Articles Posted in Government & Administrative Law

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In May 2017, Jerry Tarver, Sr., sued the Utilities Board of the City of Tuskegee ("UBT") and numerous other defendants seeking damages based on alleged exposure to contaminated water purportedly caused by defendants' combined and concurring negligence. The UBT petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Macon Circuit Court to vacate its December 2017 order disqualifying UBT's retained counsel, Huie, Fernambucq & Steward, LLP (the Huie Firm) from representing it in Tarver's suit. The Supreme Court determined Tarver did not present evidence indicating that a Huie firm lawyer, in his capacity as a commissioner of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission, was a conflict of interest regarding the attorney's representation of UBT. Therefore, the attorney was not disqualified under Rule 1.11(a), Ala. R. Prof. Cond., and no disqualification could be imputed to the Huie firm. View "Ex parte Utilities Board of the City of Tuskegee." on Justia Law

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Defendants collectively referred to as "Advanced Disposal" petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief to direct the circuit court to either join the City of Tallassee as a necessary and indispensable party, or dismiss this suit entirely. Advanced Disposal entered into an "Agreement for Acceptance and Treatment of Leachate" with the City ("the agreement") in which the City agreed to accept and treat, for a fee, leachate from Advanced Disposal's landfill. After the City accepts title to the leachate, it treats the leachate with chlorine at its stabilization pond. The City then discharges the effluent into the Tallapoosa River ("the river") pursuant to a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permit ("the NPDES permit"). The effluent mixes with the river water, which flows several miles downstream to the intake point for the Utilities Board of Tuskegee ("the utilities board"), which treats the river water with chlorine and uses other methods to prepare the water for consumption by its consumers, including the plaintiff, Jerry Tarver, Sr. In May 2017, Tarver sued Advanced Disposal, the utilities board, and fictitiously named defendants seeking monetary damages as well as injunctive relief for exposure to allegedly contaminated water that had been illegally "discharged" into the river and ultimately sold by the utilities board for consumption by its customers. Although the Supreme Court concluded the City was a necessary party to Tarver's action, it could not determine whether its joinder is feasible, insofar as the City, once joined, might object to venue in Macon County. Accordingly, the Court issued the writ of mandamus and directed the trial court to join the City as a necessary party under Rule 19(a). If the City, once joined, objects to venue, Rule 19(a) requires the trial court to dismiss it from the action and then proceed under Rule 19(b) to determine, in accordance with the stated factors, "whether in equity and good conscience the action should proceed among the parties before it, or should be dismissed, the [City] being thus regarded as indispensable." View "Ex parte Advanced Disposal Services South, LLC, et al." on Justia Law

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Teresa Gilland petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to grant her motion to dismiss claims filed against her by Diane McCain on the basis of state-agent immunity. McCain, a resident of Jasper, Alabama, was attacked and bitten by a German Shepherd owned by her neighbor, Robert Barton. McCain sued Barton; the City of Jasper ("the City"); Sonny Posey, then mayor of the City; Joe Matthews, director of the City's Public Works Department; Russell Smallwood, superintendent of the City's Street Department; and Gilland, an animal-control officer employed by the City. McCain raised negligence and wantonness claims against Gilland for Gilland's alleged breach of "a duty to ... enforce animal control policies designed to protect the public from dogs running at large." The Alabama Supreme Court determined Gilland demonstrated that she had a clear legal right to the dismissal of McCain's claims against her based on State-agent immunity. The Court therefore granted the petition and issued the writ directing the trial court to dismiss Gilland from the case. View "Ex parte Teresa Gilland." on Justia Law

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The Town of Dauphin Island ("the Town") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief from a circuit court order denying its motion for summary judgment on recreational-use grounds, and asked for entry of summary judgment in its favor on claims brought by Bobbi Rogers individually, and as next friend to her minor daughter Rebecca Hatem. Rebecca sat on a tree swing located in a Town park when she was injured by the limb on which the swing was hanging. She suffered a compound fracture to her leg. Finding that constructive knowledge of the swing's potential danger was not sufficient under the recreational use statutes to hold the Town liable for Rebecca's injury. Therefore, the Supreme Court determined the Town established a clear legal right to the relief sought, and granted the writ. The circuit court was directed to grant summary judgment in favor of the Town. View "Ex parte Town of Dauphin Island." on Justia Law

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Terri Bargsley filed a negligence and wantonness action against the Birmingham Airport Authority ("the BAA") seeking to recover damages for injuries Bargsley allegedly incurred in a fall at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport ("the airport"), which the BAA managed and operated. The BAA filed a motion to dismiss Bargsley's tort action, claiming that it was entitled to immunity under various sections of the Alabama Code 1975. The circuit court granted the BAA's motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part. The circuit court determined that the BAA was entitled to immunity from Bargsley's negligence claim but that it was not entitled to immunity from Bargsley's wantonness claim. The BAA then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to vacate the portion of its order denying the BAA's motion to dismiss as to Bargsley's wantonness claim and to enter an order dismissing Bargsley's wantonness claim. Finding that the BAA demonstrated it had a clear legal right to a dismissal of Bargsley's tort action, including the wantonness claim, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ. The circuit court was ordered to grant the BAA's motion to dismiss in its entirety. View "Ex parte Birmingham Airport Authority." on Justia Law

