Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Labor & Employment Law
Women’s Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter
Consolidated appeals arose from an employment dispute between Dr. Margot Potter and her former employer, Women's Care Specialists, P.C. ("Women's Care"), and out of a dispute between Potter and three Women's Care employees: Dr. Karla Kennedy, Dr. Elizabeth Barron, and Beth Ann Dorsett ("the WC employees"). In case no. CV-21-903797, Potter alleged claims of defamation, tortious interference with a business relationship, and breach of contract against Women's Care. In case no. CV-21-903798, Potter alleged claims of defamation and tortious interference with a business relationship against the WC employees. After the cases were consolidated by the circuit court, Women's Care and the WC employees moved to compel arbitration on the basis that Potter's claims were within the scope of the arbitration provision in Potter's employment agreement with Women's Care and that the arbitration provision governed their disputes even though Potter was no longer a Women's Care employee. The trial court denied those motions. In appeal no. SC-2022-0706, the Alabama Supreme Court held Potter's breach of-contract claim and her tort claims against Women's Care were subject to arbitration. In appeal no. SC-2022-0707, the Court likewise held Potter's tort claims against the WC employees were subject to arbitration. The trial court's orders were denied and the cases remanded for further proceedings. View "Women's Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter" on Justia Law
Protective Life Insurance Company v. Jenkins
Protective Life Insurance Company ("Protective") appealed a circuit court judgment dismissing its action against Andrew Chong Jenkins pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P. Jenkins was an executive employed by Protective at its corporate headquarters in Birmingham. In October 2019, Jenkins gave notice to Protective that he was terminating his employment. A month after the notice's effective date, $105,230 was entered into Protective's accounting system as the amount of deferred compensation owed to Jenkins. In reality, Protective owed Jenkins only $1,052.30. After Protective deducted taxes and withholdings, Jenkins was mistakenly overpaid by $73,752.64. Protective asserted the reason for the two-digit mistake was a data-entry error. Protective's payroll department discovered the error and communicated this fact to Jenkins, ultimately sending him a letter detailing the overpayment and asking him to repay the money. When he didn't return the money, Protective Life filed suit, asserting claims of breach of contract, unjust enrichment, money paid by mistake, and account stated. Jenkins moved to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that Protective's claims were barred under the two-year statute of limitations contained in § 6-2-38(m), Ala. Code 1975. The circuit court granted the motion to dismiss, finding that the purpose of the action was to recover wages and, thus, that it was barred under § 6-2-38(m). Protective unsuccessfully moved to vacate, and appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the statute of limitations contained in § 6-3-38(m) is inapplicable to this case. Accordingly, the circuit court's judgment was reversed, and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Protective Life Insurance Company v. Jenkins" on Justia Law
Amanda Howard Real Estate, LLC v. Lee, et al.
Amanda Howard Real Estate, LLC ("Howard Real Estate"), appealed a partial summary judgment in favor of Clair Lee and JRHBW Realty, Inc. ("RealtySouth"), in Howard Real Estate's suit to enforce a noncompete agreement against Lee. The circuit court ruled that the noncompete agreement was void because it was not signed by both parties as required by statute. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the judgment because none of Howard Real Estate's arguments established that it satisfied the statutory signatures requirement. View "Amanda Howard Real Estate, LLC v. Lee, et al." on Justia Law
Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al.
Petitioners Insurance Express, LLC ("Insurance Express"), Wayne Taylor, and Julie Singley sought a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to vacate an order staying the underlying action against defendants Lynne Ernest Insurance, LLC ("LEI"), Lynne Ernest, Chynna Ernest, and Deadra Stokley. According to the complaint, Lynne and Stokley were longtime employees of Insurance Express. It alleged that they, while still employed by Insurance Express, entered Insurance Express's office after business hours and, without authorization, made electronic copies of various business records related to Insurance Express's clients and insurance policies. Lynne and Stokley resigned soon after and began employment with LEI, which purportedly had been formed by Lynne and Chynna and was a direct competitor of Insurance Express. Lynne and Stokley, it is alleged, then induced some Insurance Express clients to transfer their policies to LEI. Insurance Express sought injunctive relief to, among other things, prevent defendants from communicating with past or current customers of Insurance Express and to require defendants to return any customer information taken by them. It further sought damages for breach of contract, conversion, intentional interference with business relations, breach of fiduciary duty, and civil conspiracy. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to the relief they sought. The Court granted their petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order granting a stay. View "Ex parte Insurance Express, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Ex parte Morgan, et al.
