Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

by
This dispute centered on whether Keith Arnold had to reimburse his former employer, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, LLC ("HMMA"), for expenses HMMA incurred in moving Arnold from Kentucky to Alabama to begin employment at HMMA's manufacturing facility in Montgomery. When he started his employment, Arnold signed an agreement obligating him to reimburse HMMA for his relocation expenses if he voluntarily left his employment with HMMA within 24 months. Just 16 months after beginning his employment, Arnold resigned his position with HMMA. After Arnold refused to reimburse HMMA for the relocation expenses it had paid on his behalf, HMMA sued him in the Montgomery Circuit Court, asserting a breach-of-contract claim. HMMA obtained a summary judgment against Arnold for $67,534 in damages, but the trial court denied HMMA's request for prejudgment interest, attorney fees, and expenses. Arnold appealed the summary judgment in favor of HMMA. HMMA cross-appealed, arguing that under the terms of the reimbursement agreement, it was entitled to $11,710 for prejudgment interest and $20,293 for attorney fees and expenses. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed summary judgment entered by the trial court to the extent it held that Arnold was liable for breach of contract and awarded HMMA $67,534. Because HMMA established it had a contractual right to additional sums beyond the $67,534 awarded by the trial court, the Supreme Court reversed that portion of the judgment denying HMMA's request for those additional sums and remand the cause for the trial court to enter a final judgment in favor of HMMA for $99,537, an amount that fully compensated HMMA under the reimbursement agreement. View "Arnold v. Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, LLC" on Justia Law

by
Lonnie Beal sued his former employer, Shoals Extrusion, LLC, an aluminum-extrusion business in Florence, Alabama after his employment there was terminated in November 2015. Beal alleged that Shoals Extrusion breached the terms of his employment agreement by refusing to give him severance compensation and benefits to which he claims he was entitled. The Circuit Court entered a summary judgment in favor of Beal and awarded him $80,800. The Alabama Supreme Court found, however, a genuine issue of material fact about whether Beal first breached the terms of the employment agreement and whether such breach excused further performance by Shoals Extrusion under that agreement. Accordingly, the summary judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Shoals Extrusion, LLC v. Beal" on Justia Law

by
William Harrington petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for certiorari review of the Court of Civil Appeals' order dismissing his appeal as untimely. In 2016, Harrington sued Big Sky Environmental, LLC, Gabriel Kim, and Clayton "Lanny" Young, seeking compensatory and punitive damages resulting from a dispute over an employment agreement. Harrington alleged breach of contract, negligence, wantonness, fraud, suppression, and deceit. Over time, Harrington added parties through amended complaints. Each new complaint was met with a motion to dismiss. Once granted, Harrington appealed, but the Court of Civil Appeals dismissed Harrington's appeal as untimely. The Supreme Court determined the trial court's January 26, 2018, order stated the parties were unclear as to whether its September 28, 2017, order was final under Rule 54(b). However, the Court found nothing in the trial court's September 28, 2017, order indicating an intent to certify that order as a final order in accordance with Rule 54(b). The trial court's January 26, 2018, order then stated its September 28, 2017 order dismissed any and all claims against Big Sky and Kim, because the court granted their Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. The trial court declared its September 28, 2017 order was final, but the trial court then dismissed Harrington's claims against Big Sky and Kim without prejudice. Without sufficient clarity, the trial court's purported certification under Rule 54(b) was invalid; therefore, the September 28, 2017, judgment was not final. "A nonfinal judgment will not support an appeal." Accordingly, although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Civil Appeals that this appeal was due to be dismissed, it was due to be dismissed as being from a nonfinal judgment, not because the appeal was untimely filed. For that reason, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals and instructed that court to dismiss the appeal, not based on timeliness, but as being from a nonfinal judgment. View "Ex parte William T. Harrington." on Justia Law

