Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

by
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

by
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

by
Defendant Cheryl Price and Greg Lovelace petitioned for mandamus relief. Price was formerly the warden at Donaldson Correctional Facility ("the prison"), which was operated by the Alabama Department of Corrections ("the DOC"). Lovelace was a deputy commissioner of the DOC in charge of construction and maintenance. Plaintiff Marcus Parrish was a correctional officer employed by the DOC. Parrish was supervising inmate showers in a segregation unit in the prison. Parrish left the shower area briefly to retrieve shaving trimmers, and, when he returned, inmate Rashad Byers had already entered a shower cell, which had an exterior lock on it. Byers indicated that he was finished with his shower, and Parrish told him to turn around to be handcuffed, then approached Byers's shower door with the key to the lock on the door in his hand. Byers unexpectedly opened the door, exited the shower cell, and attacked Parrish. During the attack, Byers took Parrish's baton from him and began striking Parrish with it. Parrish was knocked unconscious, and he sustained injuries to his head. Parrish sued Price and Lovelace in their official capacities. Parrish later filed an amended complaint naming Price and Lovelace as defendants in their individual capacities only (thus, it appears that Price and Lovelace were sued only in their individual capacities). Parrish alleged that Price and Lovelace willfully breached their duties by failing to monitor the prison for unsafe conditions and by failing to repair or replace the allegedly defective locks. Price and Lovelace moved for a summary judgment, asserting, among other things, that they are entitled to State-agent immunity. The trial court denied the summary-judgment motion, concluding, without elaboration, that genuine issues of material fact existed to preclude a summary judgment. Price and Lovelace then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, arguing that they were immune from liability. After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded Price and Lovelace established they were entitled to State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Court directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in their favor. View "Ex parte Cheryl Price & Greg Lovelace." on Justia Law

by
The Alabama Supreme Court granted Clifford Goodman Wright, the administrator of the estate of Mary Evelyn Wright, permission to appeal a circuit court interlocutory order. In that order, the trial court ruled that the $100,000 cap on damages set out in section 11-93-2, Ala. Code 1975, applied to Wright's claims against three nurses, Dawn Reid, Phyllis Harris, and Tuwanda Worrills, who were employees of the Cleburne County Hospital Board, Inc., d/b/a Cleburne County Nursing Home ("the Hospital Board"), at the times relevant to Wright's action. Section 11-93-2 governed "[t]he recovery of damages under any judgment against a [county or municipal] governmental entity." Because Wright sued the nurses seeking money damages in their individual capacities, the trial court erred in applying section 11-93-2 to Wright's claims. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Wright v. Cleburne County Hospital Board, Inc." on Justia Law

by
In 2014, Shaundalyn Elliott, a resident of Montgomery County, was injured in an automobile accident in the City of Hayneville in Lowndes County. On February 23, 2017, Elliott filed this lawsuit at the Lowndes Circuit Court against her automobile insurer, Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate"), seeking uninsured-motorist benefits related to the accident. Elliot alleged that the accident was caused by a "phantom driver," whose location was unknown. Allstate filed a motion to transfer the action from the Lowndes Circuit Court to the Montgomery Circuit Court. Elliott petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring this case to the Montgomery Circuit Court. In this case, the Supreme Court found that Lowndes County and Montgomery County had connections to this action. The accident, injuries, and police investigation occurred in Lowndes County. On the other hand, Elliott resided in Montgomery County, where she sought treatment for her injuries resulting from the accident and where the parties' contractual dealings arose. Under the specific facts of this case, Lowndes County's connection to the accident was not "little" or "weak," and Montgomery County did not have a significantly stronger connection to the case to justify a transfer of this case under the interest-of-justice prong of § 6-3-21.1. Therefore, the Court held the trial court erred in transferring this action to the Montgomery Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Shaundalyn N. Elliott." on Justia Law

by
This was the second time this dispute related to benefits provided under the Public Education Employees' Health Insurance Plan ("PEEHIP") went before the Alabama Supreme Court. In the present case, the remaining defendants below, David Bronner, as secretary-treasurer of PEEHIP, and the current members of the PEEHIP Board, petitioned for permission to appeal the trial court's denial of their motion seeking a summary judgment. "When a trial court fails to correctly identify the controlling question of law, a Rule 5 permissive appeal is due to be dismissed." After thoroughly reviewing the record and the arguments presented by the parties, the Supreme Court concluded the permission to appeal under Rule 5, Ala. R. App. P., was improvidently granted, and the Court dismissed the appeal. View "Bronner v. Burks" on Justia Law

by
Defendants Darlene Slamen ("Darlene"), Charles Martin ("Charles"), Wilhelmina Martin ("Wilhelmina"), and Harris Partnership, LLP ("Harris LLP") (collectively referred to as "defendants"), appealed a circuit court order requiring them to respond to discovery requests propounded upon them by Herbert Slamen ("Herbert"), arguing that all discovery should be stayed while the parties arbitrate their dispute pursuant to an arbitration provision in the partnership agreement that created Harris LLP, and that was executed by Herbert, Darlene, Charles, and Wilhelmina. Finding that the request to the trial court to compel arbitration had not been decided at the time defendants were ordered to respond to the discovery requests, the Alabama Supreme Court found the trial court erred: the trial court exceeded its discretion in ordering the defendants to participate in merit-based discovery before the arbitration issue was resolved. Accordingly, treating the appeal as a petition for the writ of mandamus, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued a writ directing the trial court to vacate its order requiring defendants to respond to Herbert's discovery requests. View "Slamen v. Slamen" on Justia Law

