Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Civil Procedure
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This matter went before the Alabama Supreme Court on consolidated appeals stemming from an action filed by Nancy Hicks for injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Hicks appealed when the trial court denied her motion for a new trial. Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate") cross-appealed, challenging the trial court's denial of its motion for a partial judgment as a matter of law on the issue of causation of Hicks's injuries. By refusing to allow the jury to consider the mortality table, the trial court hindered the jury's ability to determine the appropriate amount of damages to which Hicks was entitled in a trial in which the only issue was the amount of damages. Because the trial court erroneously determined that the mortality table could not be admitted into evidence, the trial court's denial of Hicks's motion for a new trial was reversed. Because of the Court's holding on this issue, it pretermitted discussion of Hicks's other argument in support of her request for a new trial, namely that the trial court erred by not giving the requested jury instructions on permanent injuries and on the use of mortality tables. Because Allstate did not properly preserve for appellate review its motion for a partial judgment as a matter of law of the issue of causation underlying Hicks's claim, the trial court's denial of that motion was affirmed. The matter was remanded for further proceedings. View "Allstate Insurance Company v. Hicks" on Justia Law

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Joshua Rogers appealed a preliminary injunction preventing Rogers from soliciting any employees or clients of Burch Corporation, his former employer, as contractually agreed to under restrictive covenants in an employment agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court determined there was nothing justiciable concerning the preliminary injunction because the nonsolicitation clause in the employment agreement expired, at the latest, on December 6, 2019. Therefore, the case was moot and the Court dismissed the appeal. View "Rogers v. Burch Corporation" on Justia Law

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Christian Dailey, a minor, suffered a catastrophic personal injury at a day-care facility run by Resurrection of Life, Inc., d/b/a Perfect Place Christian Academy ("Resurrection of Life"). Christian's parents, Mark and Valerie Dailey, sued Resurrection of Life and its employee Latoya Mitchell Dawkins (hereinafter "the day-care defendants") on his behalf and, following a jury trial, obtained a sizable compensatory-damages award. The day-care defendants did not challenge the size of that award, but they did challenge the trial court’s refusal to grant them a new trial on the ground of juror misconduct. Because the day-care defendants were not entitled to a new trial, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Resurrection of Life, Inc. v. Dailey" on Justia Law

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Clint Walters appeals from a summary judgment entered by the Montgomery Circuit Court in favor of Montgomery Police Department ("MPD") patrol officer Jessica De'Andrea and Progressive Casualty Insurance Company ("Progressive"). Walters was driving his motorcycle when he came to a complete stop at a red light. De'Andrea was traveling in her MPD police vehicle when she came to a stop directly behind Walters's motorcycle at the intersection of the Eastern Boulevard and Monticello Drive. De'Andrea testified in her deposition that she had completed her patrol shift and that she was on her way to the MPD South Central Headquarters on the Eastern Boulevard to end her shift. When the light turned green, De'Andrea saw that other vehicles were moving. She wasn't sure if Walters' brake light was intact; the officer assumed Walters was moving and proceeded to go, hitting Walters from behind. Walters alleged he suffered multiple injuries as a result of the accident, and filed an action against De'Andrea, Progressive, and State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company ("State Farm"). Walters asserted claims of negligence and wantonness against De'Andrea in her individual capacity; he asserted claims for uninsured-motorist benefits against Progressive and State Farm. State Farm moved for summary judgment, attesting Walters did not have any insurance policies with State Farm in force at the time of the accident. De'Andrea moved for summary judgment, arguing she was entitled to state-agent immunity; Progressive and State Farm also moved for summary judgment, arguing that if De'Andrea was entitled to be dismissed, they too should be dismissed because Walters would not be "legally entitled to recover damages" from De'Andrea. The circuit court entered summary judgments in favor of De'Andrea, Progressive, and State Farm. The summary-judgment order did not detail the circuit court's reasons for its decision. Walters filed a postjudgment motion requesting that the circuit court alter, amend, or vacate its summary-judgment order. The postjudgment motion was denied. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding De'Andrea failed to demonstrate that Walters's claims arose from a function that would entitle her to State-agent immunity. Therefore, the summary judgment in De'Andrea's favor was due to be reversed. Because Progressive's summary-judgment motion was predicated solely on the ground that Walters would not be "legally entitled to recover" uninsured-motorist benefits if De'Andrea was entitled to State-agent immunity, the summary judgment in its favor was also reversed. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Walters v. De'Andrea" on Justia Law

