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The Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama ("the Board") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss for lack of subject- matter jurisdiction, based on Article I, section 14, Ala. Const. 1901, an action filed against it by Paul F. Castellanos, M.D. ("Dr. Castellanos"). Dr. Castellanos filed an action against six named defendants and other fictitiously named defendants asserting claims of intentional interference with contractual and business relations, civil conspiracy, and "intentional infliction of mental anguish -- outrageous conduct" and sought declaratory and injunctive relief. The Supreme Court determined the circuit court lacked the power to compel the Board to arbitrate Dr. Castellanos's claims against it. Instead, it was incumbent upon the circuit court to grant the Board's motion to dismiss the claims against it, as Dr. Castellanos himself conceded. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the circuit court to vacate its order insofar as it compelled arbitration with regard to the Board and to dismiss the claims against the Board based on section 14 immunity. View "Ex parte the Board of Trustees of the University of Alabama." on Justia Law

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Joshua Ward petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Shelby Circuit Court to vacate its October 7, 2017, order setting aside a default judgment entered against Johnathan Motors, LLC, and its principal Jacques C. Chahla (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the dealership") and to enter an order reinstating the default judgment. In 2017, Ward filed a 12-count complaint against the dealership and fictitiously named defendants alleging, among other things, that on August 5, 2016, he purchased a vehicle from the dealership and that the dealership unilaterally voided the sale of the vehicle and unlawfully repossessed and converted to its own use the vehicle, the down payment, the monthly installment payment, and the personal property in the vehicle when it was unlawfully repossessed. On August 14, 2017, Ward requested the clerk of the circuit court to enter a default against the dealership pursuant to Rule 55(a), Ala. R. Civ. P., based on the dealership's failure to answer or otherwise to defend in the case; the clerk subsequently made an entry of default in the case. On October 3, 2017, the dealership moved the trial court to set aside the default judgment. On October 7, 2017, the trial court entered an order granting the dealership's motion to set aside the default judgment, but requiring the dealership to file an answer within seven days from the date of that order; the dealership did not file an answer within seven days as ordered. On November 1, 2017, Ward moved the trial court to reconsider its order setting aside the default judgment, the trial court denied Ward's motion to reconsider the order setting aside the default judgment. On November 13, 2017, the dealership filed an answer to the complaint. Ward thereafter petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus. After review, the Supreme Court ordered the trial court to vacate its order setting aside the default judgment, to enter an order reinstating the default judgment against the dealership, and to schedule a hearing on damages. View "Ex parte Joshua Ward." on Justia Law

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Defendant Mark Price d/b/a J&M Movers ("J&M") filed a petition for a writ of mandamus with the Alabama Supreme Court requesting the Perry Circuit Court to vacate its order granting a motion for relief from judgment filed by plaintiffs Lawrence and Margaret Brewer. In 2013, the Brewers sued J&M and fictitiously named defendants, asserting a single claim alleging trespass based on the June 23, 2009, repossession of a mobile home that was located on their real property. According to the Brewers, on or about June 23, 2009, J&M unlawfully entered their real property to repossess the mobile home and caused damage to their property during the process. J&M filed an answer in which it denied the allegations in the complaint. In 2015, the Brewers filed an amended complaint, substituting Brandon Scott Asberry d/b/a Scott Asberry Transportation as "the proper party Defendant in this case." Thereafter the Brewers filed a motion to dismiss J&M as a defendant in the case, which the trial court granted. J&M was dismissed as a defendant. Over two years later, the Brewers filed a motion for relief from the judgment of dismissal, citing Rule 60(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., and asking the trial court to reinstate J&M as a defendant. The trial court granted the Brewers' motion for relief from judgment. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded J&M established that the Brewers were not entitled to relief pursuant to Rule 60(b)(6) and that the trial court exceeded its discretion in granting the Brewers' motion for relief from judgment. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the Perry Circuit Court to vacate its order granting the motion for relief from judgment filed by the Brewers. View "Ex parte Mark Price d/b/a J&M Movers." on Justia Law

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Albert Daniels petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus compelling the Barbour Circuit Court to vacate its order severing and staying Daniels's claims against defendants Joseph Morris, Tracy Cary, and Morris, Cary, Andrews, Talmadge & Driggers, LLC ("the Morris firm"), and also to compel the circuit court to enter a default judgment. Sherry Johnson and Daniels were the parents of Alquwon Johnson. On June 4, 2011, Alquwon committed suicide while he was an inmate in the Barbour County jail. Johnson engaged the Morris firm to pursue a wrongful-death claim related to Alquwon's death. Johnson, as the personal representative of Alquwon's estate, filed a wrongful-death action in the Barbour Circuit Court. Johnson was represented by the Morris defendants in the wrongful-death litigation. The case was removed to federal court. In 2015, the case was settled. The Morris defendants distributed the settlement funds to Johnson; none of the proceeds were paid to Daniels. Daniels telephoned the Morris firm to inquire about retaining the firm to file a wrongful-death suit related to Alquwon's death. After speaking with an employee of the firm, Daniels was told that the firm had a conflict of interest and could not represent him. He later received a letter from Cary stating that "a lawsuit brought on your behalf would not be economically feasible given the nature, facts and circumstances surrounding your case." The Morris firm did not inform Daniels about the prior lawsuit and that it had settled the case and paid the settlement proceeds to Johnson. On September 18, 2015, Daniels filed suit against Johnson alleging that, as Alquwon's father, Daniels was entitled to 50% of the net settlement proceeds but that Johnson had wrongfully retained the entire amount. He asserted against Johnson claims of breach of fiduciary duty and conversion. Two years later, Daniels added as defendants the Morris defendants and asserting two claims against them. Count three of Daniels's amended complaint asserted a claim of fraud against the Morris defendants. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act ("ALSLA") did not require that Daniels's claims against the Morris defendants be bifurcated and stayed pending resolution of his claims against Johnson. Accordingly, the circuit court was directed to vacate its order bifurcating and staying Daniels's claims against the Morris defendants. Daniels, however, did not establish a clear legal right to a default judgment against the Morris defendants. Thus, as to the request for a default judgment, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Albert Daniels." on Justia Law

