce the terms of a valid arbitration agreement in violation of the Federal Arbitration Act. The Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no evidence in the record indicating that Norvell made such an agreement and he, in fact, denied doing so. In the absence of any evidence that would establish such an agreement, as well as any other evidence that would conclusively establish that Norvell clearly and unequivocally expressed an intent to waive his right to have the arbitrator resolve this dispute. As such, Parkhurst failed to meet her burden of showing that the arbitration provision in the dissolution agreement should not have been enforced. Accordingly, the trial court erred by lifting the arbitral stay in order to consider Parkhurst's motion for a partial summary judgment, and its judgment doing so was reversed and remanded. View "Norvell v. Parkhurst" on Justia Law

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Timothy Thomas appealed from judgments entered in favor of Randell Heard and Donna Heard and in favor of Laura Wells, as guardian ad litem and next friend of M.A., a minor. The Heards and Wells had separately sued Thomas alleging negligence and wantonness and seeking to recover damages for injuries the Heards and M.A. had suffered as the result of an automobile accident. Thomas argued that the jury's punitive-damages awards were excessive. The trial court denied Thomas's request for a remittitur without explaining its reasoning for doing so. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgments as to the compensatory-damages awards but remanded the cases with instructions for the trial court to enter orders in compliance with Alabama law. The trial court reaffirmed the punitive-damages awards on remand. The only issue before the Supreme Court in this appeal was whether the punitive-damages awards were, as Thomas contended, excessive. The Court concluded that they were not. View "Thomas v. Heard" on Justia Law

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Jami Johnston appealed a judgment entered in favor of Castles and Crowns, Inc. ("Castles"). Castles was a children's clothing company formed by Julie Vickers and Amy Bowers. Brandi Stuart, Johnston's sister, worked for Castles from 2006 until 2011. From 2009 to 2010, while she was working with Castles, Stuart had 7,149 pounds of Castles' clothing shipped either to Johnston or to consignment companies used by Johnston. In January 2011, Vickers terminated Stuart's employment based on issues with her performance. In April 2011, Castles sued Stuart and Johnston, alleging conversion; civil conspiracy; "willfulness, negligence, and wantonness"; trespass to chattel; and unjust-enrichment against Johnston and Stuart. It also asserted fraudulent-misrepresentation and suppression claims against Stuart. Johnston answered, also asserting a counterclaim against Castles and a third-party complaint against Vickers. In her counterclaim and third-party complaint, Johnston alleged claims of defamation; "negligence, wantonness, and willfulness"; conspiracy; and tortious interference with business and contractual relations. She also sought recovery against Castles under the theory of respondeat superior. In this case, the trial court instructed the jury to consider Castles' unjust-enrichment claim against Johnston if it did not find against Johnston on the conversion and conspiracy claims. The jury found against Johnston on both the conversion and conspiracy claims. However, it then considered the unjust-enrichment claim and found against Johnston on that claim as well. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the jury's verdict was inconsistent with the trial court's instructions and "was obviously the result of confusion on the part of the jury." After it had discharged the jury, the trial court acknowledged the inconsistency in the jury's verdict. The trial court attempted to cure that inconsistency by setting aside the award in favor of Castles on the unjust-enrichment claim. However, the Supreme Court found the trial court's attempt to reconcile the inconsistency in the jury's verdict was based on mere speculation about the jury's intent. Additionally, the jury failed to follow the trial court's instructions, and Johnston moved for a new trial on that ground. The Supreme Court concluded Johnston was entitled to a new trial because the jury failed to follow the trial court's instructions. For these reasons, the trial court erred when it denied Johnston's motion for a new trial. View "Johnston v. Castles & Crowns, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Johnny Mack Morrow, a member of the Alabama House of Representatives, and Jim Zeigler, auditor for the State of Alabama appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing their complaint filed against Robert Bentley, individually and in his official capacity as governor of the State of Alabama; Gunter Guy, individually and in his official capacity as commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources; Luther Strange, individually and in his official capacity as attorney general for the State of Alabama; William Newton, individually and in his official capacity as director of the Alabama Department of Finance; and Cooper Shattuck, individually and in his official capacity as executive director of the University of Alabama System's Gulf State Park Project. Relevant to the plaintiffs' claims was the Gulf State Park Projects Act, 9-14E-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the Act"), which was enacted to facilitate the construction of a hotel/conference center in Gulf State Park ("the project"). Alabama received National Resource Damage Assessment funds, however, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama enjoined use of those funds on the project until the defendants in the district court complied with certain federal requirements. The plaintiffs' complaint alleged that, given the district court's order, the defendants were "[w]ithout any lawful funds to spend upon the [p]roject." Nevertheless, the plaintiffs alleged, the defendants "boldly, unlawfully and hastily proceeded" to fund the project with moneys received from British Petroleum Exploration & Production, Inc. ("BP"), as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing plaintiffs lacked standing to pursue their claims. The circuit court agreed with defendants and dismissed the complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court found that because the issue of the plaintiffs' standing in their individual capacities was not preserved for appellate review and because the plaintiffs did not have standing to prosecute their action in their official capacities, the trial court did not err in dismissing the complaint. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "Morrow v. Bentley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Frank and Martha Buck, challenged the Court of Civil Appeals’ decision to affirm the trial court's judgment in favor of defendants CH Highland, LLC (“Highland”) and the City of Birmingham (“City”) in their challenge to a City rezoning ordinance. The Bucks owned property in the City. Highland, a real-estate-development company, wanted to build a multistory apartment complex ("the project") on property located adjacent to the Bucks' property. As planned, the project did not conform with the then existing zoning restrictions for the area in which the subject property was located. Thus, Highland submitted a rezoning application to the Zoning Advisory Committee of the Birmingham Planning Commission. Highland requested that the subject property be rezoned from a "B-2 general business district" to a "B-3 community business district" so that it could construct the project. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the proposed rezoning ordinance that was published merely indicated to the public that there would be a zoning change from a B-2 district to a B-3 district. Ordinance 1949-G did not create a B-3 district; instead, it created a district of a substantially smaller range of uses than what was otherwise disclosed to the public in the Public Notice of the rezoning change. “Even if this Court were to reject the long-standing rule that, to invalidate an ordinance, it is unnecessary for the public to be prejudiced by the City's failure to publish the ordinance, we cannot presume that no prejudice occurred in this case.” The Court reversed the Court of Civil Appeals, and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Buck." on Justia Law

