Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Dolgencorp, LLC ("Dollar General") filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting relief from a discovery order entered by the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court on February 8, 2017. In 2016, Daisy Pearl White Freeman was operating her vehicle in the Northwood Shopping Center in Northport, Alabama. She lost control of her vehicle, ran over the curb and onto the sidewalk, and struck Deborah Gilliam, who had just walked out of a Dollar General store located in the shopping center. Gilliam sued Dollar General, among others. As to Dollar General, the complaint stated claims of negligence and wantonness. Gilliam then filed a notice of intent to serve subpoenas on nonparties Dolgencorp of New York, Inc.; Dolgen Midwest, LLC; Dolgencorp of Texas, Inc.; Dollar General Partners; DG Louisiana, LLC; and DG Retail, LLC (collectively as "the nonparty Dollar General entities"). Dollar General filed a motion to quash the nonparty subpoenas, arguing that the nonparty subpoenas were unduly burdensome. When the trial court refused, Dollar General petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief from the discovery order. The Supreme Court concluded that even though the trial court modified the scope of discovery in this case, the discovery ordered was as oppressive and burdensome as the discovery requests in Ex parte Compass Bank, 686 So. 2d 1135 (Ala. 1996), and Ex parte Mobile Fixture & Equipment Co., 630 So. 2d 358 (Ala. 1993). Therefore, the burden on Dollar General to comply with that order was out of proportion to any benefit Gilliam would obtain from the requested information. Therefore, the Court concluded Dollar General established it had a clear legal right to relief from the trial court's February 2017 discovery order. View "Ex parte Dolgencorp, LLC." on Justia Law

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The estate of Ray Wendell Williams appeals a circuit court judgment ordering it to make a monthly payment of $1,000 to Williams's daughter Kimberly Loveless pursuant to a provision in Williams's will directing WTW Enterprises, Inc. ("WTW"), a trucking business operated by Williams before his death, to commence paying Loveless a monthly salary of "no less than $1,000" upon his death. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal, finding: a party petitioned the probate court to transfer the administration of an estate to the circuit court; the probate court granted that petition and took action purporting to transfer administration of the estate to the circuit court; and the circuit court thereafter took over administration of the estate without entering an order of its own authorizing the removal. Such a transfer is improper, and the circuit court never properly acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over the administration of Williams's estate. Accordingly, all actions the circuit court purported to take in this case –– including the judgment the estate has appealed concerning the validity of the directive in Williams's will requiring WTW to pay Loveless a $1,000 monthly salary –– were void due to the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Estate of Ray Wendell Williams v. Kimberly Loveless" on Justia Law

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The petitioner, the estate of Fredrick O'Brian Elliott, deceased, by and through his personal representative, Sonya Windham ("the estate"), filed a petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Alabama Supreme Court to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its March 7, 2018, order insofar as it denied certain requests for production of documents made by the estate. The estate filed a wrongful-death action against Baptist Health System, Inc., d/b/a Princeton Baptist Medical Center ("PBMC"), and Courtney Johnston (collectively, "the defendants") and various fictitiously named defendants. Elliott was admitted to Princeton Baptist Medical Center complaining of nausea, vomiting, and gastritis; that, as part of his treatment, Elliott "was ordered to undergo full bowel rest by having Trans-Peritoneal Nutrition (TPN) administered through a Peripherally Inserted Central Catheter (PICC Line)." Johnston, Elliott's nurse, came into Elliot's room and discarded a partially full TPN bag, "following doctor's orders," which Elliott's family questioned since Elliott had not finished his entire nutritional dose. The complaint alleged that because Johnston misread the chart and prematurely discarded the TPN bag, it started an irreversible chain reaction: Elliott became febrile, his temperature spiked, he developed an infection such that it damaged his heart, leading to cardiac arrest. Nine days after the TPN incident, Elliot died. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in denying the estate's motion to compel certain information requested in interrogatories based solely on the assertions of defendants' counsel: they did not satisfy their burden of establishing that the information requested was privileged. As such, the Supreme Court granted mandamus relief and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Ex parte the Estate of Fredrick O'Brian Elliott, deceased, by and through his personal representative, Sonya Windham." on Justia Law

