Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Landlord - Tenant
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Woodruff Brokerage Company, Inc., the remaining defendant in this case, appealed the trial court's denial of its motion to set aside the default judgment entered in favor of plaintiff Patricia Beatty. Beatty sued "Woodruff Brokerage Company d/b/a The River and formerly d/b/a Crest Club Apartments," Ricky Dabbs, "Century 21," and fictitiously named defendants. She lived in Crest Club Apartments, and alleged fatigue, nausea, and weakness were cause from prolonged exposure to carbon monoxide from a leaking natural-gas line beneath her bedroom, and that she had been permanently injured as a result of that exposure. Beatty asserted that Woodruff Brokerage had negligently and/or wantonly failed to maintain the premises at Crest Club Apartments in a safe condition. Woodruff defended on faulty service; the Alabama Supreme Court determined there was no properly named addressee on the certified mail allegedly sent to Woodruff, and thus, Beatty failed to prove that the complaint and summons was delivered to "the named addressee" or to the "addressee's agent." Because Beatty's service by certified mail was ineffective, the trial court did not obtain personal jurisdiction over Woodruff Brokerage, and the default judgment against it was void. Therefore, the trial court erred when it denied Woodruff Brokerage's motion to set aside the default judgment. View "Woodruff Brokerage Company, Inc. v. Beatty" on Justia Law

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Since November 2012, LNM1, LLC, operated a gasoline station and convenience store in Greensboro, Alabama under a lease agreement with the owner of the property, TP Properties, LLC. In August 2017, TP Properties sued LNM1 and its owner Mohamed Alsahqani seeking to terminate the lease because LNM1 had not maintained all the required insurance coverages. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of TP Properties, holding that LNM1's failure to maintain the insurance required by the lease agreement constituted a material breach of that agreement, thus entitling TP Properties to terminate the lease. Finding no reversible error in that judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "LNM1, LLC, and Mohamed Alsahqani v. TP Properties, LLC" on Justia Law

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Magic City Capital, LLC ("Magic City"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered by the Madison Circuit Court in favor of Twickenham Place Partners, LLC ("Twickenham"). Because the Alabama Supreme Court determined events that occurred during the trial-court proceedings rendered the action moot and the trial court, therefore, was divested of subject-matter jurisdiction, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Magic City Capital, LLC v. Twickenham Place Partners, LLC" on Justia Law

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CityR Eagle Landing, LLC ("CityR"), and Foresite Realty Management, LLC ("Foresite"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Montgomery Circuit Court to vacate its order appointing Kia Scott as guardian ad litem for certain minor parties to the underlying action against CityR and Foresite. In 2016, residents of Eagle Landing Apartments, an apartment complex owned by CityR and managed by Foresite, sued CityR and Foresite, among others. They asserted claims of breach of contract, breach of implied warranty, negligence, wantonness, premises liability, negligent hiring, trespass, and nuisance, all arising out of conditions at the apartment complex. The residents were adults living in the apartments with their minor children, who were represented in the action by their parents. All the residents were represented by legal counsel. The Supreme Court determined the trial court exceeded its discretion in appointing a guardian ad litem to represent the minor residents when there was no conflict of interest between the minor residents and their parents. "At this point in the proceedings . . . the parents' interests are aligned with those of their children. . . . [W]ith nothing before us to reflect a conflict of interest between any parent and child involved as parties in the litigation, and no proposed settlement agreement currently before the trial court for review, there is no need for a guardian ad litem for the remaining minors at this stage of the proceedings." Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted the petition and issued the writ, directing the trial court to rescind its order of April 4, 2019, appointing the guardian ad litem to represent the remaining minor residents. View "Ex parte CityR Eagle Landing, LLC" on Justia Law

