Articles Posted in Contracts

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The issue this case presented for the Alabama Supreme Court’s review was who had the power to determine the location of an arbitration proceeding: an arbitrator or Circuit Court. The Court concluded that, under the facts of this case, the arbitrator had that power; thus, reversed and remanded. View "Alliance Investment Company, LLC v. Omni Construction Company, Inc., a/k/a OCC, Inc" on Justia Law

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International Paper Company and three of its employees (collectively, "IPC") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order denying IPC's motion to dismiss the underlying third-party action against it without prejudice based on improper venue. In 2015, Caterpillar Financial Services Corporation ("Caterpillar") entered into various loan and guaranty agreements with JRD Contracting, Inc. ("JRD") for the purchase of certain equipment. That equipment was to serve as collateral for the loans between Caterpillar and JRD. According to Caterpillar, JRD failed to pay the amounts due under the loan agreements, and, in September 2015 and again in December 2015, Caterpillar notified JRD of its intention to accelerate the loans and to make demand for the return of the equipment. In the summer of 2016, a JRD subsidiary, JRD Land Contracting and Land Clearing, Inc. ("JRD C&L"), signed an agreement with International Paper in which JRD C&L agreed to dispose of International Paper's waste at its Pine Hill Mill for a period of five years. In 2016, Caterpillar sued JRD at the Wilcox Circuit Court alleging a claim of detinue and seeking damages for breach of contract and breach of the guarantees. After performing work for International Paper under a waste-services agreement for eight months, JRD C&L received written notice of International Paper's intent to terminate the waste-services agreement. The equipment Caterpillar sought was used for the JRD C&L contract; in the pending Wilcox Circuit Court action, JRD filed a third-party complaint against IPC and fictitiously named defendants seeking a declaration and damages for breach of contract, promissory estoppel, fraud, work and labor done, and indemnity. When International Paper terminated that agreement, JRD alleged, it could no longer afford to pay the loans from their lenders, including Caterpillar, although they had already defaulted on some of those loans. IPC moved to dismiss the third-party complaint based on improper venue. According to IPC, the waste-services agreement contained an outbound forum-selection clause that provided that the courts of Tennessee would have jurisdiction over any disputes arising out of or relating to that agreement. IPC also challenged whether JRD or Dailey had a right to bring the third-party action because, it argued, the third-party action had nothing to do with the transactions underlying Caterpillar's lawsuit. IPC argued that, generally, outbound forum-selection clauses were enforceable in Alabama and that the third-party plaintiffs did not establish that the enforcement of the clause would be unfair or unreasonable. According to IPC, because the third-party plaintiffs failed to meet their burden, the outbound forum-selection clause should have been enforced. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed with IPC and issued the writ. View "Ex parte International Paper Company." on Justia Law

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SE Property Holdings, LLC ("SEPH") appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Bank of Franklin ("BOF") on BOF's claim demanding specific performance of a contractual provision. In March 2005, Vision Bank, a Florida company, loaned Bama Bayou, LLC, formally known as Riverwalk, LLC ("the borrower"), $6,000,000. Multiple individuals allegedly personally guaranteed repayment of the loan ("the guarantors"). In June 2008, pursuant to a "participation agreement," Vision Bank conveyed to BOF a 25 percent interest in the loan. Vision Bank conveyed additional participation interests in the loan to other banks. The borrower and the guarantors allegedly defaulted on their obligations with respect to the loan, and in January 2009 Vision Bank filed suit against them. The borrower and the guarantors asserted counterclaims against Vision Bank and brought BOF into the action as an additional counterclaim defendant. In April 2009, Vision Bank foreclosed on a mortgage securing the loan. Vision Bank was the highest bidder at the foreclosure sale and thereafter executed foreclosure deeds in favor of BOF and the other participating banks. In 2012, Vision Bank sold its operating assets to Centennial Bank and relinquished its Florida bank charter. Vision Bank and SEPH entered into an "agreement and plan of merger," whereby Vision Bank merged "with and into" SEPH. In October 2016, the trial court entered an order setting aside the foreclosure sale and declaring the foreclosure deeds void. Among other things, BOF asserted in its cross-claim that SEPH had an obligation to repurchase BOF's participation interest in the loan. In support, BOF pointed to the participation agreement between BOF and SEPH's predecessor, Vision Bank. The court granted BOF's motion for summary judgment on its claim for specific performance based on the participation agreement. SEPH argued on appeal that the trial court erred in determining that a "proceeding" involving Vision Bank's termination of existence was "commenced," so as to invoke the contractual provision; it asserted Vision Bank's voluntary merger with SEPH was not a "proceeding." The participation agreement in this case stated that BOF's participation interest was conveyed without recourse, but the contract provision provided BOF at least some security in the form of a right to force the repurchase of its participation interest in the event of the financial deterioration of the originating bank, i.e., Vision Bank. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the voluntary merger like the one entered into by Vision Bank and SEPH is not a "proceeding" as that term is used in the participation agreement, and reversed the trial court's judgment ordering SEPH to purchase BOF's participation interest. View "SE Property Holdings, LLC, f/k/a Vision Bank v. Bank of Franklin" on Justia Law