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Bert Nettles appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.C. ("Rumberger") and several attorneys with the firm. This case stemmed from the demise of the law firm of Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker, LLC ("Haskell Slaughter"). Nettles and the individual defendants were all former members of Haskell Slaughter. In 2013, Haskell Slaughter was in financial distress, and members of the firm were in discussions as to what, if anything, could be done to save the firm. In December 2013, 10 lawyers, including the individual defendants, left Haskell Slaughter and joined Rumberger. Haskell Slaughter permanently closed in February 2014. In 2015, Bluebird Holdings, LLC ("Bluebird"), filed a complaint against Nettles and three other former members of Haskell Slaughter, seeking to collect on personal guarantee agreements executed by the former members. Nettles filed a third-party complaint in the Bluebird action against Rumberger and the individual defendants. Nettles sought damages from Rumberger and the individual defendants for alleged breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conspiracy, and tortious interference with a contract. Nettles alleged that the individual defendants, in violation of fiduciary duties owed Nettles and Haskell Slaughter, conspired with each other and with Rumberger to orchestrate Rumberger's acquisition of two of Haskell Slaughter's most profitable practice groups. Nettles alleged that the loss of those practice groups "was the psychological and financial death blow to Haskell Slaughter" in that it thwarted plans for a potential firm-saving reorganization, caused the remaining members of the firm to leave, and resulted in the liquidation of Haskell Slaughter and ultimately the Bluebird action. The demise of Haskell Slaughter caused it to default on bank debt for which Nettles was a guarantor. Rumberger and the individual defendants filed a motion to dismiss Nettles's third-party complaint, arguing, among other things, that certain of Nettles's damages claims were not permissible under Rule 14, Ala. R. Civ. P. The trial court agreed and ruled that Nettles could recover only money that he may be required to pay as a result the personal guarantee agreement made the basis of the Bluebird action. As a result of that ruling, Nettles filed this suit, now before the Alabama Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment to the firm and individual defendants on all claims asserted, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Nettles v. Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.C., et al." on Justia Law

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Portersville Bay Oyster Company, LLC ("the Oyster Company"), and its members, filed suit against 4H Construction Corporation, Greystone Industries, LLC, and Christopher Blankenship, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the trial court's order dismissing Commissioner Blankenship as a defendant in this action. Tensaw Land & Timber Company, Inc. ("Tensaw"), owned land fronting on Portersville Bay which it leased its statutory right to grow and to harvest oysters on the bottom in Portersville Bay to the Oyster Company. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ("the Department") grants shellfish aquaculture easements on state-owned submerged lands for the purpose of cultivating and harvesting shellfish, including oysters. The Department conveyed to the Corneliuses a shellfish aquaculture easement allowing them to raise oysters in cages above the area encompassed by one of the Tensaw leases. Subject to certain exceptions, the riparian landowner does not have the right to harvest oysters in elevated cages within 600 yards from the shoreline in front of the waterfront property; the shellfish aquaculture easement enables the oyster farmers to grow oysters in elevated cages in the area of the easement. The oysters grown elsewhere on the Tensaw leases were grown on the bottom. 4H Construction Corporation contracted with the Department to construct a breakwater and marsh for coastal protection in Mobile Bay ("the Marsh Island project"). According to the allegations of the complaint, the sediment and silt deposits have increased over time and are killing the oysters being farmed on those oyster beds. The Oyster Company sued the Commissioner alleging negligence and nuisance relating to the easement. The Commissioner moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and improper venue; the trial court granted the motion to transfer but not the motion to dismiss. After filing an amended complaint, the trial court dismissed the amended complaint against the Commissioner. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that dismissal was made in error, and reversed the trial court's order. View "Portersville Bay Oyster Company, LLC v. Blankenship" on Justia Law

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On January 7, 2018, John Doe, a minor, by and through his mother S.C., filed the underlying action against the Montgomery County Board of Education, seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages arising from an alleged assault on Doe by a school employee at the elementary school Doe attended, as a result of which Doe was injured. The complaint asserted a single count of negligence against the Board and other unidentified fictitiously named defendants. Specifically, Doe alleged the Board breached its duty "to not place him in harm or specifically harm him" and that the Board failed to properly train and supervise the employee allegedly responsible for the assault. The Board petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to dismiss Does' lawsuit, on sovereign immunity grounds. Finding the Board was an entity of the State, it enjoyed immunity from Doe's action under section 14 of the Alabama Constitution. Accordingly, the Board has demonstrated a clear legal right to a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit against it, and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Montgomery County Board of Education." on Justia Law

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Integra LifeSciences Corporation ("Integra") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief in a suit brought by Tawni Brooks and her husband, Bobby Brooks. In 2014, Brooks underwent a double mastectomy and breast-reconstruction procedure at Springhill Memorial Hospital in Mobile. Brooks experienced complications following her surgery, and a subsequent surgery performed in 2015, revealed that those complications were potentially related to surgical mesh implanted in her body as part of the 2014 procedure. In 2016, Brooks sued the doctor who performed the procedure and various fictitiously named defendants, including "the manufacturer of the mesh used in [Brooks]'s operation." Integra was ultimately determined to be the manufacturer of the mesh; the company moved for summary judgment on grounds that the applicable statute of limitations had run, and that Brooks' second amended complaint did not relate back to the original complaint. As to Brooks' Alabama Extended Manufacturer's Liability Doctrine ("AEMLD") claim against Integra, the Alabama Supreme Court granted Integra's petition and issued a writ directing the trial court to enter a summary judgment in favor of Integra. With respect to the breach-of-warranty claim, however, Integra did not establish a clear legal right to relief; as to that claim, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Integra LifeSciences Corporation." on Justia Law