by
William Carroll, M.D., Loring Rue, M.D., and Gustavo Heudebert, M.D. (collectively, defendants), appealed a circuit court's denial of their motion to compel arbitration of claims asserted against them by Paul F. Castellanos, M.D. Dr. Castellanos alleged that he was an "internationally recognized" physician with a specialty practice as a "laryngologist and bronchoesophagologist (airway surgeon)" who was "recruited to come to the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 2005 to establish a center of excellence for the treatment of voice and aero digestive disorders at University of Alabama, Birmingham Academic and Medical Center" ("UAB Medical Center"). University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C. ("UAHSF") and Dr. Castellanos executed a "Physician Employment Contract" describing the details of his employment, which contained an arbitration provision. The questions whether the individual defendants, as nonsignatories to the employment contract, could enforce the arbitration provision in that contract and whether the arbitration provision encompassed Dr. Castellanos's claims against the individual defendants were questions for the arbitrator, not the court, pursuant to the arbitration provision in the employment contract. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the circuit court erred in denying the individual defendants' motion to compel arbitration. The Court therefore reversed the order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Carroll v. Castellanos" on Justia Law

by
The Wilcox County Board of Education ("the Board"), and Board members Lester Turk, Donald McLeod, Joseph Pettway, Jr., and Shelia Dortch (collectively, "the Board members"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to dismiss the claims against them based on immunity and to enter an order granting that motion. In 2017, Kimberly Perryman, as guardian and next friend of her minor son, R.M., sued the Board, and J.E. Hobbs Elementary School principal Roshanda Jackson, and teacher Timothy Irvin Smiley. Perryman alleged in 2016, Smiley, "in a fit of rage and unprovoked, did lift the Plaintiff R.M. and slam him down upon a table, with such force as to break said table." Perryman further alleged in her rendition of the facts that "Smiley was in the habit of continuously and repeatedly using harsh, physical and otherwise inappropriate tactics on the students in his class" and that "Smiley's behavior was known or should have been known to the Principal Defendant and the School Board Defendant[]." Perryman asserted claims of assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Smiley; claims of negligence and negligent/wanton hiring, training, retention, and supervision against Jackson; and a claim of negligence against the Board. Specifically, the negligence claim against the Board stated: "The ... Wilcox County Board of Education negligently breached [its] dut[y] to R.M. by failing to supervise, discipline or remove if necessary, the Defendant teacher [Timothy Smiley], thereby placing the Plaintiff R.M. in harm's way." The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Board and the Board members in their official capacities were entitled to immunity from the state-law claims asserted against them; the Board members in their individual capacities were entitled to State-agent immunity from any state-law claims asserted against them; and that the Board members in their individual capacities were entitled to qualified immunity from the 42 U.S.C. 1983 claim asserted against them. Therefore, the circuit court should have dismissed Perryman's claims with respect to those parties, and to that extent the petition for mandamus relief was granted. However, the Board and the Board members in their official capacities were not entitled to Eleventh Amendment immunity from the section 1983 claim, and the petition was denied with respect to that claim. View "Ex parte Wilcox County Board of Education" on Justia Law

by
Merchants FoodService ("Merchants") appealed a final judgment entered by the Mobile Circuit Court following a jury verdict in a retaliatory-discharge action filed by Denny Rice. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court did not err in denying a judgment as a matter of law concerning whether Rice was eligible to seek lost future earnings as a component of damages in this action. Merchants waived any right to challenge the sufficiency of the evidence to support the compensatory-damages award, and its arguments seeking to do so were not well taken. Finally, the Court's evaluation of propriety of the punitive-damages award lead it to concluded no remittitur of that award was warranted in this case. Accordingly, the trial court's order denying all of Merchants' postjudgment motions was affirmed. View "Merchants FoodService v. Rice" on Justia Law

