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Shellie G. Spencer III ("Shellie III") appealed a probate court order admitting a copy of his father's will to probate. After reviewing the record under the ore tenus standard of review and applying the prevailing substantive legal principles, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the judgment of the probate court was supported by the evidence. The proponent met his burden of rebutting the presumption that the 2010 will had been revoked and establishing to the reasonable satisfaction of the probate court that the 2010 will had not been revoked. The probate court's notation in its order concerning Shellie III's failure to offer any evidence "in support of the application of [that] evidentiary presumption" did not amount to reversible error. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed the probate court's judgment. View "Spencer III v. Spencer" on Justia Law

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STV One Nineteen Senior Living, LLC ("STV"), appealed a circuit court order denying its motion to compel arbitration of certain counterclaims filed against it by Dixie Boyd, by and through her agent, Mary Alice Boyd-Kline, under a valid power of attorney. Dixie Boyd and Mary-Alice Boyd-Kline, as holder of Boyd's power of attorney, signed a "residency agreement" with STV, which operated an assisted-living facility. STV agreed to provide Dixie Boyd with a private apartment and other related services, including, among other things, utilities, housekeeping, laundry, meals, maintenance, planned activities, transportation, and security and protection. The residency agreement contained an arbitration clause. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the plain language of the arbitration clause encompassed Boyd's counterclaims, and the trial court erred, therefore, in denying STV's motion to compel arbitration. View "STV One Nineteen Senior Living, LLC v. Boyd" on Justia Law

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EvaBank appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Traditions Bank, TBX Title, Inc., and Terry Williams. In 2013, EvaBank customers William Michael Robertson and Connie Robertson, entered into a purchase agreement with Terry Williams, pursuant to which Williams agreed to purchase the Robertsons' property located on County Road 35 in Hanceville ("the property"). EvaBank held two mortgages on the property. Williams financed his purchase through Traditions Bank. TBX Title, a Traditions Bank subsidiary, acted as the closing agent for the real-estate transaction. EvaBank faxed Traditions Bank the payoff statement for the wrong EvaBank customer, Michael Roberson, with an address in Moulton, Alabama. TBX Title closed the real-estate transaction between the Robertsons and Williams. Traditions Bank thereafter delivered a check to EvaBank; EvaBank accepted and negotiated the check and applied the proceeds to the loan of Michael Roberson. TBX Title wired the net sales proceeds from the closing to the Robertsons. TBX Title recorded the warranty deed and mortgage and mailed the deed to Williams. When EvaBank contacted William Robertson about his loan being past due; Robertson responded that the loan should have been paid off at the closing with the proceeds from the sale. EvaBank learned at this point that there was a problem with the payoff statement it had provided. EvaBank sent Traditions Bank an e-mail explaining its mistake and noting that it had made a demand upon William Michael Robertson to pay the remaining balance due on the EvaBank mortgages but that Robertson had refused. Accordingly, EvaBank informed Traditions Bank that it would not release it mortgages encumbering the Robertsons' property until the balance on the loan they were securing had been fully satisfied. Traditions Bank sued EvaBank, asserting a claim of slander of title and seeking a judgment declaring that it was the first lienholder on the property. All parties moved for a summary judgment. The trial court entered judgment in favor of Traditions Bank and TBX Title, on the basis of equitable estoppel, on the claims involving those parties and dismissed all other claims. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that Traditions Bank and TBX Title were on notice of one or more discrepancies between the payoff statement and the closing documents, which, through the exercise of due diligence, would have revealed the fact that the payoff statement was not for the loan secured by the Evabank mortgages encumbering the property being sold by the Robertsons. Therefore, the Court concluded as a matter of law, that Traditions Bank and TBX Title's reliance on the payoff statement, without further inquiry, was not reasonable. Accordingly, they could not rely on estoppel as a basis on which to claim a priority interest in the property. View "Evabank v. Traditions Bank, et al." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Traci Salinas and Sharon Lee Stark, as shareholders of Sterne Agee Group, Inc. ("SAG") filed a shareholder-derivative action, on behalf of nominal defendant SAG, against James and William Holbrook and the nonHolbrook directors, who together composed the SAG board of directors. Salinas and Stark alleged that the Holbrooks had breached their fiduciary duty to the SAG shareholders by misusing, misappropriating, and wasting corporate assets and that the non-Holbrook directors had knowledge of, and had acquiesced in, the Holbrooks' alleged misconduct. In 2015, while Salinas and Stark's action was pending, SAG entered into a merger agreement with Stifel Financial Corp. ("Stifel") pursuant to which Stifel would acquire SAG ("the merger"). As a result of the merger, each share of certain classes of SAG stock was to be converted into a right of the shareholder to receive a pro rata share of merger consideration in cash and/or shares of Stifel common stock. The Holbrooks moved for summary judgment in which they argued that, under Delaware law, when a plaintiff in a shareholder-derivative action ceases to be a shareholder of the corporation on whose behalf the action was brought, the shareholder was divested of standing to continue prosecuting the derivative action. Thus, the Holbrooks argued, because Salinas and Wainwright were no longer SAG shareholders following the merger, they lacked standing to prosecute their derivative action and, the argument continued, the Holbrooks were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In response, Salinas and Wainwright amended their complaint to allege that a merger "cannot absolve fiduciaries from accountability for fraudulent conduct that necessitated the merger." Rather, they maintained, "such conduct gives rise to a direct claim that survives the merger, as the injury caused by such misconduct is suffered by the shareholders rather than the corporation, and thereby supports a direct cause of action." Subsequently, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal in which they dismissed Salinas from the action, leaving Wainwright as the sole plaintiff. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that a May 2017 trial court order did not come within the subject-matter-jurisdiction exception to the general rule that the denial of a motion to dismiss or a motion for a summary judgment was not reviewable by petition for a writ of mandamus. “The petitioners have an adequate remedy by way of appeal should they suffer an adverse judgment. Accordingly, we deny the petitions.” View "Ex parte Jon S. Sanderson et al." on Justia Law

