Articles Posted in Civil Procedure

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Alice Lynn Harper Taylor ("Alice") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directed to the Monroe Probate Court, requesting that court enter orders: (1) reinstating her petition to probate a will allegedly executed by Alice Earle Harper in 2007; (2) reinstating her petition contesting the 2007 will; and (3) transferring her contest of the 2007 will to the Monroe Circuit Court pursuant to 43-8-198, Ala. Code 1975. The decedent died in 2013. Alice filed to probate the decedent’s 1995 will in Monroe County. Approximately one year later, one of Alice’s brothers, William, moved to dismiss Alice’s petition, and filed in Escambia County a will drafted in 2007, purporting to revoke the 1995 will. Alice challenged the validity of the 2007 will; William challenged the 1995 will. The Probate court determined Monroe County was the proper venue, but ruled in favor of William and the 2007 will. The Alabama Supreme Court found neither the 1995 will nor the 2007 will was determined to be the decedent’s last will. Where several wills and will contests are filed, the Supreme Court has approved of the consolidation of such proceedings. Monroe County was the proper venue to hear the matter. The Court found the Monroe Probate Court erred in dismissing Alice’s petition to probate the 2007 will and her contest of that will. There was no dispute at to whether Alice made the prima facie showing required under 43-8-198. Thus, she was entitled to an order transferring that will contest to the Monroe Circuit Court. View "Ex parte Alice Lynn Harper Taylor." on Justia Law

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Defendant Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut ("Travelers") appealed a circuit court’s denial of its post-judgment motion seeking to set aside judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of plaintiff Angela Worthington. Worthington was a passenger in a vehicle being driven by her husband. A friend of the Worthingtons and the Worthingtons' two minor children were also passengers in the vehicle. While the Worthingtons' vehicle was stopped at a nonfunctioning traffic light, it was struck in the rear by a vehicle being operated by Camille Thomas. Worthington and the other occupants in her vehicle were injured as a result of the accident. At the time of the accident, the company Worthington's husband owned had a comprehensive insurance policy with Travelers that included uninsured-motorist ("UM") and underinsured-motorist ("UIM") coverage. The Worthingtons sued Thomas and Travelers; the complaint included a UM/UIM claim against Travelers. After review of the claims Travelers made on appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court determined Travelers did not establish that the trial court erred in denying the post-judgment motion, and affirmed. View "Travelers Indemnity Company of Connecticut v. Worthington" on Justia Law

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Casey Wilkes and Alexander Russell appealed the grant of summary judgment favor of PCI Gaming Authority d/b/a Wind Creek Casino and Hotel Wetumpka ("Wind Creek-Wetumpka"), and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians (collectively as "the tribal defendants"), on negligence and wantonness claims asserted by Wilkes and Russell seeking compensation for injuries they received when an automobile driven by Wilkes was involved in a collision with a pickup truck belonging to Wind Creek Wetumpka and being driven by Barbie Spraggins, an employee at Wind Creek-Wetumpka. In the interest of justice, the Alabama Supreme Court declined to extend the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity beyond the circumstances in which the Supreme Court of the United States itself has applied it. The judgment of the trial court holding that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the claims asserted by Wilkes and Russell based on the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity was accordingly reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Wilkes v. PCI Gaming Authority" on Justia Law

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Benjamin Harrison was injured during the early morning hours of March 1, 2013, when, as a passenger, he was involved in an automobile accident following a high-speed police chase on a portion of a county roadway that traverses land held by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ("the Tribe") in Escambia County. The driver of the vehicle in which Benjamin was a passenger, Roil Hadley, had consumed alcohol while he was a patron at Wind Creek Casino during the evening of February 28, 2013, and the early morning hours of March 1, 2013. Amanda Harrison, as mother and next friend of Benjamin, sued the tribal defendants and two individuals, alleging the tribal defendants were responsible for negligently or wantonly serving alcohol to Hadley despite his being visibly intoxicated and asserted, among other claims, claims against the tribal defendants under Alabama’s Dram Shop Act. Defendants moved to dismiss on grounds they were immune under the doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity, and that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Tribal Court held exclusive jurisdiction over the claims. The Alabama Supreme Court declined to extend the doctrine of tribal immunity to actions in tort, in which the plaintiff had no opportunity to bargain for a waiver and no other avenue for relief. The Court similarly concluded the judgment entered by the trial court was reversed. The case was remanded for the circuit court to consider a related issue pertaining to an asserted lack of adjudicative, or "direct" subject-matter jurisdiction by the circuit court thus addressing the tribal defendants’ position that the claim in this case arose on Indian land, but Benjamin's fatal injuries occurred on an Escambia County Road. Also, the Court directed the circuit court to consider whether subject-matter jurisdiction is affected by the fact that the alleged tortious conduct of the tribal defendants entails a violation of Alabama's statutory and regulatory scheme for the sale of alcohol in Alabama, a scheme to which Congress has expressly declared the Tribe to be subject. View "Harrison v. PCI Gaming Authority" on Justia Law

