Articles Posted in Contracts

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Bert Nettles appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.C. ("Rumberger") and several attorneys with the firm. This case stemmed from the demise of the law firm of Haskell Slaughter Young & Rediker, LLC ("Haskell Slaughter"). Nettles and the individual defendants were all former members of Haskell Slaughter. In 2013, Haskell Slaughter was in financial distress, and members of the firm were in discussions as to what, if anything, could be done to save the firm. In December 2013, 10 lawyers, including the individual defendants, left Haskell Slaughter and joined Rumberger. Haskell Slaughter permanently closed in February 2014. In 2015, Bluebird Holdings, LLC ("Bluebird"), filed a complaint against Nettles and three other former members of Haskell Slaughter, seeking to collect on personal guarantee agreements executed by the former members. Nettles filed a third-party complaint in the Bluebird action against Rumberger and the individual defendants. Nettles sought damages from Rumberger and the individual defendants for alleged breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, conspiracy, and tortious interference with a contract. Nettles alleged that the individual defendants, in violation of fiduciary duties owed Nettles and Haskell Slaughter, conspired with each other and with Rumberger to orchestrate Rumberger's acquisition of two of Haskell Slaughter's most profitable practice groups. Nettles alleged that the loss of those practice groups "was the psychological and financial death blow to Haskell Slaughter" in that it thwarted plans for a potential firm-saving reorganization, caused the remaining members of the firm to leave, and resulted in the liquidation of Haskell Slaughter and ultimately the Bluebird action. The demise of Haskell Slaughter caused it to default on bank debt for which Nettles was a guarantor. Rumberger and the individual defendants filed a motion to dismiss Nettles's third-party complaint, arguing, among other things, that certain of Nettles's damages claims were not permissible under Rule 14, Ala. R. Civ. P. The trial court agreed and ruled that Nettles could recover only money that he may be required to pay as a result the personal guarantee agreement made the basis of the Bluebird action. As a result of that ruling, Nettles filed this suit, now before the Alabama Supreme Court. Finding no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment to the firm and individual defendants on all claims asserted, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Nettles v. Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell, P.C., et al." on Justia Law

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Ankor Energy, LLC, and Ankor E&P Holdings Corporation (collectively, "Ankor") appealed a circuit court's grant of a motion for a new trial in favor of Jerry Kelly, Kandace Kelly McDaniel, Kelly Properties, LLP, and K&L Resources, LLP (collectively, "the Kellys"). In 2010, Renaissance Petroleum Company, LLC, drilled two oil wells in Escambia County, Alabama. The Kellys owned property in Escambia County and entered into two leases with Renaissance. The leases included property near the two wells. In December 2010, Ankor acquired an interest in Renaissance's project and leases in Escambia County. In January 2011, Renaissance and Ankor petitioned the Oil and Gas Board ("the Board") to establish production units for the two wells. In February 2011, the Board held a hearing to determine what property to include in the production units. The Kellys were represented by counsel at the hearing and argued that their property should be included in the production units. The Board established the production units for the two wells but did not include the Kellys' property. Renaissance continued to operate the project until May 2011, when Ankor took over operations. In December 2011, Ankor offered to request that the Board include the Kellys' property in the production units. Ankor took the position that it had not drained any oil from the Kellys' property, and Ankor offered to pay royalties to the Kellys but only after the date the Board included the Kellys' property in the production units. The Kellys did not accept the offer, and later sued, listing multiple causes of action and alleging Ankor failed to include their property in the production units presented to the Board, knowing that their property should have been included. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order granting the Kellys' motion for a new trial based on juror misconduct; the matter was remanded for the trial court to reinstate the original judgment entered on the jury's verdict in favor of Ankor. View "Kelly v. Ankor Energy, LLC" on Justia Law