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International Creative Management Partners, LLC, d/b/a ICM Partners ("ICM"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Mobile Circuit Court to vacate its order denying ICM's motion to dismiss the action filed against it by Jordan Pardue, a minor, and Terrie Pardue, individually and as Jordan's mother and next friend (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the Pardues"), on the basis that the circuit court lacked personal jurisdiction over it and to issue an order granting its motion. ICM is a talent agency, and its clients perform at various venues across the globe. Jordan attended a concert by an ICM client, Cannibal Corpse, at Soul Kitchen Hall in Alabama. The Pardues state in their response to ICM's petition that, during the concert, "the crowd became violent and Jordan ... was thrown to the ground, suffering a spinal cord injury." The Pardues alleged in their complaint that it was, or should have been, foreseeable "that patrons attending Cannibal Corpse concerts exhibit violent behavior, including ... forming 'mosh pits' and/or dancing, running[,] jumping or otherwise physically contacting other patrons during the concert." The Pardues state that Jordan's total medical bills for treating the injuries Jordan incurred at the concert exceed $1.2 million. After review, the Supreme Court determined that other than arranging the booking of Cannibal Corpse, ICM had no involvement with the actual performance by Cannibal Corpse at Soul Kitchen Music Hall where Jordan incurred the injuries that were the basis of this action. For this reason alone it appears that ICM had no activity in Alabama giving rise to the episode-in-suit. “Moreover, assuming that ICM did engage in activity in Alabama, it does not appear that ICM's activity gave rise to the episode-in-suit.” The Court concluded the exercise of jurisdiction over ICM did not comport with fair play and substantial justice, and that ICM demonstrated a clear legal right to a writ of mandamus directing the Mobile Circuit Court to vacate its order denying ICM's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction and to enter an order dismissing ICM from the underlying action. View "Ex parte International Creative Management Partners, LLC, d/b/a ICM Partners." on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the presiding judge of the Montgomery Circuit Court to exercise his power of superintendence over the Montgomery District Court, and to order that court to vacate its order granting Kentory Brown's discovery request. In 2015, Brown was charged with third-degree burglary and second-degree theft of property. Brown filed a motion requesting the appointment of an attorney, a bond hearing, and a preliminary hearing. Thereafter, Brown moved for the State to turn over all discovery permitted by Rule 16.1, Ala. R. Crim. P.; the district court granted the discovery motion on the same day it was filed. However, the State failed to provide the requested discovery. In refusing to produce the requested discovery, the State argued (1) that the case was under active investigation and that nothing had been turned over to the district attorney's office by the Montgomery Police Department, (2) that the demand for discovery was premature because no indictment had been issued, and (3) that the district court had limited jurisdiction in felony criminal cases and, not being the trial court, could not order discovery. The district court indicated that it would issue an order requiring the State to produce the requested discovery, but the court proceeded with the preliminary hearing. On the same day as the preliminary hearing, the court found probable cause that the offenses had been committed and bound over both cases to the Montgomery County grand jury. When the district court issued the order to compel the State to produce the discovery, the State petitioned for mandamus relief. The Supreme Court granted the writ: “Simply, the jurisdiction granted district courts in felony cases is limited.” The district court here exceeded the scope of its authority when it entered a discovery order in this case, and the Montgomery Circuit Court erred in refusing to direct the district court to vacate its order. View "Ex parte State of Alabama." on Justia Law