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Justin Craft and Jason Craft appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of members of the Lee County Board of Education ("the Board") and the Superintendent of the Lee County Schools, Dr. James McCoy. During July, August, and September 2016, the Board hired S&A Landscaping to perform three projects of overdue lawn maintenance at Lee County schools. S&A Landscaping was owned by an aunt by marriage of Marcus Fuller, the Assistant Superintendent of the Lee County Schools. The Crafts, who were employed as HVAC technicians by the Board, questioned the propriety of hiring S&A Landscaping for those projects. The Crafts expressed their concerns with various current and former Board members and individuals at the State Ethics Commission ("the Commission") and at the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts. Although an individual at the Commission instructed Jason Craft on how to file a complaint with the Commission, neither of the Crafts did so. During this time, McCoy, Fuller, and others suspected various maintenance employees, including the Crafts, of misusing their Board-owned vehicles and misrepresenting their work hours. To investigate their suspicions, the Board had GPS data-tracking devices installed in Board-owned vehicles being used by employees to monitor their use and the employees' activities. A review of the GPS data indicated that certain employees, including the Crafts, had violated Board policy by inappropriately using the Board-owned vehicles and by inaccurately reporting their work time. McCoy sent letters to the Crafts and two other employees, advising them that he had recommended to the Board the termination of their employment. The letters detailed dates, times, and locations of specific incidents of alleged misconduct. The Crafts were placed on administrative leave, then returned to work to custodial positions that did not require them to use Board-owned vehicles. The Crafts appealed their job transfers, arguing they had not been afforded due process. An administrative law judge determined the Students First Act did not provide an opportunity for a hearing before the imposition of a job transfer. The Crafts thereafter sued the Board members and McCoy, seeking declaratory relief based on alleged violations of the anti-retaliation provision of section 36-25-24, Ala. Code 1975, arguing that they were punished for contacting the Commission. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the anti-retaliation protection was triggered only when an employee filed a complaint with the Commission. Because it was undisputed the Crafts did not file a complaint, they were not entitled to those statutory protections. Therefore, summary judgment in favor of the Board and McCoy was affirmed. View "Craft v. McCoy et al." on Justia Law

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Alabama imposed a license or privilege tax on tobacco products stored or received for distribution within the State ("the tobacco tax"). Under Alabama law, the Department of Revenue could confiscate tobacco products on which the tobacco tax had not been paid. Panama City Wholesale, Inc. ("PCW") was a wholesale tobacco-products distributor located in Panama City, Florida, and owned by Ehad Ahmed. One of PCW's customers, Yafa Wholesale, LLC ("Yafa"), was an Alabama tobacco distributor owned by Sayeneddin Thiab ("Thiab"). On October 10, 2018, Hurricane Michael destroyed the roof on PCW's warehouse. Department surveillance agents observed observed one of Thiab's vehicles being unloaded at two of the recently rented storage units. The day after that, agents observed one of Thiab's delivery vehicles being loaded with tobacco products from a recently rented unit following the storm. On October 23, 2018, the Department confiscated 1,431,819 cigars from four storage units leased by persons connected to Yafa and Thiab. It is undisputed that the tobacco tax had not been paid on the cigars. Ahmed filed an action against Vernon Barnett, as Commissioner of the Department, seeking a judgment declaring that the cigars were Ahmed's and that they were not subject to confiscation. The case was transferred to the Jefferson Circuit Court, PCW was substituted for Ahmed, and the parties were realigned to make the Commissioner of the Department the plaintiff and PCW the defendant in a civil forfeiture action. On PCW's motion, the circuit court entered a summary judgment in PCW's favor, ruling that the Commissioner failed to present substantial evidence that the cigars were in the possession of a retailer or semijobber, as the court believed was required by the confiscation statute. The Commissioner appealed. A divided Alabama Supreme Court reversed, concluding the circuit court erred in interpreting the confiscation statute to apply only to untaxed tobacco products in the possession of retailers and semijobbers, and because the Commissioner presented substantial evidence that the cigars were subject to confiscation under a correct interpretation of the statute, the Court reversed summary judgment and remanded for further proceedings. View "Alabama Department of Revenue v. Panama City Wholesale, Inc." on Justia Law

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Following an automobile accident in Lee County, Alabama between Dionne Drisker and Sean Michael Allen, Drisker sued Allen, One Bonehead Trucking, Inc. ("Bonehead"), and FedEx Ground Package System, Inc. ("FedEx"), in Macon County, where Drisker resided. The defendants sought a writ of mandamus directing the Macon Circuit Court to transfer this case to the Lee Circuit Court under the interest-of-justice prong of the forum non conveniens statute. Because the defendants demonstrated that the connection between this case and Macon County was weak and that the connection between this case and Lee County was strong, the trial court exceeded its discretion by denying the defendants' motion to transfer the case to Lee County. The Alabama Supreme Court therefore directed the trial court to transfer this case to Lee County. View "Ex parte Sean Allen, One Bonehead Trucking, Inc., & FedEx Ground Package System, Inc." on Justia Law