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Defendants the Alabama Secretary of State, John Merrill, and a member of his staff, Ed Packard, the director of elections, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate a preliminary injunction and to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction the underlying action seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. On December 7, 2017, plaintiffs Pamela Miles, Dan Dannemueller, Paul Hard, and Victoria Tuggle (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") filed a civil action against Merrill and Packard, in their official capacities, alleging certain electronic voting machines used in Alabama elections created digital images of the paper ballots scanned and counted by the machines, and that defendants "do not and will not instruct election officials" to preserve the digital ballot images. Those images, it was argued, were public records that, under Alabama law, had to be preserved. Plaintiffs also appeared to allege that federal law, specifically, 52 U.S.C. 20701, required those images be retained. This failure "to require that all election materials" be preserved, the plaintiffs contended, "infringe[d] upon their right to a fair and accurate election." The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs' allegations did not demonstrate how the "challenged practices harm[ed]" plaintiffs in a concrete way; how they would personally suffer the threatened injury, which is itself described only as a mere speculative possibility; or how they would benefit in a "tangible way" by a judgment in their favor. Instead, the Court found they alleged only that they "could" be harmed." Therefore, because the complaint insufficiently alleged that plaintiffs have standing, the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the action. The Court therefore directed that the case be dismissed. View "Ex parte Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill and Director of Elections Ed Packard." on Justia Law

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Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a Walker Baptist Medical Center ("WBMC"), appealed a circuit court's denial of its postjudgment motion seeking relief from the judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Armando Cantu ("Armando"), as father and next friend of Daniel Jose Cantu ("Daniel"), a minor, on Armando's medical-malpractice claim. In 2009, Armando and his wife, Eulalia, took then three-month-old Daniel to WBMC's emergency room for treatment following symptoms including decreased appetite, coughing, and a fever that had lingered for several days. At that time, Daniel was diagnosed by the attending emergency-room physician as suffering from a viral illness (specifically, an upper-respiratory infection) and was discharged with instructions to continue fluids and to seek further treatment if the symptoms continued. Thereafter, Daniel's condition allegedly further deteriorated into vomiting, suspected dehydration, decreased activity, and "irritab[ility] whenever his neck was touched." Daniel received a second-opinion from his pediatrician, who performed a "spinal tap," revealing Daniel had bacterial meningitis. Daniel was taken to Children's Hospital in Birmingham, where he was treated with antibiotics, and released with a "discharge diagnosis" of: "meningococcal meningitis, hydrocephalus status post ventriculoperitoneal shunt placement, seizure disorder, blindness, and deafness as a result of bacterial meningitis." In October 2011, Armando sued both WBMC and Dr. James Wilbanks (the attending physician at Daniel's first trip to the Emergency Room), alleging a single count pursuant to Alabama's Medical Liability Act. Ultimately, the jury returned a verdict finding that Dr. Wilbanks's actions did not meet the applicable standard of care, found WBMC liable for the conduct of Dr. Wilbanks, and awarded Armando $10,000,000 in damages. WBMC filed a postjudgment motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law or a new trial. Among the other claims included in that motion, WBMC specifically asserted that it was entitled to a new trial based on the trial court's admission, over WBMC's objections, of evidence of prior medical-malpractice lawsuits filed against WBMC. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the facts related to the jury regarding prior acts and omissions by WBMC were entirely irrelevant for the purpose of curative admissibility, were highly prejudicial to WBMC, and warranted reversal of the judgment against WBMC. The judgment of the trial court was, therefore, reversed, and the case remanded for a new trial. View "Baptist Health System, Inc. v. Cantu" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Andre Barnwell appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of CLP Corporation ("CLP"), the defendant below. In a previous review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed a summary judgment entered in favor of CLP and remanded the case. Barnwell sued CLP, alleging that he was injured when he slipped and fell in the restaurant. CLP moved for a summary judgment, arguing that the alleged fall was caused by an open and obvious danger and that part of Barnwell's testimony about the alleged fall was unreliable and should not be considered. CLP also filed a motion to strike Barnwell's affidavit and part of his earlier deposition. In that motion, CLP argued that Barnwell's affidavit testimony conflicted with his deposition testimony. CLP also argued that part of Barnwell's deposition testimony regarding the accident is contradicted by photographs showing the interior of the restaurant. In August 2016, the circuit court entered an order granting CLP's motion for a summary judgment, without stating a reason. The circuit court did not enter an order indicating a ruling on CLP's motion to strike. In this case, the Supreme Court found no reason to reopen its discussion regarding the admissibility of Barnwell's affidavit and full deposition. The evidence subject to review in the second appeal was the same as that in the first appeal. The Court noted that, although most of CLP's arguments in this appeal were made in the first appeal, CLP briefly presented new arguments questioning the reliability of Barnwell's testimony. However, those arguments could have been raised in the first appeal but were not, and the Court thus declined to further address them here. The Court again reversed and remanded. View "Andre Barnwell v. CLP Corporation" on Justia Law