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CGI Technologies and Solutions, Inc. ("CGI"), and Clinton Carter, in his capacity as Director of the Alabama Department of Finance, separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Montgomery Circuit Court to dismiss, for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, an action filed by Jim Zeigler challenging a contract between CGI and the State of Alabama on the basis that the contract violated Alabama's competitive-bid law. In 1982, the State of Alabama, through the Department of Finance, entered into a software contract with American Management Systems, Inc. ("AMS"), that granted the State a license to install a local-government finance-system package on computers in the Finance Department. There was no dispute that the 1982 contract was competitively bid. In 2004, AMS was acquired by CGI. Over subsequent years, the 1982 contract was amended; Amendment 13 became known as the State of Alabama Accounting Resources System ("STAARS"). The State and CGI entered into four amendments addressing STAARS between March 2014 and September 2015. On March 31, 2017, the State and CGI entered into a letter agreement memorializing an understanding "relative to concluding work" on STAARS. The letter agreement noted that "CGI acknowledges the State's intent to begin transition to an in-house delivery plan or to award a new contract for operational services and support for STAARS within 90 days of the date of this letter, after which, CGI will provide Disengagement Services." Also, the letter agreement recognized a "winding down" of the contractual relationship between CGI and the State, which was to conclude by September 30, 2017. Other than the "winding-down period," the State agreed that "CGI has satisfied its contractual obligations with respect to the STAARS project and software and services provided by CGI under the STAARS Contract." The State contracted for further services from CGI after October 1, 2017, but not extending beyond November 29, 2017. According to Zeigler, in December 2015 he first learned that the amendments authorizing and implementing STAARS had not been competitively bid. CGI filed a motion to dismiss the amended complaint, arguing Zeigler lacked standing to bring this suit, and his statutory authority for his cause of action only allowed as remedy enjoining the contract that violated the competitive-bid law. The circuit court dismissed all but count one of Zeigler's complaint, leading to this request for mandamus relief. Because performance under the 1982 contract, including the STAARS amendments, was complete. the Alabama Supreme Court found there was no performance to enjoin, and no further remedy available to Zeigler for the alleged violation of the Competitive Bid Law. Therefore, the Court agreed with petitioners that Zeigler's claims were moot, and granted the writs. View "Ex parte Carter, in his capacity as Director of Finance for the State of Alabama." on Justia Law

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Consolidated Pipe filed the underlying action against The Ohio Casualty Insurance Company ("Ohio Casualty"), Bolt Construction & Excavating, LLC ("Bolt Construction"), and Michael Bolt (collectively, defendants). The West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority ("the Water Authority") contracted with Bolt Construction to perform a public work known as "the Vaughn Bridge Road Water Line Relocation Project No. 14018.00" ("the project"). In the course of performing its contract with the Water Authority, Bolt Construction entered into a contract with Consolidated Pipe pursuant to which Consolidated Pipe was to supply materials for use in the project. Bolt executed a guaranty in conjunction with the contract with Consolidated Pipe in which he agreed to unconditionally and personally guarantee full and prompt payment of all sums owed to Consolidated Pipe by Bolt Construction in the event Bolt Construction failed to pay the contracted-for amount. In its complaint, Consolidated Pipe alleged Bolt Construction failed to pay Consolidated Pipe for the materials it furnished to Bolt Construction for the project. At issue in this case was venue: the Alabama Supreme Court determined that based on a forum-selection clause, the only proper venue for this action was Morgan County. Therefore, the circuit court erred by granting the motion to transfer. Accordingly, the Court granted Consolidated Pipe's petition for mandamus relief, and directed the Morgan Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring this case to Jackson County. View "Ex parte Consolidated Pipe & Supply Co., Inc." on Justia Law

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G.R.L.C. Trust, formed under the laws of Texas, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Garrison Decatur Crossings, LLC ("Garrison Decatur"), in Garrison Decatur's action for a judgment declaring the need for reformation of a recorded memorandum of lease on the ground of a mutual mistake. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court's finding that there had been a mutual mistake in omitting Exhibit A from the lease memorandum was supported by the evidence; therefore, the summary judgment in favor of Garrison Decatur reforming the lease memorandum was affirmed. View "G.R.L.C. Trust v. Garrison Decatur Crossings, LLC" on Justia Law

