Articles Posted in Commercial Law

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In 2004, Paint Rock Turn, LLC purchased a sod farm and related farm equipment. To partially finance the purchase, Paint Rock borrowed $1,706,250 from First Jackson Bank. The loan was secured by a mortgage on the sod farm and a security interest in the equipment used on the farm. By February 2009, reflecting in part a drop in demand for sod caused by the collapsing market for new homes, Paint Rock had defaulted on the loan. In early 2009, Paint Rock filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. The filing of the petition operated as an automatic stay and precluded First Jackson from foreclosing on the sod farm or retaking the equipment. The bankruptcy petition was dismissed later that year, and a few months later, First Jackson moved forward with its intent to foreclose by publishing the first of three notices of a foreclosure sale on the Paint Rock property. On the morning of the scheduled sale, Paint Rock filed a second bankruptcy petition, which stayed the sale. This second petition was dismissed a month later for failure to file the proper schedules and statements. First Jackson published another notice that the foreclosure sale was rescheduled for December 30, 2009. December 26, Paint Rock filed a third bankruptcy petition. Four days later, the bankruptcy court lifted the automatic stay, expressly finding that Paint Rock misused the bankruptcy process to "hinder and delay First Jackson's efforts to foreclose its mortgage and security agreement." First Jackson was the high bidder at the sale, purchased the property, and sent Paint Rock a letter demanding possession of the sod farm. In early 2010, First Jackson filed an ejectment action. The same day, Paint Rock demanded access to the farm to recover "emblements in the form of sod which is being grown on the real property recently foreclosed upon ...." Paint Rock also requested the return of its equipment. First Jackson denied Paint Rock's request. Paint Rock, relying on a section of the Alabama Code that permits a tenant at will to harvest its crop, counterclaimed for damages for harm suffered as the result of being unable to harvest the sod. Paint Rock also sought damages for conversion of "plats of sod" contained on the sod farm. First Jackson sold the sod farm to Mrs. Goodson, subject to any claim Paint Rock may have to the emblements growing on the property. Paint Rock filed a joint third-party complaint against First Jackson and Mr. and Mrs. Goodson, alleging conversion and detinue, as well as the emblements claim. After the trial court denied motions for a summary judgment filed by First Jackson and the Goodsons, the case proceeded to trial. At the close of Paint Rock and Jones's case, the trial court granted a motion for a JML filed by First Jackson and the Goodsons on Paint Rock's counterclaim for emblements on the ground that Paint Rock was not an at-will tenant. After Paint Rock withdrew its detinue claims and the trial court granted a JML on the wantonness claims, leaving only the conversion and negligence claims. The jury awarded Paint Rock damages against First Jackson for conversion of a sod cutter and cut sod that had been loaded on a tractor-trailer when First Jackson took possession of the property. The jury also awarded Paint Rock damages against the Goodsons for conversion of business property and equipment. Paint Rock appealed the JML in favor of the defendants on the emblements claim; First Jackson cross-appealed the judgment awarding Paint Rock damages for conversion of the cut sod. The Supreme Court affirmed with regard to Paint Rock's emblements claim, but reversed on the conversion of the cut sod claim. View "Paint Rock Turf, LLC v. First Jackson Bank et al. " on Justia Law

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In 2005, James Wiese attended an auction held by Alabama Powersport Auction, LLC (APA) and purchased a "Yerf Dog Go-Cart," for his two minor sons. The go-cart was on consignment to APA from FF Acquisition; however, Wiese was not aware that FF Acquisition had manufactured the go-cart. Soon after purchasing the go-cart, Wiese discovered that the engine would not operate for more than a few minutes at a time. After several failed attempts to repair the go-cart, Wiese stored the go-cart in his garage for almost two years. In 2007, Wiese repaired the go-cart. Matthew Wiese was riding the go-cart and had an accident in which he hit his head on the ground causing a brain injury that resulted in his death in 2010. The elder Wiese brought contract claims against APA stemming from his purchase of the go-cart and for his son's death. APA appealed the circuit court's denial of its motion for summary judgment. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court concluded that based on the common-law principles of agency, an auctioneer selling consigned goods on behalf of an undisclosed principal may be held liable as a merchant-seller for a breach of the implied warranty of merchantability under 7-2-314, Ala. Code 1975. As a result,the Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment denying APA's summary-judgment motion as to Wiese's breach-of-the-implied-warranty-of-merchantability claim. View "Alabama Powersport Auction, LLC v. Wiese" on Justia Law

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Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. sued Empire Coal Sales, Inc. and John Fay, Jr. Black Warrior sought money allegedly owed pursuant to a coal-purchase agreement between Black Warrior and Empire and a personal guaranty executed by Mr. Fay. A trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Black Warrior, awarding it damages plus attorney fees and costs. The trial court held a bench trial on the breach-of-guaranty claim against Mr. Fay, entering judgment in favor of Mr. Fay. Black Warrior appealed the latter, arguing that the trial court erred in finding the language of the guaranty was ambiguous and applied only to amounts in excess of $1.2 million owed by Empire to Black Warrior. Upon review of the language of the guaranty and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in its interpretation of the guaranty's terms. The Court reversed the lower court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. v. Fay" on Justia Law

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Matador Holdings, Inc. and HoPo Realty Investments, LLC filed separate appeals to challenge elements of a circuit court's order involving commercial property owned by Matador. Matador sued HoPo for payment for materials and services Matador provided to HoPo's lessee Stratford Plastic Components of Alabama. The lease agreement contained provisions allowing for HoPo or its agents to enter the property during the lease-term to make inspections or repairs. Stratford had applied for and received a line of credit with Matador. After taking possession of the leased property, Stratford ordered materials from Matador to convert the property into one suitable for Stratford's production needs. Stratford vacated the property before the lease term expired without paying Matador for the materials. HoPo's agents testified that Stratford did not request any changes be made to the leased property and had no knowledge that Matador would supply materials to the lessee. To resolve the dispute, the trial court denied Matador's claim that HoPo was unjustly enriched by the services provided to Stratford that were unpaid, but the court placed a lien on HoPo's property for the unexpired portion of the Stratford lease. Upon review of the trial court record and its order, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's denial of Matador's unjust enrichment claim. Furthermore, the Court reversed the lower court's order insofar as it enforced any portion of a lien against HoPo's property or the improvements made to the property. The Court ruled the lien void. View "Matador Holdings, Inc. v. HoPo Realty Investments, LLC" on Justia Law