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United Propane Gas, Inc. ("United Propane"), sought a writ of mandamus compelling the Cullman Circuit Court to vacate its order denying United Propane's motion to dismiss an action filed by Cullman Security Services, Inc. ("CSS"), and to enter an order dismissing the action. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss on the ground that "the outbound forum-selection clause contained in the parties' contract is unfair or unreasonable because it deprives [CSS] of the ability to file a class action in contravention of a recognized Alabama public policy" and found that the parties' contract was a contract of adhesion. The Supreme Court concluded United Propane had shown a clear legal right to have the action dismissed on the basis that venue in the Cullman Circuit Court was, by application of the outbound forum-selection clause, improper. The trial court exceeded its discretion in denying the motion to dismiss CSS's action. The trial court was directed to dismiss the cause without prejudice. View "Ex parte United Propane Gas, Inc." on Justia Law

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Husband Randolph Wilson, Jr. petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for certiorari review of the decision of the Court of Civil Appeals affirming the Circuit Court's judgment denying his motion to modify his alimony obligations. The issue in this case reduced to what was the appropriate baseline for evaluating material changes in a party’s circumstances to justify the modification. Put differently, the Court addressed whether a party seeking a modification of periodic alimony had to show a material change since the last judgment or order addressing a claim for modification of such alimony, even if no such modification was granted in that judgment, or whether it was enough to show a material change in the parties' circumstances since the last judgment or order in which periodic alimony actually was awarded or modified. The husband cited Ex parte Boley, 392 So. 2d 840 (Ala. 1981), McInnish v. McInnish, 441 So. 2d 960 (Ala. Civ. App. 1983), and Kiefer v. Kiefer, 671 So. 2d 710, 711 (Ala. Civ. App. 1995), each of which addressed the standard for measuring modification of either alimony or child support by employing the same logic and rationale urged by the husband in the present case. The Court of Civil Appeal adopted the approach of Taylor v. Taylor, 640 So. 2d 971, 973 (Ala. Civ. App. 1994). Taylor stated that the party seeking modification of a periodic-alimony award must show "that a material change in the parties' circumstances has occurred since the trial court's last judgment or order." The Supreme Court concluded the application to this case of the principle articulated by the Court of Civil Appeals in Rowe v. Boley, 392 So. 2d 838, 840 (Ala. Civ. App. 1980), “embraced by this Court in Ex parte Boley,” and applied by the Court of Civil Appeals in McInnish to the issue of alimony modification was dictated by principles of equity. The Court therefore rejected the conclusion of the Court of Civil Appeals in the present case that Taylor had the "better-reasoned approach." View "Ex parte Randolph G. Wilson, Jr." on Justia Law

Posted in: Family Law

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Gloria Austill and Mary Ella Etheridge appealed a circuit court order granting summary judgment in favor of Dr. John Krolikowski, a senior medical examiner with the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences ("the ADFS"). They challenged the order insofar as it denied their motion to compel certain discovery. The Baldwin County District Attorney's Office authorized the ADFS to perform an autopsy on the decedent based on potential civil and/or criminal litigation against the nursing home where the decedent resided before his death. Dr. Krolikowski conducted the autopsy on the decedent, at which time the brain was saved and "fixed" in formalin. Following the autopsy, the decedent's body was transported to Radney Funeral Home in Mobile. While the decedent's body was at the funeral home, Mary Ella and Gloria ("plaintiffs") requested that the decedent's brain be referred to the University of Alabama Hospital in Birmingham ("UAB") for a neuropathological examination. Plaintiffs then learned that the brain had not been returned to the body; it had been retained by Dr. Krolikowski. Plaintiffs then sued Dr. Krolikowski, individually, as well as other fictitiously named parties, alleging that, following the autopsy, Dr. Krolikowski, without any compelling or legitimate reason, "harvested the decedent's entire brain without the family's permission and preserved it in his office for his own use." Plaintiffs sought compensatory and punitive damages based on claims of negligence and/or wantonness, trespass, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of implied contract, and the tort of outrage. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded plaintiffs failed to demonstrate, by way of their Rule 56(f) motion and affidavit in support thereof, that the discovery they requested was crucial to the issue of State-agent immunity, the trial court properly denied their motion to compel. Additionally, because plaintiffs did not challenge the merits of the trial court's summary judgment in favor of Dr. Krolikowski, the summary judgment was affirmed. View "Austill v. Krolikowski" on Justia Law

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George Bates and David Joyner appealed a circuit court order approving a final judicial accounting of the administration of a trust pursuant to 19-3B-205, Ala. Code 1975. Because the trial court did not certify its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b) and because its order contemplated further action on behalf of the trustee, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the order at issue here was not a final appealable order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to entertain Bates and Joyner's appeal. View "Bates v. Stewart" on Justia Law