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Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C. ("MCG"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to vacate its July 30, 2018 order denying MCG's motion for a change of venue and to enter an order transferring the underlying action to the Madison Circuit Court on the basis of the doctrine of forum non conveniens. In late 2017, AAL USA, Inc. ("AAL"), a Delaware corporation doing business in Alabama, and Oleg Sirbu, a resident of Dubai, United Arab Emirates (collectively, "the plaintiffs"), sued MCG, asserting a claim of legal malpractice pursuant to the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act ("the ALSLA"), and seeking, among other relief, disgorgement of all attorney fees paid by the plaintiffs to MCG. AAL maintained, repaired, and overhauled helicopters through various government contracts or subcontracts on United States military bases. MCG represented the plaintiffs from 2014 through October 28, 2016; two MCG attorneys, Jon Levin and J. Andrew Watson III, were shareholders of MCG whose allegedly wrongful conduct was performed within the line and scope of their employment with MCG. The events giving rise to this litigation began in September 2016, when AAL received a "base-debarment" letter notifying it that it no longer had access to certain military bases outside the continental United States. MCG chief financial officer Keith Woolford forwarded this letter to MCG, and, according to the plaintiffs, MCG "immediately embarked in a central role in [MCG CEO Paul] Daigle's and Woolford's scheme to steal the assets of AAL." The complaint alleged that Levin worked closely with Woolford and Daigle to draft the APA pursuant to which Black Hall Aerospace, Inc., Daigle, and Woolford would purchase all of AAL's assets, as a way to cure the base-debarment problem. The plaintiffs alleged that MCG knew that the APA would "gut" the plaintiffs –- its current clients –- while simultaneously benefiting Daigle, Woolford, and BHA –- other clients of MCG -- and that this "clear and irreconcilable conflict of interest ... was never disclosed to [the plaintiffs]." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded MCG carried its burden of showing that Madison County's connection to the action was strong and that Jefferson County's connection to the action was weak. Thus, the circuit court exceeded its discretion in refusing to transfer the case to the Madison Circuit Court in the interest of justice. MCG's petition for a writ of mandamus was granted. View "Ex parte Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C." on Justia Law

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The Wilcox County Board of Education ("the Board"); Tyrone Yarbrough, individually and in his official capacity as the superintendent of the Board; and members of the Board Bernard Martin and Lester Turk, individually and in their official capacities, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to dismiss and to enter an order dismissing with prejudice all claims against them. Reginald Southall was a teacher at Wilcox Central High School. During a meeting of the Board in April 2013, then Superintendent Yarbrough recommended the nonrenewal of Southall's probationary contract. Five Board members were present during the vote. Normally, the Board consists of six members. One seat on the Board, however, was vacant at the time of the April 2013 meeting, due to an order of the circuit court enjoining the Board from filling the vacant seat. Thus, the Board conducted business with only five members during the April 2013 meeting. Upon a motion to accept Yarbrough's recommendation, three Board members voted in favor of not renewing the contract, one member opposed the recommendation, and one member abstained. Southall filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and a writ of mandamus, in which he asserted that, because of the vacancy on the Board, the termination of his employment was the result of an illegal vote of the Board in violation of 16-8-4, Ala. Code 1975. Under the limited circumstances of this particular case, a majority of the five members was all that was required to accept Yarbrough's recommendation not to renew Southall's probationary contract. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded the petitioners demonstrated a clear legal right to the order sought. The Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order, and to enter an order dismissing the underlying action. View "Ex parte Wilcox County Board of Education et al." on Justia Law