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Warrior Met Coal, LLC sued Eickhoff Corporation alleging certain pieces of heavy mining equipment Eickhoff had manufactured and sold to Warrior Coal were defective. Eickhoff subsequently moved the trial court to compel Warrior Coal to arbitrate its claims pursuant to an arbitration provision in contracts executed after the sale of the equipment, not the original purchase-order contracts associated with the allegedly defective equipment. The trial court denied the motion to compel arbitration and Eickhoff appeals. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the breach-of-warranty, breach-of-contract, and products-liability claims asserted by Warrior Coal in its action against Eickhoff were at least arguably connected to the master service agreements inasmuch as those contracts addressed Eickhoff's obligation to provide an employee to assist with the maintenance and operation of the longwall shearers (the allegedly defective equipment). Accordingly, because the parties also agreed in the master service agreements that the AAA commercial arbitration rules would govern any arbitration, and because those rules empowered the arbitrator to decide questions of arbitrability, the trial court erred when it instead at least implicitly resolved the arbitrability issue in favor of Warrior Coal in its order denying Eickhoff's motion to compel. That order was accordingly reversed and the case remanded for the trial court to enter an order granting Eickhoff's motion to compel arbitration and staying proceedings in the trial court during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings. View "Eickhoff Corporation v. Warrior Met Coal, LLC" on Justia Law

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Dr. Tara Lynd, M.D. appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Marshall County Pediatrics, P.C. ("MCP"), in her action seeking a judgment declaring the proper valuation of her shares in MCP. In July 1978, John Packard, M.D. filed articles of incorporation forming MCP, a medical practice specializing in pediatrics in Guntersville, Alabama. At the same time, MCP adopted bylaws. Those bylaws reference a separate "stockholder agreement," but one was never executed. Over time, Dr. Packard hired other physicians to work with him in MCP. In 2005, Dr. Packard hired Dr. Lynd as a pediatrician to work for MCP. In 2013, Dr. Packard retired from practice, and he sold MCP to four other physicians who were then working for MCP: Dr. David Chupp, Dr. Don Jones, Dr. Sarah Rhodes, and Dr. Lynd. At the time of sale, each physician paid Dr. Packard $1,000, with the understanding that he or she would pay Dr. Packard the remaining amount due for his or her shares, with interest, over a period of several years. At the time the four physicians acquired MCP from Dr. Packard, they accepted the bylaws without alteration. They did not execute a stockholder agreement. In 2014, Dr. Lynd telephoned each of the other physicians to inform him or her that she would be leaving MCP. Dr. Rhodes testified in her affidavit that, upon Dr. Lynd's severance from MCP, the other three physicians did not dispute that Dr. Lynd was owed her portion of the receivables/production bonuses generated by MCP. A dispute formed over the valuation of her shares. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Dr. Lynd failed to demonstrate that she should receive the fair value of her stock in MCP, and that the trial court did not err in denying her motion for a summary judgment. View "Lynd v. Marshall County Pediatrics, P.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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Dr. Tara Lynd, M.D. appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Marshall County Pediatrics, P.C. ("MCP"), in her action seeking a judgment declaring the proper valuation of her shares in MCP. In July 1978, John Packard, M.D. filed articles of incorporation forming MCP, a medical practice specializing in pediatrics in Guntersville, Alabama. At the same time, MCP adopted bylaws. Those bylaws reference a separate "stockholder agreement," but one was never executed. Over time, Dr. Packard hired other physicians to work with him in MCP. In 2005, Dr. Packard hired Dr. Lynd as a pediatrician to work for MCP. In 2013, Dr. Packard retired from practice, and he sold MCP to four other physicians who were then working for MCP: Dr. David Chupp, Dr. Don Jones, Dr. Sarah Rhodes, and Dr. Lynd. At the time of sale, each physician paid Dr. Packard $1,000, with the understanding that he or she would pay Dr. Packard the remaining amount due for his or her shares, with interest, over a period of several years. At the time the four physicians acquired MCP from Dr. Packard, they accepted the bylaws without alteration. They did not execute a stockholder agreement. In 2014, Dr. Lynd telephoned each of the other physicians to inform him or her that she would be leaving MCP. Dr. Rhodes testified in her affidavit that, upon Dr. Lynd's severance from MCP, the other three physicians did not dispute that Dr. Lynd was owed her portion of the receivables/production bonuses generated by MCP. A dispute formed over the valuation of her shares. The Alabama Supreme Court determined Dr. Lynd failed to demonstrate that she should receive the fair value of her stock in MCP, and that the trial court did not err in denying her motion for a summary judgment. View "Lynd v. Marshall County Pediatrics, P.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Business Law, Contracts

