Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Deborah Barnhart, Brooke Balch, and Vickie Henderson, current and former officers of the Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission ("the Commission") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief. The Commission sought to have the circuit court dismiss the claims asserted against them in the underlying class action or, in the alternative, to vacate the order certifying those claims for class-action treatment. The Commission is required by law to maintain records of its revenue and expenditures and to periodically make those records available for audit by the Department of Examiners of Public Accounts ("DEPA"). After an audit, DEPA determined the Commission had not complied with Alabama law (1) in its payment of annual longevity bonuses to Commission employees and (2) in the manner it compensated Commission employees for working on certain State holidays. The Commission disagreed with the results of the audit; none of the recommended changes were made, and as a result, several former Commission employees sued the Commission and the Commission officers, alleging that the plaintiffs, as well as other past and present Commission employees, had not received all the compensation to which they were entitled during their tenures as Commission employees. The Supreme Court determined the Commission did not establish the named plaintiffs’ retrospective relief and declaratory relief claims were barred by the doctrine of State immunity, and the trial court did not err by dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. However, the individual-capacities claims were barred inasmuch as those claims were essentially claims against the State regardless of the manner in which they have been asserted, and the trial court accordingly erred by not dismissing those claims for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Further, the named plaintiffs met their burden for class certification, and the trial court did not exceed its discretion by certifying their retrospective-relief and declaratory-relief claims for class-action treatment. Accordingly, the trial court's order certifying this action for class treatment was reversed insofar as it certified the individual-capacities claims; in all other respects it was affirmed. View "Barnhart v. Ingalls" on Justia Law

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The Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission ("the Commission") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief to direct the circuit court to dismiss a complaint against it filed by Bryan Grimmett. The Commission revoked Grimmett's law-enforcement certification. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed that portion of the trial court's judgment fully reinstating Grimmett's law-enforcement certification because Grimmett had conceded in the record that he had not satisfied the 80-hour refresher-training course required for reinstatement of his certification. At the time the Court of Civil Appeals issued its May 2017 opinion, the Commission had in place a rule requiring a previously certified law-enforcement officer absent from employment as a law-enforcement officer for two years or more to successfully complete an approved 80-hour academy recertification course. In October 2017, the Commission amended its rule on certification to include, among other things, a provision that, if the Commission approves an application for admission to certification training of a law-enforcement officer absent from law enforcement for more than 10 years, that applicant must satisfactorily complete the regular basic-training academy, which is a 520-hour course. It was undisputed that Grimmett had been not employed as a law-enforcement officer since 2000. Grimmett filed his complaint with the circuit court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against the Commission, asserting that he was provisionally offered a job in law enforcement in December 2017; that he attempted to enroll in the 80-hour refresher- training program; and that the Commission refused to allow him to enroll in the refresher-training program, instead requiring him to complete the full 520-hour basic-academy training course. The Commission moved the circuit court to dismiss the complaint on the ground that the Commission, as an agency of the State of Alabama, is entitled to sovereign immunity. Finding that the Commission established a clear legal right to mandamus relief, the Alabama Supreme Court granted its petition and directed the circuit court to dismiss Grimmett's complaint. View "Ex parte Ex parte Alabama Peace Officers' Standards and Training Commission." 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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Paul Irwin, Jr., appealed a final judgment of the Jefferson Circuit Court dismissing his claim for injunctive relief against the Jefferson County Personnel Board ("the Board") and the City of Trussville ("Trussville"). This case arose from Trussville's desire to hire a police chief following the retirement of its former chief. Trussville interviewed Irwin and two other candidates from a certified list of candidates. Trussville did not hire Irwin or any other candidate from the certified list supplied by the Board in January 2017. Instead, Trussville returned the list to the Board and requested that the Board administer a new test for the position of Police Chief II. On January 23, 2017, the Board "expired" the eligibility list. On January 27, 2017, the Board also approved Trussville's request to hire a provisional police chief until such time as a new assessment examination could be administered and a new eligibility list generated. On March 1, 2017, Irwin sued the Board and Trussville, contending that, once the Board issued to Trussville a certified list of eligible candidates for the position of police chief, Trussville was required to hire a candidate from that list and had no discretion to leave the position unfilled. The complaint sought only injunctive relief. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the specific actions Irwin sought to enjoin –- the administration of a new examination for the position of Trussville's police chief and the appointment of a candidate to the position of police chief who was not on the January 2017 certified list –- have since occurred. Accordingly, it was impossible to provide Irwin the relief he requested. Irwin's appeal was dismissed. View "Irwin v. Jefferson County Personnel Board" on Justia Law