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In 2014, Jeremy Gowan filed this action against Cavalier Home Builders, LLC, d/b/a Buccaneer Homes ("Buccaneer"), Minton Industries, Inc. ("Minton"), Monster Movers, LLC ("Monster Movers"), Jerry Dudley, and Britt Richards. Buccaneer, Dudley, Richards, and Minton moved to compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement Gowan had signed relating to the sale of a manufactured home. Although Monster Movers was not a party to the arbitration agreement, Gowan's claims against Monster Movers were submitted to arbitration by consent of the parties. While the arbitration proceeding was pending, Monster Movers entered into a joint dismissal with Gowan. The case proceeded to arbitration against the remaining defendants. In 2017, the arbitrator issued an award in favor of Gowan and against Buccaneer in the amount of $10,000. As to Gowan's claims against all other remaining defendants, the award was adverse to Gowan. Gowan appealed the award to the circuit court on the basis that the award was insufficient against Buccaneer. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court deviated from the procedure for the appeal of an arbitration award established by Rule 71B, Ala. R. Civ. P. The issue raised in the mandamus petition was made moot, and the Supreme Court declined further review. View "Ex parte Cavalier Home Builders, LLC, d/b/a Buccaneer Homes." on Justia Law

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Killian Construction Company ("Killian") and Christian Mills petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to dismiss the underlying action and to enter an order dismissing the action, based on improper venue. The City of Foley, Alabama, contracted with Killian to construct the Foley Sports Tourism Complex ("the sports complex"). Killian was a Missouri corporation whose principal place of business was located in Springfield, Missouri. Killian entered into a subcontract for part of the work on the sports complex with Edward Woerner, owner of Southern Turf Nurseries, Inc. Woerner was a resident of Baldwin County, Alabama. Woerner claimed Killian failed to pay him the full amount due for the work performed under the subcontract and sued Killian at the Baldwin County Circuit Court. The Alabama Supreme Court determined a forum-selection clause in the subcontract obligated the parties to litigate in a federal or state court in Missouri. Woerner did not establish that venue in Missouri would have been seriously inconvenient for the trial of the underlying action. Mills could enforce an outbound forum-selection clause because he was an employee of Killian directly involved in the sports complex project and the claims against him were related to the contract claims against Killian. Therefore, the Supreme Court found Killian and Mills were entitled to the writ of mandamus and granted relief. View "Ex parte Killian Construction Company and Christian Mills." on Justia Law