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Janice Pickens appealed a probate court order denying the admission to probate of a will on the basis that the will was not signed by at least two witnesses as required by section 43-8-131, Ala. Code 1975. The Alabama Supreme Court found section 43-8-131 was not ambiguous, and that there was “simply nothing in the statute that would prohibit a notary public from serving as a witness. Indeed, the fact that Ingram signed the will in her capacity as a notary public is immaterial to her qualification to serve as a witness to the will because 43-8-131 does not require that the signatures of the testator or the witnesses be notarized. The important fact here is not the capacity in which Ingram executed the document, i.e., as a notary public, but rather that she observed [the testator’s] signing of the document and affixed her signature thereto. We see no reason to exclude Ingram as a witness simply because she signed in her official capacity as a notary public.” View "Pickens v. Estate of Donald Harrison Fenn" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal were denials of motions to compel arbitration filed by Locklear Chrysler Jeep Dodge, LLC ("Locklear CJD"), and Locklear Automotive Group, Inc. ("Locklear Group"), in actions filed by plaintiffs who alleged they were victims of identity theft resulting from personal information they had provided Locklear CJD in order to explore the possibility of financing the purchase of a vehicle from Locklear CJD. In case no. 1160435, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court order denying the motion to compel arbitration; in the other appeals, the Court reversed the trial court's orders and remanded for further proceedings. Plaintiffs in these cases purchased vehicles from Locklear CJD. All the plaintiffs signed an arbitration agreement as part of their vehicle purchases; the operative language of those arbitration agreements was the same. And all the plaintiffs alleged that they were the victims of identity theft that resulted from providing personal information to Locklear CJD when they filled out credit applications for the vehicle purchases. With respect to Case 1160435, the Supreme Court determined that on the face of the arbitration agreement, its terms did not apply to the interaction of the Lollars and the defendants that occurred in 2015. The Lollars purchased their vehicle in 2013; vehicle purchase to which the 2013 arbitration agreement referred and related was one transaction. The Lollars' 2015 visit to the dealership for the purpose of exploring whether to enter into an entirely different transaction with Locklear CJD (and their provision of financial information to Locklear CJD during that visit) was an unrelated matter to which the arbitration clause did not apply. View "Locklear Chrysler Jeep Dodge, LLC v. Hood" on Justia Law

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Jerry Rape appealed the circuit court’s dismissal of his action alleging breach of contract and various tort claims against the Poarch Band of Creek Indians ("the Tribe”), PCI Gaming Authority, Creek Indian Enterprises, LLC, and Creek Casino Montgomery ("Wind Creek Casino" or "Wind Creek") (collectively, "the tribal defendants") and casino employees James Ingram and Lorenzo Teague and fictitiously named defendants. Rape and his wife visited Wind Creek Casino one evening in 2010. Rape placed a five-dollar bet at a slot machine, and managed to win the jackpot totaling $1,377,015.30. The screen displayed a prompt to "call an attendant to verify winnings." Rape alleged that at that point he was approached and congratulated by casino employees and patrons and that one casino employee said to him: "[D]on't let them cheat you out of it." Rape alleged that the machine printed out a ticket containing the winning amount of $1,377,015.30 but that casino representatives took possession of the ticket and refused to return it to him. Rape alleged that he was made to wait into the early morning hours with no information provided to him, even though he saw several individuals entering and leaving the room, presumably to discuss the situation. In his complaint, Rape stated that he "was taken into a small room in the rear of [Wind Creek Casino] by casino and/or tribal officials, where he was told, in a threatening and intimidating manner, that the machine in question 'malfunctioned,' and that [Rape] did not win the jackpot of $1,377,015.30. [Rape] was given a copy of an 'incident report,' and left [Wind Creek Casino] empty-handed approximately 24 hours after winning the jackpot." Rape sued the defendants alleging breach of contract; unjust enrichment; misrepresentation; suppression; civil conspiracy; negligence and/or wantonness; negligent hiring, training, and/or supervision; respondeat superior; and spoliation of evidence. For each claim, Rape requested damages in the amount of the jackpot he had allegedly won. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal: “[o]n the one hand, if the dispute here arises from activity determined to be ‘permitted by Federal law’ and thus to be the subject of a congressional delegation of ‘regulatory authority’ to the Tribe, then disputes arising out of the same would . . .likewise be a legitimate adjudicative matter for the Tribe, and the circuit court's dismissal of Rape's claims would have been proper on that basis. But conversely, even if it were to be determined that the gaming at issue were illegal under the provisions of IGRA and therefore not the subject of an ‘express congressional delegation’ of regulatory authority to the Tribe, it would be that very illegality that would also prevent our state courts from providing relief to Rape. . . .Under the unique circumstances of this case, therefore, there is no analytical path to an award of relief for Rape.” View "Rape v. Poarch Band of Creek Indians, et al." on Justia Law

