Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Government Contracts
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
State of Alabama ex rel. Allison, v. Farris
The State of Alabama, on behalf of Rick Allison, Probate Judge of Walker County, appealed a Walker Circuit Court judgment entered in favor of Jill Farris, the county administrator for Walker County. By statute, Judge Allison, as the chief elections officer for Walker County, must publish certain voter lists and election notices. Judge Allison argued on appeal, as he did in the circuit court, that he had the authority to determine in which newspaper of general circulation notices would be published and that he could also contract with that newspaper for the cost of publishing the notices. Farris argued Judge Allison did not follow established procedure by obtaining competitive bids for the pricing of such publishing. The Supreme Court As chief election officer for Walker County pursuant to statute, Judge Allison could contract to publish the notices he is required to publish. The Court reversed the circuit court's judgment insofar as it held otherwise. The case was remanded for further proceedings, including a determination of whether Judge Allison substantially complied with the competitive-bid law and, if so, whether Judge Allison's request for attorney fees was appropriate. View "State of Alabama ex rel. Allison, v. Farris" on Justia Law
Alabama Mutual Insurance Corporation v. City of Fairfield
Alabama Mutual Insurance Corporation ("AMIC") appealed the trial court's order certifying a class in the action filed by the City of Vernon and a class of similarly situated entities that had purchased uninsured motorist/underinsured-motorist coverage ("UM/UIM coverage") from AMIC. Vernon was the original class representative; however, after AMIC filed its notice of appeal of the class-certification order, Vernon settled its claims against AMIC and withdrew as the class representative. Because there was no longer a representative to "fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class," the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the trial court for a new class representative to be substituted for Vernon. The City of Fairfield substituted for Vernon as the class representative. After review of the parties' arguments on appeal, the Supreme Court did not reach the merits of the underlying dispute: the Court concluded that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over this dispute. Initial jurisdiction over this dispute was with the Alabama Department of Insurance and its commissioner. Therefore, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court's class-certification order, and remanded for dismissal. View "Alabama Mutual Insurance Corporation v. City of Fairfield" on Justia Law
D.C. Pruett Contracting Company, Inc. v. Jackson County Board of Education
The Jackson County Board of Education petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to enter an order dismissing the complaint of D.C. Pruett Contracting Company, Inc. on the ground of sovereign immunity. Pruett Contracting submitted a proposal for renovations to the Pisgah High School gymnasium. The Jackson County superintendent of education executed a purchase order authorizing Pruett Contracting to make certain renovations to the gymnasium, totaling $231,309. Pruett Contracting then began renovating the gymnasium. The Superintendent later received a letter from the State of Alabama Building Commission stating that "all work on the renovation of the Pisgah High School gymnasium [was] to stop immediately" because the project had not been submitted to or approved by the Building Commission. The Board instructed Pruett Contracting to cease all work on the gymnasium. Pruett Contracting submitted an invoice to the Board for the work that had been performed prior to the letter. Months later, because it had not received payment for its work, Pruett Contracting sued the Board, alleging breach of contract and unjust enrichment and seeking recovery of damages on theories of quantum meruit, work and labor done, open account, and account stated. The Board moved the court to dismiss the complaint, arguing that it was entitled to sovereign immunity as to the claims alleged by Pruett Contracting and that the court therefore lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. Pruett Contracting responded, arguing that this case involved a protected property interest, that immunity was thus precluded, and that the court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the action. The Supreme Court concluded the Board established that it was entitled to sovereign immunity and that the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over this action; therefore, the action had to be dismissed. Because the Board demonstrated a clear legal right to an order directing the Circuit Court to dismiss Pruett Contracting's complaint, the Supreme Court granted the Board's petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the Circuit Court to dismiss Pruett Contracting's complaint. View "D.C. Pruett Contracting Company, Inc. v. Jackson County Board of Education" on Justia Law