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International Paper Company and three employees (Janet Pridgeon, Joni Harris, and Shawn Blenis) sought a writ of mandamus directing the Wilcox Circuit Court to rule upon a pending motion to dismiss a case against them for improper venue, based on an outbound forum-selection clause in a waste services agreement between International Paper and JRD Contracting & Land Clearing, Inc. ("JRD C & L"). After review, the Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court exceeded its discretion by failing to rule on, and instead "taking under advisement," the motion to dismiss the third-party complaint based on improper venue while allowing discovery on the merits to proceed and setting deadlines for summary-judgment motions and setting the trial date. Therefore, the Supreme Court issued the writ and directed the circuit court to issue an order addressing the merits of IPC's motion to dismiss based on improper venue. The Court expressed no opinion as to whether IPC's motion should or should not be granted; "[w]hile the writ [of mandamus] will issue to compel the exercise of discretion by a circuit judge, it will not issue to compel the exercise of discretion in a particular manner." View "Ex parte International Paper Company et al." on Justia Law

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SCI Alabama Funeral Services, LLC, d/b/a Elmwood Cemetery and Mausoleum ("SCI"); Service Corporation International; SCI Funeral Services, LLC; Elmwood Cemetery Co.; Phyllis Pesseackey; and Jonathan Wheatley (collectively, "the defendants") appealed an order denying their motion to compel arbitration. The circuit court denied the motion to compel because it concluded that the relevant arbitration provision was unconscionable and thus unenforceable. In 2004, Johnnie Hinton ("Johnnie") signed a contract with SCI to purchase the interment rights to two burial spaces in Elmwood Cemetery. The contract contained an arbitration provision stating that "any claim" that Johnnie "may have" against SCI must be resolved by arbitration. In August 2016, Johnnie's husband, Nathaniel Hinton, passed away. Johnnie began to make arrangements to have Nathaniel buried in one of the two burial spaces to which she had acquired interment rights in 2004. SCI then informed Johnnie that someone else had mistakenly been buried in Nathaniel's space. According to Johnnie's complaint, the space she acquired for Nathaniel is next to the space where her father is buried. At Johnnie's request, SCI disinterred the deceased who was buried in the space Johnnie had acquired and buried him elsewhere so that Nathaniel could be buried in the space; Nathaniel was subsequently buried there. In September 2016, Johnnie sued SCI and the other defendants, alleging breach of contract and several other claims. The defendants moved to compel arbitration, citing the arbitration provision in the contract. Johnnie argued that the arbitration provision was unenforceable because, she said, the contract does not evidence a transaction affecting interstate commerce and the arbitration provision is unconscionable. The circuit court denied the motion to compel, concluding that the arbitration provision is unconscionable. Both substantive unconscionability and procedural unconscionability must be shown to establish unconscionability as a defense to an arbitration provision; these are separate, independent elements. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the arbitration provision in this case was not substantively unconscionable, and did not need to consider the issue of procedural unconscionability. The circuit court erred in denying the motion to compel arbitration. Therefore, the Court reversed the order and remanded the case for the circuit court to enter an order granting the motion to compel arbitration. View "SCI Alabama Funeral Services, LLC v. Hinton" on Justia Law