Dr. William Morgan, Dr. Carol Zippert, Morris Hardy, Leo Branch, Sr., and Carrie Dancy, each of whom is or was a member of the Greene County Board of Education ("the Board"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Greene Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor on the individual-capacity claims asserted against them by Dr. Rhinnie B. Scott. Scott had been an employee of the Board for over two decades. For most of that time, she served as "Vocational Director." During the 2007-2008 school year, Scott was asked by the president of the Board at that time, Elzora Fluker, to serve as "Acting Principal" at Greene County High School ("GCHS"). During a search for a school principal in the 2010-2011 school year, Scott was tapped to serve as "Instructional Leader" for GCHS in addition to her regular function of Vocational Director. The purpose of such designation was for Dr. Scott to serve as the leader of the school until a principal was selected. At the time of that decision, the period of time of the designation was thought to be only a few weeks at most. Problems arose, however, with the selection, and Dr. Scott ended up having to serve in the position for the entire 2010-2011 school year. Scott filed a grievance with the Board in 2014 concerning her claim that she had not been compensated for her service as "Instructional Leader," which she deemed to be service as the de facto acting principal, at GCHS during the 2010-2011 school year. Additionally, Scott presented a claim that she had been "underpaid by approximately $1,664.00" each year since 2007 because, she asserted, the Board had "inadvertently reduc[ed] the annual pay for the Vocational Director." The Board denied Scott's grievance claims. Because Scott conceded that no genuine issues of material fact remained to be decided with respect to her individual-capacity claims against the Board members, the Board members were entitled to summary judgment concerning those remaining claims. Therefore, the Supreme Court granted the Board members' petition for a writ of mandamus. View "Ex parte Morgan, et al." on Justia Law
Watters, et al. v. Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology, et al.
Plaintiffs Karen Watters and Cheryl Yarbrough appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology ("Alabama Oncology"), and Brian Adler on their claims alleging defamation and wantonness. Plaintiffs were formerly employed by Alabama Oncology. In August 2019, an anonymous letter was delivered to various physicians at several Alabama Oncology locations. The letter alleged that there had been illegal and unethical behavior by four staff members, two of whom were plaintiffs, and that there was "a massive lawsuit brewing." The letter also warned that an attorney would be contacting Alabama Oncology regarding a class-action lawsuit. In response to the letter, Alabama Oncology's executive director, Chris Barnes, contacted Alabama Oncology's outside legal counsel, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP ("Bradley Arant") for advice on responding to the letter and preparing for the threatened litigation. Bradley Arant began conducting an internal investigation regarding the allegations in the anonymous letter. Ultimately, after the conclusion of the internal investigation, Alabama Oncology terminated plaintiffs' employment. Plaintiffs sued Alabama Oncology, and certain executive staff, alleging that their employment had been wrongfully terminated based on the executives' conspiracy to defame the plaintiffs and the results of what they alleged was a "sham investigation." The Alabama Supreme Court found that plaintiffs' "bare assertion that they satisfied their burden to defeat the summary-judgment motion" was insufficient to warrant reversal; the Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "Watters, et al. v. Birmingham Hematology and Oncology Associates, LLC, d/b/a Alabama Oncology, et al." on Justia Law
Women’s Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter
Consolidated appeals stemmed from an employment dispute between Dr. Margot G. Potter and her former employer, Women's Care Specialists, P.C. ("Women's Care"), and out of a dispute between Potter and three Women's Care employees: Dr. Karla Kennedy, Dr. Elizabeth Barron, and Beth Ann Dorsett ("the WC employees"). In case no. CV-21-903797, Potter alleged claims of defamation, tortious interference with a business relationship, and breach of contract against Women's Care. In case no. CV-21-903798, Potter alleged claims of defamation and tortious interference with a business relationship against the WC employees. After the trial court consolidated the cases, Women's Care and the WC employees filed motions to compel arbitration on the basis that Potter's claims were within the scope of the arbitration provision in Potter's employment agreement with Women's Care and that the arbitration provision governed their disputes even though Potter was no longer a Women's Care employee. The trial court entered an order denying those motions. Women's Care and the WC employees separately appealed; the Alabama Supreme Court consolidated the appeals. In appeal no. SC-2022-0706, the Supreme Court held that Potter's breach of-contract claim and her tort claims against Women's Care were subject to arbitration. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's order denying Women's Care's motion to compel arbitration. In appeal no. SC-2022-0707, the Supreme Court held that Potter's tort claims against the WC employees were subject to arbitration. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's order denying their motion to compel arbitration, and remanded both cases for further proceedings. View "Women's Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter" on Justia Law
Ex parte Midsouth Paving, Inc., et al.