by
Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc. ("Hinkle") was in the business of selling heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning supplies and equipment. Gabriel Butterfield was employed as a branch manager at Hinkle's Pelham office. In 2015, a GMC Sierra pickup truck owned and driven by Butterfield struck Diane Feltman as she was attempting to walk cross 20th Street in downtown Birmingham. As a result of that accident, Feltman sustained multiple injuries. Feltman sued Butterfield and Hinkle, alleging that Butterfield, while acting within the line and scope of his employment with Hinkle, had been negligent and wanton in causing the accident and that Hinkle was vicariously liable based on a theory of respondeat superior. Hinkle moved for summary judgment on all claims against it, arguing it was not vicariously liable for Butterfield's alleged actions because, it said, Butterfield was not acting within the line and scope of his employment with Hinkle at the time of the accident. The motion was denied, trial proceeded, and judgment was entered against Hinkle on vicarious liability. Hinkle's motion for judgment as a matter of law was denied, and a verdict was returned for $375,000 in favor of Butterfield. Finding that the trial court did not err in denying Hinkle's motion for judgment as a matter of law, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed judgment in Butterfield's favor. View "Hinkle Metals & Supply Company, Inc. v. Feltman" on Justia Law

by
Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc. ("MBUSI"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief, ordering the circuit court to vacate an order denying change of venue from Jefferson County to Tuscaloosa. Gregory Nix was a resident of Jefferson County; he was employed as an assembly worker at MBUSI's manufacturing facility in Tuscaloosa County until June 23, 2017. Nix alleges that, during his employment with MBUSI, he suffered on-the-job injuries the cumulative effect of which have left him permanently and totally disabled. The Supreme Court determined there was not sufficient evidence before the trial court to support a conclusion that venue in Jefferson County was proper in this case. "The regular purchasing of parts or materials from a supplier located in a certain county, by itself, does not constitute '[doing] business by agent' in that county under section 6-3-7(a)(3), Ala. Code 1975." The Court therefore issued the writ granting mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Mercedes-Benz U.S. International, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Ace American Insurance Company ("Ace"), an intervenor in the action below, appeals from the Baldwin Circuit Court's dismissal of the action filed by Ace's insured, Willie James Westbrook, against Rouse's Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Rouses Markets ("Rouses Markets"). In August 2016, Westbrook sued Rouses Markets seeking to recover damages for injuries he sustained as the result of the allegedly negligent operation of a pallet jack by a Rouses Markets' employee while Westbrook was delivering goods to the Rouses Markets' location in Spanish Fort during the course of his employment with Cardinal Logistics Management Corporation ("Cardinal"). The Alabama Supreme Court has stated previously that, "'since dismissal with prejudice is a drastic sanction, it is to be applied only in extreme situations' and that, as a result, 'appellate courts will carefully scrutinize such orders and occasionally will find it necessary to set them aside.'" The Court could not say that the circumstances presented by this case presented an extreme situation in which dismissal of Ace's claim for want of prosecution was warranted. Accordingly, it reversed the judgment of the trial court dismissing Ace's claim and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Ace American Insurance Company v. Rouse's Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Rouses Markets" on Justia Law

by
The Wilcox County Board of Education ("the Board"); Tyrone Yarbrough, individually and in his official capacity as the superintendent of the Board; and members of the Board Bernard Martin and Lester Turk, individually and in their official capacities, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order denying their motion to dismiss and to enter an order dismissing with prejudice all claims against them. Reginald Southall was a teacher at Wilcox Central High School. During a meeting of the Board in April 2013, then Superintendent Yarbrough recommended the nonrenewal of Southall's probationary contract. Five Board members were present during the vote. Normally, the Board consists of six members. One seat on the Board, however, was vacant at the time of the April 2013 meeting, due to an order of the circuit court enjoining the Board from filling the vacant seat. Thus, the Board conducted business with only five members during the April 2013 meeting. Upon a motion to accept Yarbrough's recommendation, three Board members voted in favor of not renewing the contract, one member opposed the recommendation, and one member abstained. Southall filed a petition seeking a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and a writ of mandamus, in which he asserted that, because of the vacancy on the Board, the termination of his employment was the result of an illegal vote of the Board in violation of 16-8-4, Ala. Code 1975. Under the limited circumstances of this particular case, a majority of the five members was all that was required to accept Yarbrough's recommendation not to renew Southall's probationary contract. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded the petitioners demonstrated a clear legal right to the order sought. The Supreme Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus directing the Wilcox Circuit Court to vacate its order, and to enter an order dismissing the underlying action. View "Ex parte Wilcox County Board of Education et al." on Justia Law