Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries
Ex parte American Cast Iron Pipe Company.
American Cast Iron Pipe Company ("ACIPCO") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to review the Court of Civil Appeals' decision to reverse a circuit court's dismissal of a workers' compensation action. Suit was filed by Karene Stricklin against ACIPCO who alleged her ward and conservatee, John Gray, sustained injuries while an ACIPCO employee. The Supreme Court granted the petition to consider, as a matter of first impression, whether Article II of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act ("the ombudsman-program article"), which encompassed § 25-5-290 through § 25-5-294, Ala. Code 1975, precluded an action seeking to have a benefit-review agreement declared void ab initio on the basis of a signatory's mental incompetency when that action was not commenced so as to comply with the 60-day period set forth in § 25-5-292(b), Ala. Code 1975. To this, the Court concluded that it did not, and, thus, affirmed the Court of Civil Appeals' decision. View "Ex parte American Cast Iron Pipe Company." on Justia Law
Watkins v. Matrix, LLC, et al.
Plaintiffs Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church, Inc., and Lee Riggins appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing their complaint against Donald Moulton, Sr., and Broken Vessel United Church ("the Broken Vessel defendants") pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., on the basis that the claims asserted in the complaint against the Broken Vessel defendants are barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the allegations of the complaint, when construed in plaintiffs' favor, were sufficient to sate a claim for a declaratory judgment. Further, the Court found the trial court erred in dismissing count one of the complaint against the Broken Vessel defendants on the basis that it was barred by the applicable statute of limitations. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Watkins v. Matrix, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Ex parte Whitney Owens Jones.
In January 2018, Whitney Jones, an inmate in the Mobile County Metro Jail and a participant in the jail's work-release program, left her work-release job and did not return to the work-release barracks. As a result, Jones was charged with, and convicted of, second-degree felony escape. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Jones's conviction. The Alabama Supreme Court granted certiorari review to consider whether an inmate, like Jones, who escapes from a county work-release program authorized pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, §§ 14-8-30 through 14-8-44 could be convicted of escape pursuant to one of the escape statutes in the Alabama Criminal Code, Ala. Code 1975, §§ 13A-10-30 through 13A-10-33 ("the escape statutes"), which would be punishable as a felony, or whether such an escape was punishable only as a misdemeanor pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, §§ 14-8-42 and 14-8-43. The Supreme Court concluded that escapes from county work-release programs were governed by the escape statutes. View "Ex parte Whitney Owens Jones." on Justia Law
Ex parte Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc., et al.
Robert Owen died 11 days after being transferred from Huntsville Hospital to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital ("UAB Hospital") for cardiac treatment. His widow Gloria Owen, as the personal representative of his estate, sued the ambulance company that had transported him, Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc. ("HEMSI"), as well as HEMSI employees Jacob Steele, Calvin Hui, Christopher Nunley, and Dea Calce, alleging that events that occurred during Robert's transport had "caused him unnecessary stress, worry, concern, anxiety, and/or a delay in treatment," leading to further heart damage and his eventual death. During discovery, Gloria sought information from the HEMSI defendants about the previous conduct and employment record of Steele, a licensed emergency medical technician ("EMT") and the assigned driver of the HEMSI ambulance that transported Robert. The HEMSI defendants objected to Gloria's requests and sought a protective order, arguing that the Alabama Medical Liability Act ("the AMLA") governed her claims and prohibited discovery related to any acts and omissions of a defendant that were not specifically described in the complaint. The circuit court rejected the HEMSI defendants' request for a protective order and directed them to produce the requested discovery; they petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief, specifically a writ directing the trial court to amend its order to give effect to what they claimed were the applicable privilege and discovery protections of the AMLA. The Supreme Court granted the petition in part, and denied in part. The Court held all claims asserted by Gloria in this action were governed by the AMLA and subject to the limitations on discovery imposed by § 6-5-551. To the extent that the trial court's October 2021 order did not give effect to the § 6-5-551 privilege, the HEMSI defendants' petition was granted and the trial court was directed to modify that order. But to the extent the HEMSI defendants sought to prevent Gloria from discovering information regarding acts or omissions that were specifically alleged and described in her complaint, their petition was denied. View "Ex parte Huntsville Emergency Medical Services, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Smith v. NIBCO, Inc.
Martha and Kevin Smith purchased and lived in a house that had a plumbing system composed of polyethylene ("PEX") tubing manufactured by NIBCO, Inc. The PEX tubing failed, which allowed water to leak into the house, allegedly causing damage. The Smiths subsequently commenced a lawsuit in against NIBCO, among others, asserting various theories of liability. Ultimately, the circuit court entered a summary judgment in favor of NIBCO and certified the judgment as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. App. P. The Smiths appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court found that the Smiths' claims against NIBCO, the judgment on which was certified as final under Rule 54(b), and the Smiths' claims against D.R. Horton and Dupree Plumbing that remained pending in the circuit court were so closely intertwined that separate adjudication of those claims would pose an unreasonable risk of inconsistent results. Accordingly, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in certifying the September 20, 2021, order granting NIBCO's summary-judgment motion as final. The Supreme Court therefore dismissed the appeal. View "Smith v. NIBCO, Inc." on Justia Law
Ex parte Sidetrack Plaza, LLC, et al.
