Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Contracts
Whaley, et al. v. Dept. of Alabama Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States
This appeal related to "electronic-bingo" operations conducted by the Department of Alabama Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States ("the VFW") at some of its Alabama posts. Travis Whaley and Randall Lovvorn contracted with the VFW to superintend and promote its electronic-bingo operations. Between 1997 and 2013, Whaley served the VFW as adjutant, commander, and quartermaster at different times. For his part, Lovvorn served as the VFW's accountant. The VFW contracted with G2 Operations, Inc. ("G2"), to conduct its electronic-bingo operations. Under contract, G2 agreed to conduct electronic-bingo operations at VFW posts throughout Alabama, and the VFW would receive 10% of the gross revenue. All the proceeds from electronic bingo were deposited into a VFW bank account. The VFW also entered into contracts with Whaley and Lovvorn, assigning them specific roles in its electronic-bingo operations. Several years later, after being notified of a tax penalty from the IRS, the VFW discovered a shortfall of $1,782,368.88 from what it should have received under its contracts with G2. The VFW filed a complaint asserting claims against G2 as well as additional claims against other parties, which were eventually whittled down throughout litigation until only claims against Whaley and Lovvorn remained. A jury reached a verdict against Whaley and Lovvorn on VFW's claims of breach of contract, fraudulent suppression, and conversion, awarding $1,782,368.88 in compensatory damages and $2,000,000 in punitive damages. Because the VFW's claims rely upon its own involvement in illegal transactions, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and rendered judgment in favor of Whaley and Lovvorn. View "Whaley, et al. v. Dept. of Alabama Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States" on Justia Law
Ex parte Alabama Department of Transportation
Baldwin County Bridge Company, LLC ("BCBC"), filed suit against John Cooper in his official capacity as Director of the Alabama Department of Transportation ("ALDOT"), seeking to halt construction of a bridge that ALDOT had hired Scott Bridge Company, Inc. ("Scott Bridge"), to build over the Intracoastal Waterway in Baldwin County. That lawsuit spawned three matters before the Alabama Supreme Court. In the first, Cooper sought mandamus relief because the trial court entered an order compelling him to respond to certain discovery requests made by BCBC; he argued the information sought was protected from disclosure by the executive-privilege doctrine. On Cooper's motion, the Supreme Court stayed enforcement of the trial court's discovery order to allow the Court to consider Cooper's privilege argument. Meanwhile, the trial-court proceedings continued and, before the Supreme Court was able to rule on Cooper's mandamus petition, the trial court granted BCBC's motion for a preliminary injunction to halt construction of the bridge. Cooper appealed that injunction, arguing that it was unwarranted and that the $100,000 preliminary-injunction bond put up by BCBC was insufficient. Scott Bridge filed its own appeal challenging the preliminary injunction, while also arguing that the trial court erred by dismissing it from the case and by stating that it was not entitled to the protection of an injunction bond. After reviewing the briefs submitted by the parties in all three of these matters, the Supreme Court concluded BCBC's claim on which the preliminary injunction was based was barred by State immunity. Accordingly, the trial court had no subject-matter jurisdiction over that claim and the preliminary injunction had to be reversed. Although the Court ruled in favor of Cooper on this point, it nevertheless rejected his companion argument that the trial court should have been directed to increase the $100,000 preliminary-injunction bond on remand. The Court also rejected Scott Bridge's argument that that it was entitled to recover on the preliminary-injunction bond. Finally, because the discovery that Cooper sought to withhold based on executive privilege was being sought in conjunction with the claim that is barred by State immunity, the trial court's order compelling Cooper to produce that information was moot, as was Cooper's petition challenging that order. View "Ex parte Alabama Department of Transportation" on Justia Law
Ex parte Jefferson County Board of Education.
The Jefferson County Board of Education ("the Board") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Jefferson Circuit Court to dismiss the action brought against the Board by Alabama Lockers, LLC. Alabama Lockers provided services regarding school lockers. In July 2020, Alabama Lockers sued the Board, alleging breach of contract. Alabama Lockers also alleged that the Board had failed to follow both "state bid laws" and its own policies and procedures regarding bidding on locker-services contracts. In September 2020, the Board filed a motion to dismiss, asserting, in relevant part, that Alabama Lockers' action was barred by State immunity. "Because county boards of education are local agencies of the State, they are clothed in constitutional immunity from suit." Thus, the Board, as a county board of education, was entitled to State immunity in this case. Accordingly, the Board established a clear legal right to have the action against it dismissed. View "Ex parte Jefferson County Board of Education." on Justia Law
Ex parte S. Mark Booth.