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Trinity Property Consultants, LLC ("Trinity Property"), petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari to review the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals holding that Trinity Property failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that Brittony Mays had been properly served in an eviction and unlawful-detainer action filed by Trinity Property pursuant to the Alabama Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act, section 35- 9A-101 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. In 2018, the District Court entered a default judgment against Mays in the eviction and unlawful-detainer action filed by Trinity Property. Mays moved the district court, pursuant to Rule 60(b)(4), Ala. R. Civ. P., to set aside the default judgment on the basis that she had not been served with the complaint in the action; that motion was denied. Mays appealed the denial of the Rule 60(b)(4) motion to the Shelby Circuit Court; that court dismissed her appeal as untimely filed. Mays moved the circuit court, pursuant to Rule 59(e), Ala. R. Civ. P., to reinstate the appeal and to stay the execution of the default judgment. Trinity Property responded with an affidavit from the process server, who averred in relevant part he posted and mailed the summons and complaint when he did not receive a response from knocking on Mays’ front door. Mays's position was that merely knocking on the door, without more, was not a "reasonable effort" at personal service. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the process server’s effort at obtaining personal service was reasonable, the alternative method of service satisfied the requirements of due process. The Court reversed judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "Ex parte Trinity Property Consultants, LLC." on Justia Law

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Wilcox Investment Group, LLC, Foley Investment Partners, LLC, and Wilcox Communities, LLC ("Wilcox Communities") (collectively referred to as "Wilcox"), appealed a circuit court judgment awarding P&D, LLC, $122,291 on P&D's claims alleging the breach of two leases involving two condominium units formerly owned by P&D. P&D appealed the trial court's judgment on the grounds that the damages the trial court awarded were insufficient and that the trial court erred in failing to award it attorney fees. The Supreme Court consolidated the appeals for the purpose of writing one opinion. After review, the Supreme Court concluded that Wilcox was not bound by the leases, and it therefore could not be held liable for a refusal to pay rent under the leases. The trial court erred in concluding otherwise. This result pretermitted any need to discuss Wilcox's argument that the trial court awarded P&D a remedy to which it was not entitled under the leases. The Court's decision also mooted the issues presented by P&D's cross-appeal as to whether the trial court erred in failing to award P&D: (1) past-due rent; (2) the actual value of the two units lost as a consequence of the alleged breach of the leases; and (3) attorney fees. In sum, the trial court's judgment against Wilcox was reversed and P&D's cross-appeal was dismissed. View "Wilcox Investment Group, LLC et al. v. P&D, LLC" on Justia Law

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This case first went before the Alabama Supreme Court in "Ex parte Riverfront, LLC," (129 So. 3d 1008 (Ala. 2013)("Riverfront I")). In Riverfront I, Riverfront and Fish Market Restaurants, Inc. had entered into a lease for real property located in Gadsden. The lease contained a forum-selection clause naming Tuscaloosa County as the venue in which any litigation concerning the lease was to be brought. In determining that the forum-selection clause was enforceable, the Supreme Court held that Tuscaloosa County was not a "seriously inconvenient" forum. The Etowah Circuit Court transferred the action to the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. Shortly thereafter, Fish Market filed a motion to transfer the action, then pending in the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court, back to the Etowah Circuit Court, citing section 6-3-21.1, Ala. Code 1975, that Tuscaloosa County "would be a seriously inconvenient forum." Riverfront responded, arguing that "[t]he issue stated in [Fish Market's] Motion to Transfer has previously been litigated between the parties, and adjudicated in [Riverfront's] favor by the Alabama Supreme Court." The Tuscaloosa Circuit Court held a hearing on Fish Market's motion and granted it. Riverfront then petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to vacate its order transferring the case back to the Etowah Circuit Court. The Supreme Court found, after review, that Fish Market could have challenged Tuscaloosa County as a "seriously inconvenient" forum in the Etowah Circuit Court and before the Supreme Court in Riverfront I. "Fish Market did not do so and may not now have a second bite at the forum apple and relitigate that issue. The matter has been decided." The Supreme Court granted Riverfront's petition and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Riverfront, LLC." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Yan Chen, who had a business interest in a restaurant, entered into a 10-year lease agreement with Russell Realty, LLC, and MRT, LLC. The property to be leased was located in Greenville. The lease agreement was drafted by Russell Realty and contained an arbitration clause. In 2012, Russell Realty and MRT sued Chen along with Qiaoyun He, Joe Zou, and Yami Buffet, Inc., alleging breach of contract. Chen filed a response to the motion, alleging that she had been in China for a few months, and that she had not been personally served with notice of the lawsuit. She subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, asserting that the lease agreement contained an arbitration clause and that "said complaint[] fails to state any measures that have been taken in lieu of the fulfillment of such agreed Arbitration Clause." The trial court denied both Russell Realty and MRT's motion for a default judgment and Chen's motion to dismiss. About a month after this, Chen filed a motion to compel arbitration, asserting that, as "part of Plaintiffs['] lease agreement, plaintiff[s] agreed to binding arbitration. In 2013, Chen filed a second motion to dismiss, alleging that Russell Realty and MRT had refused to mediate and had refused to arbitrate. Russell Realty and MRT filed an objection to Chen's second motion to dismiss, asserting that "time of the stay set by the court has almost expired and Defendant Yan Chen has not made any movement, act, or effort to seek Arbitration to resolve the issues." Russell Realty and MRT again sought a default judgment against the defendants, including Chen. She asserted that counsel for Russell Realty and MRT had failed to respond to her attempts to seek a settlement before the hiring of a mediator or arbitrator and that, subsequently, she had contacted a mediator/arbitrator and Russell Realty and MRT had not responded to her choice of mediator/arbitrator. The trial court then entered an order stating that the Chen's appeal was moot as the court had not yet entered a final order. In early 2015, the trial court entered an order awarding Russell Realty and MRT $682,050.10 against all the defendants, including Chen, jointly and severally. Chen appealed. Based on its review of the facts in the circuit court record, the Supreme Court reversed with regard to Chen and remanded the case for the trial court to enter an order requiring arbitration in accordance with the terms of the lease agreement. View "Chen v. Russell Realty, LLC" on Justia Law