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Ankor Energy, LLC, and Ankor E&P Holdings Corporation (collectively, "Ankor") appealed a circuit court's grant of a motion for a new trial in favor of Jerry Kelly, Kandace Kelly McDaniel, Kelly Properties, LLP, and K&L Resources, LLP (collectively, "the Kellys"). In 2010, Renaissance Petroleum Company, LLC, drilled two oil wells in Escambia County, Alabama. The Kellys owned property in Escambia County and entered into two leases with Renaissance. The leases included property near the two wells. In December 2010, Ankor acquired an interest in Renaissance's project and leases in Escambia County. In January 2011, Renaissance and Ankor petitioned the Oil and Gas Board ("the Board") to establish production units for the two wells. In February 2011, the Board held a hearing to determine what property to include in the production units. The Kellys were represented by counsel at the hearing and argued that their property should be included in the production units. The Board established the production units for the two wells but did not include the Kellys' property. Renaissance continued to operate the project until May 2011, when Ankor took over operations. In December 2011, Ankor offered to request that the Board include the Kellys' property in the production units. Ankor took the position that it had not drained any oil from the Kellys' property, and Ankor offered to pay royalties to the Kellys but only after the date the Board included the Kellys' property in the production units. The Kellys did not accept the offer, and later sued, listing multiple causes of action and alleging Ankor failed to include their property in the production units presented to the Board, knowing that their property should have been included. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order granting the Kellys' motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct; the matter was remanded for the trial court to reinstate the original judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of Ankor. View "Kelly v. Ankor Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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Seven members of the Supreme Court of Alabama, including the Chief Justice, recused themselves from consideration of all matters related to this mandamus petition pursuant to Canon 3.C of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics. Their recusal left Associate Justices William Sellers and Brady Mendheim, Jr., to hear the petition. Justice Sellers, as Acting Chief Justice, notified the parties that an additional five justices would be selected by random drawing from a pool of retired justices and judges and active circuit judges, after which five judges were appointed to serve as Special Associate Justices. Former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore and his campaign committee, "Judge Roy Moore for US Senate" ("the Committee"), petitioned the Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court ("the trial court") to transfer an action filed by Leigh Corfman alleging defamation against Moore and the Committee to the Etowah Circuit Court. “Considering a mandamus petitioner's heavy burden” and all the materials before it, the Court concluded that the trial court did not exceed its discretion in denying the motion for a change of venue based on the interest of justice or on the convenience of the parties and the witnesses. Accordingly, it denied the petition. View "Ex parte Roy S. Moore and Judge Roy Moore for US Senate." on Justia Law

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CGI Technologies and Solutions, Inc. ("CGI"), and Clinton Carter, in his capacity as Director of the Alabama Department of Finance, separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Montgomery Circuit Court to dismiss, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, an action filed by Jim Zeigler challenging a contract between CGI and the State of Alabama on the basis that the contract violated Alabama's competitive-bid law. In 1982, the State of Alabama, through the Department of Finance, entered into a software contract with American Management Systems, Inc. ("AMS"), that granted the State a license to install a local-government finance-system package on computers in the Finance Department. There was no dispute that the 1982 contract was competitively bid. In 2004, AMS was acquired by CGI. Over subsequent years, the 1982 contract was amended; Amendment 13 became known as the State of Alabama Accounting Resources System ("STAARS"). The State and CGI entered into four amendments addressing STAARS between March 2014 and September 2015. On March 31, 2017, the State and CGI entered into a letter agreement memorializing an understanding "relative to concluding work" on STAARS. The letter agreement noted that "CGI acknowledges the State's intent to begin transition to an in-house delivery plan or to award a new contract for operational services and support for STAARS within 90 days of the date of this letter, after which, CGI will provide Disengagement Services." Also, the letter agreement recognized a "winding down" of the contractual relationship between CGI and the State, which was to conclude by September 30, 2017. Other than the "winding-down period," the State agreed that "CGI has satisfied its contractual obligations with respect to the STAARS project and software and services provided by CGI under the STAARS Contract." The State contracted for further services from CGI after October 1, 2017, but not extending beyond November 29, 2017. According to Zeigler, in December 2015 he first learned that the amendments authorizing and implementing STAARS had not been competitively bid. CGI filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing Zeigler lacked standing to bring this suit, and his statutory authority for his cause of action only allowed as remedy enjoining the contract that violated the competitive-bid law. The circuit court dismissed all but count one of Zeigler's complaint, leading to this request for mandamus relief. Because performance under the 1982 contract, including the STAARS amendments, was complete. the Alabama Supreme Court found there was no performance to enjoin, and no further remedy available to Zeigler for the alleged violation of the Competitive Bid Law. Therefore, the Court agreed with petitioners that Zeigler's claims were moot, and granted the writs. View "Ex parte Carter, in his capacity as Director of Finance for the State of Alabama." on Justia Law