S. Mark Booth petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the the trial court to dismiss an action filed against him by the City of Guin. In 2008, Booth and the City entered into a contract entitled "Commercial Development Agreement." The agreement provided that the City would sell Booth approximately 40 acres of real property located in Marion County at a price of $5,000 per acre. Booth, in turn, promised to subdivide the property into lots for commercial development. The agreement included a provision granting the City the right to repurchase the property should Booth fail to develop the land within three years following the execution of the agreement. In 2017, the City sued Booth, asserting a claim for specific performance pursuant to the agreement's repurchase option. The City alleged Booth failed to construct at least one commercial facility on the property within three years from the effective date of the agreement. The City alleged that it had "timely tendered the purchase price to [Booth] and requested a conveyance of the real property described in the contract but [that Booth] refused to accept the tender or to make the conveyance." Booth moved to dismiss, arguing that, although he had fulfilled his obligations under the agreement by developing a hotel on the property, the City's complaint seeking to specifically enforce the repurchase of the property pursuant to its option to repurchase in Section 4.4(b) of the agreement was time-barred by the two-year statutory limitations period for such options in 35-4-76(a), Ala. Code 1975. After review, the Supreme Court granted Booth's petition as to the City's claims for specific performance, and its claims alleging fraud and breach of contact; the trial court was ordered to dismiss those claims. The Court denied Booth's petition relating to the City's rescission claim. View "Ex parte S. Mark Booth." on Justia Law
Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al.
Plaintiffs Startley General Contractors, Inc. ("Startley"), and Mandy Powrzanas, appealed the denial of their renewed motion to have Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance, Jr. recuse himself from the underlying action the plaintiffs filed against the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("BWWB"), Board members, Jones Utility and Contracting Co., Inc., and Richard Jones (collectively, “defendants.”). Plaintiffs alleged the defendants conspired to violate Alabama's competitive-bid law in ways that resulted in financial harm to the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contended that Judge Vance had received monetary contributions to his 2018 campaign for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from law firms and attorneys representing the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the renewed motion to recuse did not fall under the auspices of section 12–24–3, Ala. Code 1975, because it was not based on campaign contributions in "the immediately preceding election." Moreover, “even if [section] 12–24–3 did apply, the plaintiffs failed to establish a rebuttable presumption for recusal because, in order to meet the required threshold, the plaintiffs: (1) included contributions from law firms and individuals who were not ‘parties,’ as that term is defined in 12–24–3(c), to the case; (2) aggregated campaign contributions from multiple parties in contravention to 12–24–3(b) addressing campaign contributions made by ‘a party to the judge or justice’; and (3) incorrectly assumed that ‘total campaign contributions raised during the election cycle’ refers to one-month totals for campaign contributions rather than the ordinary meaning of an ‘election cycle,’ which concerns a longer period.” The Court concluded plaintiffs did not establish that a single, actual "party" to this case gave a "substantial campaign contribution" that would give rise to the conclusion that "[a] reasonable person would perceive that [Judge Vance's] ability to carry out his ... judicial responsibilities with impartiality is impaired." View "Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law
Ex parte Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C.
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
Ex parte Killian Construction Company and Christian Mills.
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
Ex parte American Sweeping, Inc.
American Sweeping, Inc. ("ASI"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Circuit Court to vacate an order denying its motion to dismiss the claims asserted against it in the underlying action as time-barred and to enter a dismissal in its favor. On May 22, 2014, two separate accidents occurred on the Interstate 65 bridge crossing the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. ASI was performing sweeping and cleaning operations on the bridge pursuant its contract with the Alabama Department of Transportation ("ALDOT"). The first accident on the bridge occurred when a vehicle collided with the rear of the "buffer vehicle" that was following the ASI street sweeper. That accident caused traffic on the bridge to come to a complete stop. Shortly thereafter, the second accident occurred when the tractor-trailer truck being driven by William McRae and owned by TK&S Trucking, LLC, collided with the rear of the tractor-trailer truck being operated by Robert Sanders. That collision caused both tractor-trailer trucks to explode, killing McRae and injuring Sanders. In August 2015, ALDOT filed a complaint against, among others, TK&S Trucking and the Estate of William McRae, seeking to recover the costs of the repairs made to the bridge as a result of the tractor-trailer explosion. In December 2015 and April 2016, Sanders and his wife, Barbara, filed individual complaints in intervention, asserting claims against the same defendants seeking monetary damages for medical bills, pain and suffering, and loss of consortium. In 2016, the Sanderses amended their complaints in intervention to assert claims against fictitiously named defendants whose conduct, they alleged, wrongfully caused or contributed to the tractor-trailer accident involving Mr. Sanders. In 2017, the Sanderses once again amended their complaints to substitute ASI for a fictitiously named defendant, asserting that ASI had caused or contributed to the tractor-trailer accident. ASI filed a motion to dismiss the claims against it on the ground that it was barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations. The trial court held the amendments related-back to the original complaint. The Alabama Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court, granted the petition for mandamus relief and directed the trial court to enter an order dismissing claims asserted against ASI. View "Ex parte American Sweeping, Inc." on Justia Law
Ex parte Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners of the City of Mobile.
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
Ex parte Carter, in his capacity as Director of Finance for the State of Alabama.
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