Sidetrack Plaza, LLC, Rajvinder Singh, Maninder Pruthi, Parminder Pruthi, and Union Track Plaza, LLC ("the petitioners"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to vacate its October 15, 2021, order purporting to vacate its September 21, 2021, order transferring the underlying action to the Greene Circuit Court. The Supreme Court found that because the case had already been transferred to and docketed by the Greene Circuit Court, the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court's October 15, 2021, order was a nullity. Accordingly, it granted the petition for the writ of mandamus and directed the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to vacate its October 15, 2021, order in which it purported to grant Hari Har's motion to reconsider, to vacate its September 21, 2021, transfer order, and to deny petitioners' motions to transfer. View "Ex parte Sidetrack Plaza, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure
Barnett v. Hull
Gwendolyn Barnett and Robert Lee Hull, Jr. were siblings and the sole legal heirs of their father, Robert Lee Hull, Sr. ("Robert"), who died testate. Pursuant to Robert's will, Hull and Barnett were listed as beneficiaries entitled to equal shares of his estate and Barnett was named personal representative of his estate. In August 2019, Barnett obtained letters testamentary from the Probate Court. The administration of Robert's estate ("the estate administration") was later removed to the Circuit Court and assigned case no. CV-19-900322 following Hull's filing of a verified petition for removal. While the estate administration continued, Hull commenced the underlying action, a separate civil action against Barnett in the Circuit Court ("the tort action"), which was assigned case no. CV-20- 900192. Hull's complaint in the tort action alleged that Barnett, in her role as "a partial caretaker of [Robert]" before his death, had exerted undue influence over Robert and had gained control of Robert's personal property and assets. According to Hull, in the absence of Barnett's purported misconduct, items that Barnett allegedly misappropriated would "have become part of [Robert's] estate." Among other relief, Hull sought the imposition of a constructive trust "in an effort to avoid [Barnett's] further unjust enrichment." Barnett filed a motion seeking to dismiss the tort action. In her motion, Barnett asserted that Hull's complaint in the tort action realleged claims purportedly "identical" to claims that Hull had previously asserted in the estate administration, which had been dismissed. The trial court in the tort action entered an order granting Hull's motion in full. Barrett appealed, arguing the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Hull's claims. The Alabama Supreme Court concurred the trial court lacked jurisdiction over matters relating to the pending estate administration. It reversed all orders entered by the trial court in the tort action, and remanded for that court to enter an order dismissing Hull's complaint. View "Barnett v. Hull" on Justia Law
Brady v. Hiett
This appeal and cross-appeal involved a residential lease agreement with an option to purchase executed by Tony Hiett, Sr., and his wife Kelly ("the tenants") and Beverlye Brady ("the landlord"). The landlord leased to the tenants a house ("the property") located in Auburn for a term of five years, beginning September 1, 2011, and ending August 31, 2016, for $2,000 per month. By letter dated August 29, 2016, the tenants informed the landlord that they were exercising their option to purchase the property. According to the tenants, they accepted the first option to purchase the property presented in an email from the landlord and began making monthly holdover rental payments of $2,500. In April 2017, they informed the landlord that they had obtained financing and were ready to close on the property by April 30, 2017. The landlord, however, refused to convey title to the property because, she claimed, the tenants had never responded to her email; thus, according to the landlord, the option to purchase had expired. The tenants thereafter stopped paying rent under the lease agreement, but continued to occupy the property, and sued the landlord, seeking specific performance of the option to purchase. The landlord counterclaimed, asserting a claim for ejectment and a claim of breach of contract, based on unpaid rent and late fees owed under the lease agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment on a jury’s verdict in favor of the tenants on their specific performance claim, and against the landlord on her ejectment claim. The Supreme Court reversed judgment entered on the jury’s verdict in favor of the landlord on her breach-of-contract claim based on the inadequacy of damages awarded, and the Court remanded the case with directions to the trial court to grant a new trial only as to that claim unless the tenants consented to an additur. View "Brady v. Hiett" on Justia Law
Avendano v. Shaw
This case stemmed from the serial fraud of Brandy Murrah, the former owner of a drug-screening laboratory who was in prison for falsifying test results. The plaintiffs, Angel Avendano and Sandy Knowles, claimed to be victims of Murrah's fraud and alleged that social worker Victoria Shaw conspired with Murrah to falsify the results of their drug tests. Shaw moved to dismiss the claims against her, and the circuit court granted that motion. Avendano and Knowles appealed. Because the Alabama Supreme Court concluded that Avendano and Knowles's complaint stated some viable claims against Shaw, it affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Avendano v. Shaw" on Justia Law
Lord Genesh, Inc. et al. v. Valley National Bank.
Lord Genesh, Inc. ("Lord Genesh"); Bay Inn & Suites, LLC, of Foley ("Bay Inn"); and Rasik Patel (referred to collectively as "defendants"), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Valley National Bank. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court's judgment was not a final judgment: the circuit court purported to enter a final judgment on October 6, 2021. However, the circuit court's October 6, 2021, order was void because defendants had prematurely filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court on October 4, 2021, thereby divesting the circuit court of jurisdiction to rule on the matters raised in the appeal. Because no final judgment was entered in this action, this appeal was dismissed. View "Lord Genesh, Inc. et al. v. Valley National Bank." on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure