Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law
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Abbott Laboratories and Abbott Laboratories, Inc. (collectively, "Abbott"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Mobile Circuit Court to dismiss all claims asserted by the Mobile County Board of Health and the Family Oriented Primary Health Care Clinic (collectively, "Mobile Health") against Abbott on the basis that those claims are barred by the rule of repose or by the applicable statute of limitations. Mobile Health alleged that Abbott had participated in the marketing of a specific prescription drug, OxyContin. Mobile Health alleged that this marketing campaign "precipitated" an "opioid crisis" in the United States, and specifically in Alabama, because it caused an astronomical increase in the use of opioids by patients who quickly became dependent upon the drugs. Mobile Health asserted that it brought this action because of the burdens it had to bear as a result of the "opioid epidemic." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the applicable statutes of limitations barred Mobile Health's claims against Abbott. Therefore, the Court granted Abbott's petition for a writ of mandamus, and directed the circuit court to enter an order dismissing Mobile Health's claims against Abbott. View "Ex parte Abbott Laboratories and Abbott Laboratories, Inc." on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama appealed a circuit court order that dismissed the State's claims seeking injunctive and declaratory relief "to abate a public nuisance of unlawful gambling," pursuant to section 6-5-120, Ala. Code 1975, against some, but not all, of the defendants. The circuit court certified its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P. However, we determine that the order was not appropriate for Rule 54(b) certification; therefore, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Alabama v. Epic Tech, Inc., et al." on Justia Law

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This case involved the constitutionality of a 2019 Alabama local law that appropriated a large portion of Morgan County's proceeds from the Simplified Sellers Use Tax ("SSUT") to the county and city boards of education in Morgan County. The Morgan County Commissioners appealed a judgment upholding the local law and contend that the local law violated Ala. Const. 1901 (Off. Recomp)., art. IV, section 105, because, they say, it created a variance with -- and changes the result under -- preexisting general laws. Because the subject of the local law was not provided for by general law, the Alabama Supreme Court held that it did not violate section 105 and therefore affirmed. View "Barnett v. Jones" on Justia Law

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Cary Reagan, Jr., appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing his action against the Alabama Department of Revenue ("the Department"); the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board ("the Board"); the members of the Board, including its chairman; the administrator of the Board; and the City of Tuscaloosa. The defendants' motions to dismiss were based principally on the doctrine of sovereign or State immunity. Reagan claims that the Board and the Department have been improperly calculating and collecting sales taxes from customers of retail liquor stores operated by the Board. He asked the trial court to certify a class consisting of himself and other customers of the Board's stores and to direct the defendants to deposit the allegedly overpaid taxes into a court-approved account for the benefit of the class members, to be administered by the trial court and from which attorney fees presumably would be paid. The Alabama Supreme Court found Reagan failed to acknowledge that the TBOR provided the exclusive means of seeking a refund of taxes without violating principles of sovereign immunity. β€œAnd, he has not established that his request for a declaratory judgment is anything more than a claim for a refund of sales taxes and an attempt to mask the substance of the monetary relief he seeks. Thus, he has not demonstrated that the trial court erred by concluding that this action is barred by sovereign immunity,” and, therefore, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Reagan v. Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board" on Justia Law

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Jefferson County ("the county") filed a complaint against Wilbert of Birmingham, LLC ("Wilbert"), Lisa D. Turner, and Marvin Lands ("the taxpayers") seeking an order requiring the taxpayers to pay various taxes and license fees they allegedly owed to the county. The circuit court ruled in favor of the county and ordered the taxpayers to pay to the county $112,728.96 plus accrued interest and court costs. The taxpayers appealed. The merits of the circuit court's ruling were not actually before the Alabama Supreme Court in this appeal. Instead, the issue raised in the taxpayers' brief was whether the circuit court obtained jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to the Alabama Taxpayers' Bill of Rights and Uniform Revenue Procedures Act, 40-2A-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975 ("the TBOR"). The Supreme Court found the taxpayers demonstrated that, by failing to schedule a conference with the taxpayers concerning the preliminary assessments, the county's department of revenue did not strictly comply with the procedural requirements of the TBOR. That failure to strictly comply with the procedural requirements of the TBOR deprived the circuit court of jurisdiction over the county's action against the taxpayers, and, thus, the order entered in favor of the county was void. Therefore, the Supreme Court dismissed the taxpayers' appeal and instructed the circuit court to vacate its judgment in favor of the county and to dismiss the case. View "Wilbert of Birmingham, LLC, et al. v. Jefferson County" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Barry Munza, Larry Lewis, and Debbie Mathis appealed a circuit court order dismissing their complaint seeking certain injunctive relief and challenging a proclamation issued by Governor Kay Ivey requiring the use of facial coverings in certain circumstances, as outlined in an order issued by Dr. Scott Harris, the State Health officer, to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded plaintiffs lacked standing to bring their complaint seeking injunctive relief regarding the July 15 proclamation adopting the amended health order that, among other things, required masks or facial coverings to be worn in certain circumstances. Because the Supreme Court determined plaintiffs lacked standing, any discussion of remaining issues was pretermitted. View "Munza, et al. v. Ivey, et al." on Justia Law