Midsouth Paving, Inc. ("Midsouth"), and Christopher Nivert petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Tallapoosa Circuit Court ("the trial court") to enter a summary judgment in their favor in an action commenced against them by Yvonne Mason. Mason worked for PeopleReady, a temporary staffing agency, at Midsouth jobsites. PeopleReady initially provided Mason with a hard hat, sunblock, water, and a vest with "Midsouth" printed on it, and Mason kept those items in her automobile. At the job site, Midsouth employees directed and supervised Mason's job duties. Mason was working at a Midsouth job site when Nivert unintentionally drove his pilot vehicle into Mason while he was making a three-point turn. Mason's leg was severely injured, and she received multiple surgeries and remained in a hospital and then a rehabilitation facility for over a month. PeopleReady began paying workers' compensation benefits to Mason after the accident and also paid or her continued medical care. Pursuant to the labor-supply agreement, Midsouth was an insured alternate employer under PeopleReady's workers' compensation insurance policy. Mason also filed the underlying lawsuit alleging claims of negligence; wantonness; negligent hiring, training, and supervision; and negligence per se. Midsouth's motion for summary judgment was denied, leading to the mandamus relief requested in this case. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court found Mason's claims against Midsouth and Nivert were barred by § 25-5-11, § 25-5-52, and § 25-5-53, Ala. Code 1975, of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act ("the Act"), § 25-5-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition and directed the trial court to enter a summary judgment in favor of Midsouth and Nivert. View "Ex parte Midsouth Paving, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Flickinger v. King
Birmingham attorney Daniel Flickinger posted a message on his personal Facebook social-media page in which he appeared to reference the death George Floyd, which occurred while Floyd was being arrested and was recorded. The social-media post, along with an allegedly "counterfeit" social-media "profile," was later shared with Flickinger's supervising attorney at his law firm by Lawrence Tracy King, an attorney with the Birmingham law firm of King Simmons Ford & Spree, P.C. Shortly thereafter, Flickinger was forced to resign. Flickinger's post was also shared by members of a "private" Facebook group, who then posted a series of offensive comments about him both personally and professionally. Flickinger sued King and the King law firm asserting claims of defamation, invasion of privacy, and tortious interference with a business relationship. The King defendants filed a motion to dismiss Flickinger's claims pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., and the circuit court granted the motion. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment insofar as it dismissed Flickinger's defamation and invasion-of-privacy claims. However, the Court reversed the trial court's judgment insofar as it dismissed Flickinger's tortious-interference claim, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Flickinger v. King" on Justia Law
Davis v. Montevallo
Ed Davis sued the City of Montevallo ("the City") claiming that the City was in breach of contract because, in terminating his employment with the City, it failed to follow certain discharge procedures set out in an employee handbook it had issued to him. The City responded by arguing it was not required to follow the handbook's procedures because Davis was an at-will employee. After entertaining motions for summary judgment from both sides, the trial court ruled in favor of the City. Davis appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court's summary judgment in favor of the City. "The Handbook was an offer for a unilateral contract, which Davis accepted by continuing his employment with the City. Because the Handbook constitutes a unilateral contract, we reverse the trial court's denial of Davis's motion for partial summary judgment and direct the trial court on remand to determine whether, in fact, the City violated the Handbook's terms." View "Davis v. Montevallo" on Justia Law