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Douglas Ghee, as personal representative of the estate of Billy Fleming, deceased, appealed a circuit court order dismissing his wrongful-death claim against USAble Mutual Insurance Company d/b/a Blue Advantage Administrators of Arkansas ("Blue Advantage"). The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal as being from a nonfinal order. View "Ghee v. USAble Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Douglas Ghee, as personal representative of the estate of Billy Fleming, deceased, appealed a circuit court order dismissing his wrongful-death claim against USAble Mutual Insurance Company d/b/a Blue Advantage Administrators of Arkansas ("Blue Advantage"). The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal as being from a nonfinal order. View "Ghee v. USAble Mutual Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Georgia Urology, P.A., and several of its member physicians filed objections to challenge a $124 million attorney fee awarded by the Jefferson Alabama Circuit Court to class counsel as part of the settlement of Johnson v. Caremark Rx, LLC ("the Caremark class action). After the trial court overruled their objections and its judgment approving the settlement became final, the objectors appealed the attorney fee to this Court. Caremark Rx bought MedPartners; MedPartners was the subject of dozens of securities-fraud lawsuits alleging that it had made false statements regarding its financial condition and anticipated future performance. Many of those lawsuits were eventually consolidated into a class action. In 1999, the MedPartners class action was settled for $56 million based on MedPartners' assertions that the negotiated settlement exhausted its available insurance coverage and that it possessed limited other assets it could use to pay a larger award or settlement. Post-settlement, however, it was revealed in unrelated litigation that MedPartners actually held an excess-insurance policy providing unlimited coverage during the period in which the alleged fraud had been committed. In 2003, the Caremark class action was initiated against MedPartners' corporate successor Caremark Rx, and its previous insurer asserting fraud and suppression claims based on the $56 million settlement agreed to in the MedPartners class action. The objectors appealed the fee award to the Alabama Supreme Court, arguing that they had been given insufficient opportunity to object to class counsel's requested attorney fee inasmuch as their objections were due before class counsel's attorney-fee application was filed, and that the attorney fee ultimately awarded was excessive. The Supreme Court vacated the order entered by the trial court awarding class counsel an attorney fee of $124 million. On remand, class counsel may file a new attorney-fee application, including more detailed information regarding the time expended in this case and how that time was spent. The objectors would then be given a reasonable opportunity to review that application and may, if they still have objections to class counsel's new application, file those objections with the trial court. After the trial court considers those objections and enters a new order making an award of attorney fees, any party with a grievance may file a new appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. View "Walker v. Johnson" on Justia Law