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Conecuh Timber, Inc., Ayres Forestry, Inc., BAR Forest Products, LLC, Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., Pea River Timber Company, Inc., Pineville Timber Co., LLC, and THE Timber Company, LLC ("TTC") (collectively referred to as "the wood dealers"), sued Alabama River Group, Inc. ("ARG"), and ARG's chairman and chief executive officer George Landegger, asserting various claims arising from transactions between the wood dealers and ARG's predecessors; the transactions were affected by a short-lived subsidy program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency ("the FSA") known as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program ("BCAP"). Following a jury trial, a judgment was entered against the ARG defendants awarding the wood dealers $1,092,692.71 in compensatory damages and $7,000,000 in punitive damages. The trial court reduced the punitive-damages award by virtue of the statutory cap in section 6- 11-21, Ala. Code 1975, resulting in a total judgment of $6,395,489.37. The ARG defendants filed post-trial motions, which, after a hearing, the trial court denied. The ARG defendants appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment as to liability and compensatory damages. The Court affirmed the punitive damages awarded to Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., and to Conecuh Timber, Inc. With respect to the punitive-damages awards of the remaining wood dealers, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed on the condition that those wood dealers file a remittitur of the punitive-damages awards to a 3:1 ratio to the Supreme Court. Should any wood dealer fail to timely file the respective remittitur, the judgment as to that wood dealer would be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial. View "Alabama River Group, Inc. v. Conecuh Timber, Inc. et al" on Justia Law

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Locklear Chrysler Jeep Dodge, LLC, and Locklear Automotive Group, Inc. (collectively, "Locklear"), sought a writ of mandamus to order the Bibb Circuit Court to vacate certain discovery orders in actions filed against Locklear by Rhonda Cook, James McKinney, and James Daniel Parker (collectively, "the purchasers"), who alleged that they were victims of identity theft by a Locklear employee. In July and August 2016, each purchaser alleged that the employee used the personal information from the purchaser's credit application to purchase thousands of dollars in cellular-telephone services. They asserted claims of negligence, wantonness, invasion of privacy, conversion, fraud, tort of outrage, civil conspiracy, violations of Alabama's Consumer Identity Protection Act, and breach of fiduciary duty. Shortly after filing their lawsuits, the purchasers sought general discovery, including interrogatories, requests for production of documents, requests for admissions, and notices of deposition. In response to the three actions, Locklear filed a motion in each action seeking an order compelling arbitration staying the action. The trial court held a hearing on the motions, but did not rule on them. Subsequently, each of the purchasers filed a motion to compel Locklear's responses to their discovery requests and to deem admitted their requests for admissions. The trial court granted the purchasers' motions. Locklear then filed three petitions for mandamus review. While the mandamus petitions were pending, the trial court granted Locklear's motions to stay discovery. The Alabama Supreme Court noted that, in the instant case, the issue presented for its review was not to review the trial court's order denying a motion to compel arbitration; the trial court has not yet ruled on Locklear's motion to compel. The Supreme Court was reviewing the trial court's general discovery orders, and concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion by allowing general discovery before the resolution of the issue whether the purchasers must arbitrate their claims. Furthermore, because it would be unfair to require Locklear conduct merit-based discovery prior to deciding the arbitration issue, and because Locklear could not be afforded the relief it seeks after that discovery has been conducted, Locklear does not have an adequate remedy by ordinary appeal. Accordingly, the Court granted the petitions and issued the writs, directing the trial court to vacate its orders requiring Locklear to respond to the purchasers' discovery requests, including the requests for admissions and to sit for depositions. View "Ex parte Locklear Chrysler Jeep Dodge, LLC" on Justia Law

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Terrence Venter and the City of Selma ("the City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus to direct the Dallas Circuit Court to vacate its February 20, 2017, order denying their motion for a summary judgment based on Venter's State-agent immunity and to enter an order based on that defense. In 2008, Aubrey Vick was killed when the vehicle he was driving collided with a fire truck being driven by Venter. Mary Vick, as administrator of Aubrey's estate ("the estate"), filed a wrongful-death complaint against Venter and the City, alleging Venter, "while acting in the line and scope of his employment with the City of Selma's fire department, and operating a vehicle owned by the City of Selma, negligently drove the vehicle into the vehicle owned by plaintiff's decedent." The estate claimed that the City was vicariously liable for Venter's alleged negligence. The complaint also alleged the City had negligently installed, maintained, and/or designed the traffic light at the intersection where the accident occurred. After review of the facts of this case, the Supreme Court determined the trial court properly denied Venter and the City's motion, and denied their petition. View "Ex parte Terrence Venter & City of Selma." on Justia Law