Posted in: Personal Injury

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Fred W. Suggs, Jr., as personal representative of the Estate of Frances W. Gray, deceased, appealed a circuit court order denying his Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., motion for relief from judgments entered by the circuit court on the basis that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to enter those judgments. Frances ("the wife") died testate in September 2011, and the Probate Court issued letters testamentary to her husband, Floyd Gray ("husband"), establishing him as the personal representative of his wife's estate. The husband died testate in January 2012, and the probate court issued letters testamentary to Elizabeth Gray ("Gray"), establishing her as the personal representative of the husband's estate. The probate court then appointed Suggs as the successor personal representative of the wife's estate. Gray and Suggs thereafter sold the house in which the husband and the wife had lived. They had owned the house as tenants in common; there was no survivorship provision. Before the sale of the house, both Gray and Suggs agreed that the net proceeds from the sale would be held in a trust account the law firm representing both estates. At some point, Suggs sent the law firm a letter stating that the wife's estate had a "claim" against the husband's estate and instructing the law firm not to disburse any proceeds to the husband's estate until the "matter" was resolved. While the administration of both estates was pending in the probate court, Gray filed a declaratory-judgment action, asserting that a controversy existed between her and Suggs concerning the disbursement of the proceeds held in the law firm's trust account, specifically, asserting that Suggs was withholding consent to disburse that portion of the proceeds belonging to the husband's estate. Suggs moved to dismiss the declaratory-judgment action, arguing the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The circuit court denied the motion. Suggs then filed an answer and a counterclaim, alleging fraud, conversion, embezzlement, breach of the duty of loyalty, and breach of fiduciary duty. Under the facts of this case, the circuit court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the declaratory-judgment action concerning disbursement of the proceeds held in the law firm's trust account. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed a portion of the summary judgment entered in the declaratory-judgment action, which ordered one-half of the proceeds be disbursed to the husband's estate. Because Suggs filed a counterclaim concerning ownership of certain assets that were clearly within the probate court's jurisdiction, the probate court retained jurisdiction over those estate assets and because the administration of neither estate was removed to the circuit court pursuant to statute, the circuit court's judgments purporting to exercise jurisdiction over those assets were a nullity. That portion of the summary judgment concerning the proceeds from certain assets was vacated. View "Suggs v. Gray" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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This wrongful-death action was tried to a jury, which returned a verdict in favor of "all defendants," which included the entity that operates Bullock County Hospital, ERMDS, LLC, and the estate of Dr. Ireneo Domingo, Jr. The trial court entered a judgment on that verdict. James Ansley ("James") presented to the emergency room of Bullock County Hospital ("BCH"), complaining of chest pain he had been experiencing for one or two days. James's condition deteriorated, and, at approximately 4:30 p.m., the decision was made to transfer James to a different hospital, Baptist Medical Center South ("Baptist South"). James later died at Baptist South of pulmonary emboli (blood clots that had traveled to his lungs). Plaintiff Alisa Ansley, administrator of James’ estate, filed a postjudgment motion for a new trial. In her brief, Ansley suggested that she was entitled to relief because, she says, Dr. Domingo breached the standard of care in failing to transfer James to Baptist South immediately upon creating a differential diagnosis, which identified pulmonary embolism as a possible cause of his symptoms. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Ansley did not demonstrate the trial court exceeded its discretion in denying her motion for a new trial. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was affirmed. View "Ansley v. Inmed Group, Inc. d/b/a Bullock County Hospital, et al." on Justia Law

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Ed Richardson and Reginald Eggleston, individually and in their official capacities as interim superintendent of the Alabama Department of Education and chief administrative officer of the Alabama State Board of Education, respectively, and Gordon Stone, individually and in his official capacity as mayor of the Town of Pike Road (collectively referred to as "the defendants"), appealed an injunction staying the sale of Georgia Washington Middle School, located in Montgomery, and the sale of any other real property owned by, or the closure of any other schools operated by, the Montgomery County Board of Education. The Alabama Supreme Court determined plaintiffs did not have standing to bring suit, thus the trial court never acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over this case. Accordingly, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and ordered the trial court to dismiss the case. View "Richardson v. Relf" on Justia Law