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TD Bank, National Association and TD Bank US Holding Company (collectively, "TD Bank") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the circuit court to dismiss claims filed against them by Bolaji Kukoyi and Dynamic Civil Solutions, Inc., on the basis of a lack of personal jurisdiction. In January 2017, Kukoyi retained Jessyca McKnight, a real-estate agent and broker employed with A Prime Location, Inc., d/b/a A Prime Real Estate Location ("Prime"), to assist him in purchasing a house. Kukoyi made an offer on a house, the offer was accepted, and the closing was scheduled to take place at attorney David Condon's office in Birmingham. Before the closing date, McKnight and Prime received an e-mail purportedly from Condon's paralegal instructing Kukoyi to wire funds for the closing costs one week before the closing date to an account at a TD Bank location in Florida. According to Kukoyi, he questioned the instructions but was assured by McKnight and Prime that wiring the funds was necessary for the closing to go forward. Kukoyi initiated a wire transfer in the amount of $125,652.74 from an account he owned jointly with Dynamic Civil Solutions with ServisFirst Bank ("ServisFirst") to the account at TD Bank as instructed in the e-mail McKnight and Prime had forwarded to Kukoyi. Unbeknownst to plaintiffs, the account to which Kukoyi wired the funds had been opened by a company known as Ozoria Global, Inc. ServisFirst discovered that the wire transfer was fraudulent and had not been completely processed. Kukoyi requested that ServisFirst put a stop-payment on the wire transfer, and ServisFirst advised TD Bank that the transfer had been fraudulent and requested that TD Bank reverse the transfer. In late 2017, plaintiffs sued, asserting various causes of action against TD Bank and other defendants in relation to the wire transfer. By March 2019, TD Bank filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it based on a lack of personal jurisdiction. The Alabama Supreme Court determined TD Bank demonstrated that it had a clear legal right to mandamus relief, and granted the writ. The trial court was directed to grant TD Bank's motion to dismiss. View "Ex parte TD Bank US Holding Company" on Justia Law

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Joel Kennamer appealed a circuit court's dismissal of his complaint seeking a declaratory judgment, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction against the City of Guntersville, the City's mayor Leigh Dollar, each member of the Guntersville City Council, and Lakeside Investments, LLC ("Lakeside"). Kennamer's complaint sought to prevent the City from leasing certain City property to Lakeside. Kennamer asserted that the City had erected a pavilion on "Parcel One" for public use and that residents used Parcel One for public fishing, fishing tournaments, truck and tractor shows, and public festivals and events. As for Parcel Two, Kennamer alleged that in 2000, the City petitioned to condemn property belonging to CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"), "for the purpose of constructing [a] public boat dock and a public recreational park." In 2019, the City approved an ordinance declaring the development property "is no longer needed for public or municipal purposes." The development agreement, as updated, again affirmed that the development property would be used "for a mixed-use lakefront development containing restaurants, entertainment, retail, office space, high density multi-family residential, and other appropriate commercial uses, including parking." Thereafter, Kennamer sued the City defendants arguing the City lacked the authority to lease to a third-party developer City property that had been dedicated for use as, and/or was being used as, a public park. Finding that the City had the statutory authority to lease the property to the third-party developer, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's dismissal. View "Kennamer v. City of Guntersville et al." on Justia Law

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David Turner appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of State Farm Mutual Insurance Company. In August 2017, Turner was on duty as a paramedic and was riding in the passenger seat of an ambulance while responding to an emergency call. While traversing an intersection, the ambulance collided with a vehicle being driven by Michael Norris. Turner suffered multiple injuries, including a broken leg. In November 2017, Turner sued Norris, asserting claims of negligence and "recklessness." Norris answered the complaint, denying that he had been negligent or reckless. Because the Alabama Supreme Court Held that State Farm was discharged from its obligation to pay Turner UIM benefits based on State Farm's payment of a "Lambert" advance and Turner's repudiation of his policy with State Farm, the Court pretermitted consideration of Turner's alternative argument regarding State Farm's failure to disclose the substance of its investigation of Turner's claim for UIM benefits, and expressed no opinion concerning that issue. The Court also expressed no opinion regarding any potential liability State Farm may or may not have to Turner in tort because Turner did not assert such a claim in this action. View "Turner v. State Farm Mutual Insurance Company" on Justia Law