Posted in: Civil Procedure

by
Tombigbee Healthcare Authority d/b/a Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital ("the hospital") petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Marengo Circuit Court to vacate its order compelling the hospital to respond to certain discovery requests and to enter a protective discovery order in its favor. T.N., A.V., O.J., and I.P. (hereinafter referred to collectively as "the plaintiffs") brought this action against the hospital, and its radiological technician, Leland Bert Taylor, Jr., who they allege sexually assaulted them while they were patients of the hospital. Along with their complaint, the plaintiffs served the hospital with written discovery requests seeking, among other things, information concerning "other incidents" involving Taylor; its investigation into their allegations of sexual assault by Taylor; and its hiring, training, supervision, and retention of Taylor and the termination of his employment. The hospital objected to the plaintiffs' requests, contending that the requests were protected by certain discovery privileges. The plaintiffs filed a motion to compel discovery; after a hearing, the trial court granted the motion and denied a request for a protective order. The Alabama Supreme Court denied relief. The hospital failed to demonstrate that the quality-assurance privilege applied to claims arising out of allegations of sexual acts that are wholly unrelated to medical treatment or that investigations related to allegations of sexual assault are undertaken to improve the quality of patient care. "Given the discretion afforded the trial court with respect to discovery matters, we conclude that the hospital has failed to meet its burden of proving the existence of the privilege afforded by 22-21-8 and the prejudicial effect of disclosing the information the plaintiffs seek." View "Ex parte Tombigbee Healthcare Authority d/b/a Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital." on Justia Law

by
Appellants Tomeka and Marlon McElroy appealed a circuit court judgment denying their will contest. In 2010, Tracy McElroy filed a petition to probate the will of Clifton McElroy, Jr. Tracy was the executrix; the will was self-proving in accordance with the requirements of section 43-8-132, Ala. Code 1975. The probate court admitted the will to probate and issued letters testamentary to Tracy. Later that year, appellants filed a will contest in the probate court, alleging that Clifton's signature on the will was forged and that, therefore, the will was not properly executed. Appellants were both Clifton's heirs and beneficiaries under his will, and demanded that their will contest be transferred to the circuit court pursuant to 43-8-198, Ala. Code 1975. Tracy moved to dismiss the will contest, arguing that because the will had already been admitted to probate, the contest could not ben filed pursuant to 43-8-190, Ala. Code 1975. Generally, "[o]nce the administration and settlement of an estate are removed from the probate court, the probate court loses jurisdiction over the estate, and the circuit court obtains and maintains jurisdiction until the final settlement of the case." However, in this case, the administration of Clifton's estate was not properly removed from the probate court; therefore, the circuit court never obtained jurisdiction over the administration of Clifton's estate. Thus, the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to consider the will contest, and the judgment entered by the circuit court on the will contest was void. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. View "McElroy v. McElroy" on Justia Law

by
Alan Newell appealed the grant of summary judgment against him on various claims and counterclaims relating to two tracts of real property located in Franklin County. This appeal arises from a dispute between a father, Floyd Newell, and his son, Alan, regarding the ownership of two tracts of land located in Franklin County. The two tracts were farmland, "the Hester farm" and "the DeVaney farm." Floyd was the title owner of the two properties. Alan, however, claimed to be the true owner of the properties and asserts that the properties were deeded to Floyd only as security for loans Floyd made to Alan to purchase the land. Floyd sued Alan, asserting claims of ejectment and detinue. Floyd flatly denied Alan's claim of ownership of the two farms. Floyd contended he purchased both the Hester farm and the DeVaney farm and that he owned the farms outright. He denied lending Alan money to purchase the properties, and that Alan made any payments to him toward the purchase price of the farms. He disputed claims that Alan made improvements to the farms. However, Floyd admitted to allowing Alan to use the properties in varying degrees over the years. The trial court entered a partial summary judgment in favor of Floyd as to the ejectment claim and counterclaim and as to Alan's claim seeking recognition of an equitable mortgage. The trial court specifically held that the basis for Alan's claim of ownership of the two tracts of real property was barred by the Statute of Frauds. The Alabama Supreme Court determined it was clear from Alan's pleadings and from the arguments made at trial that what Alan termed an "equitable mortgage" was what the Supreme Court long recognized as a "resulting trust in the nature of an equitable mortgage." A resulting trust in the nature of a mortgage arises by implication of law and is therefore not subject to the Statute of Frauds. In this case, because the Statute of Frauds was not applicable to a claim seeking a declaration of a trust in the nature of an equitable mortgage, the summary judgment entered on that basis was in error. Furthermore, nearly every fact relevant to Alan's counterclaim seeking an equitable mortgage was disputed, making summary judgment improper. View "Newell v. Newell" on Justia Law