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D.A.R. appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing his complaint against R.E.L., D.H., and R.H. D.A.R., a licensed attorney practicing in Alabama, filed a complaint against R.E.L., D.H., and R.H. R.E.L. was also a licensed attorney, and was employed as an assistant general counsel for the Alabama State Bar ("the ASB"). D.H. and R.H. were brothers; they were not attorneys. According to the complaint, at some point before December 2007, R.E.L. and D.H. began "a personal, professional and/or sexual relationship," and R.E.L. and R.H. began "a personal and/or professional relationship." D.A.R. alleged that in December 2007, at R.E.L.'s recommendation and with his assistance, D.H. and R.H. "filed a baseless complaint against [D.A.R.] with the ASB." D.A.R. alleged that the motivation for the complaint was to use it "as a means to protect [D.H. and R.H.] from liability for a debt owed by [them] to a client represented by [D.A.R.] and/or as retaliation for his role in representing that client." According to D.A.R., R.E.L. knew when it was filed that the complaint against D.A.R. was baseless in fact and in law. R.E.L. asserted the defense of absolute immunity, but presented arguments to the trial court establishing why quasi-judicial immunity should apply to the facts presented in D.A.R.'s complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court found D.A.R. failed to demonstrate the trial court erred by dismissing his complaint on the grounds he presented to it, and as such, affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "D. A. R. v. R.E.L., D.H., and R.H." on Justia Law

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Police officer Charday Shavers and the City of Montgomery ("City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for a summary judgment in a tort action filed against them by Carlishia Frank and to enter a summary judgment for them. In 2013, Shavers was driving her patrol car when she received a dispatch about a vehicular accident. Shavers activated her siren and proceeded through an intersection. As Shavers's patrol car began to cross the intersection, Frank's vehicle entered the intersection and collided with the driver's side of Shavers's patrol car. The collision occurred between four and five seconds after Shavers began slowly proceeding into the intersection, approximately nine seconds after Shavers had activated her emergency lights and approximately five seconds after she had activated her siren. Shavers and the City moved for summary judgment on immunity grounds. Finding that the trial court abused its discretion in denying the motion, the Alabama Supreme Court found mandamus relief was warranted here. The Court directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Shavers and the City's joint motion for summary judgment, and to enter an order granting that motion. View "Ex parte City of Montgomery and Charday P. Shavers." on Justia Law

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The Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners of the City of Mobile ("the Board") petitions the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Baldwin Circuit Court to transfer the underlying case to the Mobile Circuit Court. The Board was a public, governmental agency that did business as the Mobile Area Water and Sewer System, and its principal place of business is located in Mobile County. In 2000, the Board entered into an agreement with the Spanish Fort Water System ("SFWS"), in which the Board agreed to sell treated water to SFWS. SFWS provides water to the City of Spanish Fort, located in western Baldwin County close to neighboring Mobile County. To transport the treated water, the Board agreed to build and operate a connection between the two water systems. In 2017, the Board increased the rates for the water that it sold to SFWS. SFWS then sued the Board in the Baldwin Circuit Court, alleging that the Board had breached a 2011 agreement by raising the rates it charged for water. Because the Supreme Court concluded that venue was proper in Mobile County, it granted the petition and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners of the City of Mobile." on Justia Law

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Portersville Bay Oyster Company, LLC ("the Oyster Company"), and its members, filed suit against 4H Construction Corporation, Greystone Industries, LLC, and Christopher Blankenship, in his official capacity as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and filed an interlocutory appeal challenging the trial court's order dismissing Commissioner Blankenship as a defendant in this action. Tensaw Land & Timber Company, Inc. ("Tensaw"), owned land fronting on Portersville Bay which it leased its statutory right to grow and to harvest oysters on the bottom in Portersville Bay to the Oyster Company. The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ("the Department") grants shellfish aquaculture easements on state-owned submerged lands for the purpose of cultivating and harvesting shellfish, including oysters. The Department conveyed to the Corneliuses a shellfish aquaculture easement allowing them to raise oysters in cages above the area encompassed by one of the Tensaw leases. Subject to certain exceptions, the riparian landowner does not have the right to harvest oysters in elevated cages within 600 yards from the shoreline in front of the waterfront property; the shellfish aquaculture easement enables the oyster farmers to grow oysters in elevated cages in the area of the easement. The oysters grown elsewhere on the Tensaw leases were grown on the bottom. 4H Construction Corporation contracted with the Department to construct a breakwater and marsh for coastal protection in Mobile Bay ("the Marsh Island project"). According to the allegations of the complaint, the sediment and silt deposits have increased over time and are killing the oysters being farmed on those oyster beds. The Oyster Company sued the Commissioner alleging negligence and nuisance relating to the easement. The Commissioner moved to dismiss for failure to state a claim and improper venue; the trial court granted the motion to transfer but not the motion to dismiss. After filing an amended complaint, the trial court dismissed the amended complaint against the Commissioner. The Alabama Supreme Court determined that dismissal was made in error, and reversed the trial court's order. View "Portersville Bay Oyster Company, LLC v. Blankenship" on Justia Law

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On January 7, 2018, John Doe, a minor, by and through his mother S.C., filed the underlying action against the Montgomery County Board of Education, seeking compensatory damages and punitive damages arising from an alleged assault on Doe by a school employee at the elementary school Doe attended, as a result of which Doe was injured. The complaint asserted a single count of negligence against the Board and other unidentified fictitiously named defendants. Specifically, Doe alleged the Board breached its duty "to not place him in harm or specifically harm him" and that the Board failed to properly train and supervise the employee allegedly responsible for the assault. The Board petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to dismiss Does' lawsuit, on sovereign immunity grounds. Finding the Board was an entity of the State, it enjoyed immunity from Doe's action under section 14 of the Alabama Constitution. Accordingly, the Board has demonstrated a clear legal right to a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to dismiss the lawsuit against it, and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Montgomery County Board of Education." on Justia Law