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Cantrell Brown appealed the grant of the writ of mandamus by the Court of Civil Appeals to Arlington Properties, Inc. Arlington filed an unlawful detainer claim against Brown in district court in 2009. After a trial, the district court rendered judgment in favor of Arlington on July 21. The court advised Brown that she had until August 4 to appeal the judgment. The judgment was entered into the State Judicial Information System on July 27; Brown filed her appeal August 4. Arlington moved to dismiss the appeal as untimely filed, which the district court denied. At issue in this case before the Supreme Court was the delay between the court's judgment at trial and the official entry of the judgment, and whether Brown's appeal was indeed timely filed. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that Brown's appeal was timely filed, and that the circuit court properly denied Arlington's motion to dismiss. View "Arlington Properties, Inc. v. Brown" on Justia Law

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Two appeals between MPQ, Inc. (d/b/a Freedom Enterprises) and Birmingham Realty Company were consolidated by the Supreme Court for the purposes of this opinion. The parties entered into a commercial lease agreement. Birmingham Realty filed suit against MPQ for unpaid rent in circuit court. MPQ filed a counterclaim. Birmingham Realty filed a separate unlawful-detainer action against MPQ in district court. The district court dismissed the detainer action, reasoning that the simultaneous actions in the district and circuit courts violated Alabama's abatement statute. Birmingham Realty appealed the district court's dismissal to the circuit court and filed a motion to dismiss MPQ's counterclaim. The circuit court conducted a hearing on all pending motions. It then entered an order affirming the district court's dismissal of the unlawful-detainer action and dismissed MPQ's counterclaims in the rent action. The court suggested that Birmingham Realty move to dismiss the rent action without prejudice so it could refile its unlawful-detainer action in the district court and then later refile an action in circuit court to seek the unpaid rent. Birmingham Realty took the court's advice and filed the suggested motions. MPQ filed a motion to alter, amend or vacate the court's decision in its counterclaim. The circuit court did not rule on either motion. The parties appealed to the Supreme Court. Upon review, the Supreme Court found Birmingham Realty's appeal from the district court to the circuit court was not timely, and as such, the court did not have jurisdiction over the appeal. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal and cross-appeal with regard to the unlawful-detainer action and remanded the remaining issues for further proceedings. View "MPQ, Inc. v. Birmingham Realty Co." on Justia Law