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Chris and Suzanne Moore, as parents and next friends of Sydney Moore, a minor, appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Pamela Tyson and Jennifer Douthit, two employees of the Huntsville City Board of Education ("the Board"), with regard to negligence and wantonness claims asserted against Tyson and Douthit by the Moores arising from injuries suffered by Sydney at her elementary school. Tyson was employed by the Board as a teacher at Goldsmith-Schiffman Elementary School. Douthit was employed as the principal of the school. Sydney was enrolled at the school as a third-grade student in Tyson's class. Tyson left the students unsupervised in the classroom while she went to the restroom. During that time, Sydney and another student in the class left their seats, and, according to Sydney, the other student caused her to fall and hit her head and face on a counter in the classroom. Sydney suffered injuries from her fall, including fractures of her left orbital bone, her eye socket, and her nose and entrapment of her eye. Sydney was admitted for treatment at a hospital and underwent surgery as a result of the injuries. THe Alabama Supreme Court determined the Moores did not demonstrate the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of Tyson and Douthit based on immunity. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Moore v. Tyson" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a circuit court order denying its request for a preliminary injunction against TY Green's Massage Therapy, Inc., Yuping Tang, and Jiao Liu a/k/a Serena Tang (collectively, "the defendants"). In September 2018, police received an anonymous tip that a customer had gone into the defendants' Madison location for a massage and that he had been touched inappropriately. As a result, the police started an investigation of TY Green's Massage Therapy that included, among other things, sending multiple men into the business locations undercover to get massages and conducting surveillance of the business locations and of the houses where the employees of the business were housed. During the investigation, some of the massage therapists touched clients in places they were not supposed to touch, according to Board of Massage Therapy guidelines; that some massage therapists straddled clients and/or touched the clients with the intimate parts of their bodies and/or touched the intimate parts of the clients' bodies; and that at least one massage therapist engaged in sexual acts, including intercourse, with a client. The investigation also revealed that the massage therapists lived in houses owned by the Tangs; that the Tangs provided transportation for the therapists each day to get to the business locations where they worked; and that the therapists normally worked 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. The State filed a complaint against TY Green's Massage Therapy, Inc. that included 41 counts, including first- and second degree human trafficking, and deceptive trade practices. Among other things, the State requested injunctive and declaratory relief, damages and civil penalties. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not exceed its discretion in denying the State's request for a preliminary injunction. Accordingly, the trial court's order was affirmed. View "Alabama v. TY Green's Massage Therapy, Inc." on Justia Law

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Two attorneys filed a complaint to recover fees they billed in the course of representing indigent defendants in criminal cases, and sought to certify several classes of plaintiffs. Specifically, they asserted that State officials improperly refused to pay bills for fees that exceeded statutory payment caps. The trial court entered a class-certification order, and the State officials appealed. Because State immunity barred the attorneys' request for retrospective monetary relief, and because the attorneys lacked standing to bring a constitutional challenge on behalf of indigent defendants, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Butler v. Parks" on Justia Law

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Charles K. Breland, Jr., purchased land in Baldwin County, Alabama to build a housing subdivision. The subdivision he planned to construct required filling about 10.5 acres of wetlands, which the City of Fairhope and Baldwin County opposed. Breland and Breland Corporation (collectively, Breland) sued Fairhope, claiming that they had a vested right to fill the wetlands, that Fairhope's ordinances could not prevent them from filling the wetlands, that Fairhope had acted negligently regarding Breland's application for a land- disturbance permit, and that Breland's criminal citation for beginning work without a permit should have been expunged. The trial court rejected their claims following a nonjury trial. Breland appealed the trial court's judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Breland did not establish Fairhope's ordinances were invalid or that it had obtained a vested right to fill the wetlands on the property. Further, the Breland parties' argument that Breland's citation should have been expunged was premised on the notion that he was not obligated to comply with Fairhope's ordinances in existence at the time of his citation. Because the Supreme Court rejected that premise, the Breland parties' request for expungement was moot. And because this matter was not reversed or remanded for further proceedings and there was no other apparent remedy at this stage, the Breland parties' claim that the trial court erred by allowing The Battles Wharf/Point Clear Protective Association to intervene was moot. View "Breland v. City of Fairhope" on Justia Law