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Rhonda Stephan as the personal representative of the Estate of Bobby Gene Hicks, appealed an order granting a motion to compel arbitration filed by Millennium Nursing and Rehab Center, Inc. Stephan contends that Hicks, her father, died in 2015 while he was a resident at Millennium Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, a skilled-nursing facility owned and operated by Millennium ("the Rehab Center"). During Hicks's hospitalization at Crestwood Medical Center ("Crestwood"), Stephan signed all the paperwork arranging for her father to be discharged from the hospital and transferred to the Rehab Center; however, she did not hold a power of attorney or other actual legal authority to act on Hicks's behalf or to contract in his name. Hicks did not sign any of the paperwork, but he is named as a party to the contracts included within that paperwork. On October 26, 2015, Hicks was transferred from Crestwood to the Rehab Center. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Stephan could not be bound to the arbitration provision in her capacity as personal representative to Hicks' estate when she signed the agreement at issue here in her capacity, in what amounted to, Hicks' relative or next friend. View "Stephan v. Millennium Nursing and Rehab Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Aqua Marine Enterprises, Inc. ("AME"), and AME's chief operating officer and vice president Brent Mitchell appealed a circuit court judgment in favor of K&B Fabricators, Inc. ("K&B"), following a bench trial in a dispute alleging the usurpation of corporate opportunities in the business of fabricating storm shelters. In 2006, Mitchell began discussions with Kendall Blaxton, who owned a welding-supply company used by AME, about starting a storm-shelter-fabrication business in Alabama because Mitchell believed it would be more efficient to deal with a local shelter fabricator. Those discussions led to the formation of K&B, a closely held corporation with three shareholders, Mitchell and two brothers, Kendall and Kenneth Blaxton. From 2006 to mid 2014, all of AME's steel storm-shelter orders were fabricated by K&B. AME entered into a non-compete/non-disclosure agreement with K&B. Kendall testified that in 2009 he and his brother had a dispute about how K&B was being managed, and Kendall ended up buying out Kenneth's ownership interest in K&B. Kendall then owned 90 percent of K&B's stock and Mitchell owned 10 percent. In early 2012, Kenneth formed Compliance Construction with two others; the company was to "take advantage of business opportunties that did not involve storm-shelter fabrication." By 2014, the relationship between AME and K&B had soured, and ended with AME accusing K&B of violating the noncompetition agreement between them. AME contended the trial court erred in concluding K&B did not violate the agreement. The Alabama Supreme Court found that AME failed to demonstrate Compliance's involvement in storm-shelter fabrication constituted a violation by K&B of the noncompetition agreement. The Court affirmed a finding of liability against Mitchell and its imposition of a constructive trust upon AME; the Court also affirmed the ruling in favor of K&B on AME's allegation of breach of the noncompetition agreement. The Court reversed, however, part of the trial court's judgment awarding damages, finding the award was not based upon the profits earned by AME in its fabrication. View "Aqua Marine Enterprises, Inc. v. K&B Fabricators, Inc." on Justia Law

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Brian Pipkin appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Sun State Oil, Inc. on Pipkin's claim of conversion, negligence, and/or wantonness, and trespass with regard to Sun State's removal of gasoline pumps from Pipkin's property. IMAS Partnership, LLC ("IMAS"), purchased from William Rivers and Sybil Rivers a parcel of real property located at 15065 Highway 43 North, Bucks, Alabama ("the property"), on which was situated a convenience store and gasoline station. IMAS intended to operate the business as "Bucks Country Store." In anticipation of its acquisition of the property, IMAS entered into a "Petroleum Supply Agreement" with Sun State to procure a supply of gasoline to sell to customers of the store ("the PSA"). The PSA provided that Sun State would lease two gasoline pumps to IMAS for 10 years in exchange for IMAS purchasing a minimum of 6 million gallons of petroleum from Sun State over the 10-year term. At some point in 2012, Sun State stopped doing business with IMAS because it had heard the store was not making money would would go into foreclosure. Sun State did not reclaim the gas pumps immediately, to allow, as it described at trial, the owner to get a new tenant, yet retain the store as a customer. The Riverses executed a vendor's lien deed conveying the property to Pipkin; Pipkin testified that William Rivers made it clear when they negotiated the sale of the property that the gas pumps were included in the purchase price. By the summer of 2014, Sun State became concerned about vandalism at Pipkin's property and decided to retrieve the pumps, offering to reinstall them once Pipkin had a tenant to operate the store. Sun State declined to return the pumps, however. Pipkin subsequently filed suit against Sun State for the pumps. The Alabama Supreme Court found no evidence that Sun State filed an UCC-1 financing statement before Pipkin purchased the property. Sun State's unperfected security interest in the gasoline pumps did not have priority over Pipkin's ownership interest in the property. Accordingly, Pipkin acquired the pumps free and clear of Sun State's interest, and Sun State did not possess an ownership interest in the pumps when it removed them from Pipkin's property. Accordingly, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed summary judgment in favor of Sun State, and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Brian Pipkin v. Sun State Oil, Inc., et al." on Justia Law