Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Real Estate & Property Law
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Capitol Farmers Market, Inc. appealed a circuit court order entered in favor of Cindy C. Warren Delongchamp. In 2003, Delongchamp acquired two adjacent parcels of property burdened by restrictive covenants by her predecessor-in-interest. In 2015, Capitol Farmers Market acquired two adjacent parcels of property. The parties agreed that one of the parcels ("the Capitol Farmers Market property") was included within the property similarly burdened by the restrictive covenants (the 1982 Declaration). The Capitol Farmers Market property abutted the Delongchamp property; it was undisputed that the other parcel acquired by Capitol Farmers Market was not subject to the restrictive covenants set out in the 1982 Declaration. In September 2017, Delongchamp filed a complaint in the circuit court that, as amended, sought a declaratory judgment and injunctive relief regarding the Capitol Farmers Market property, alleging that Capitol Farmers Market was planning to "subdivide the Capitol [Farmers Market p]roperty into a high density residential subdivision with proposed lots being substantially less than the required five (5) acre minimum." Delongchamp sought a judgment declaring that the Capitol Farmers Market property was encumbered by the restrictive covenants set out in the 1982 Declaration and that Capitol Farmers Market was required to abide by the restrictive covenants on the Capitol Farmers Market property. Delongchamp also sought an injunction restraining Capitol Farmers Market from "violating" the restrictive covenants set out in the 1982 Declaration "to include, but not limited to, subdividing the Capitol [Farmers Market] property into lots less than five (5) acres." In August 2019, the special master filed a report of his findings and his recommendation in the circuit court. On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court determined an adjacent property owner, whose property was also burdened by the 1982 covenants, should have been joined as a party to this action. "If Alfa cannot be made a party, the circuit court should consider the reasons Alfa cannot be joined and decide whether the action should proceed in Alfa's absence. In light of the foregoing, we express no opinion concerning the merits of the arguments made by the parties on appeal." View "Capitol Farmers Market, Inc. v. Delongchamp" on Justia Law

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Synergies3 Tec Services, LLC ("Synergies3"), and DIRECTV, LLC ("DIRECTV"), appealed a circuit court judgment in favor of Lisa Corvo and Thomas Bonds and against Synergies3 and DIRECTV based on the doctrine of respondeat superior and a claim alleging negligent hiring, training, and supervision. Corvo and her fiance Bonds sued Daniel McLaughlin, Raymond Castro, and DIRECTV in the trial court, asserting claims of conversion and theft as to a diamond that had been removed from an engagement ring and $160 cash that, they alleged, had been taken from the master bedroom of Corvo's house on Ono Island when McLaughlin and Castro, employees of Synergies3, installed DIRECTV equipment in Corvo's house. Corvo and Bonds asserted the conversion and theft claims against DIRECTV under the doctrine of respondeat superior and, in addition, asserted claims against DIRECTV of negligent and wanton hiring, training, and supervision. They also sought damages for mental anguish and punitive damages. While the Alabama Supreme Court found the trial court did not err in denying Synergies3 and DIRECTV's motion for a judgment as a matter of law as to Corvo and Bonds's claim of negligent hiring, training, and supervision of Castro, but that punitive damages were improperly awarded. Judgment was reversed insofar as it held Synergies3 and DIRECTV vicariously or directly liable on the claims of theft and conversion, and insofar as it awarded punitive damages. The judgment was affirmed insofar as it held Synergies3 and DIRECTV liable for the negligent hiring, training, and supervision of Castro and awarded compensatory and mental-anguish damages. View "Synergies3 Tec Services, LLC, et al. v. Corvo" on Justia Law

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Leah Brown, Robert Allen Brown ("Allen"), and Cheryl Woddail ("Cheryl") were heirs of Pauline Brown ("Brown"), who died without a will. Leah, Allen, and Cheryl appealed a circuit court judgment authorizing Ellen Berry-Pratt, the administrator of Brown's estate, to sell certain real property owned by Brown at the time of her death. Because Leah, Allen, and Cheryl did not establish the circuit court erred by entering its judgment in favor of Berry-Pratt, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Brown v. Berry-Pratt, as successor administrator of the Estate of Pauline Brown" on Justia Law

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Mark Stiff's property was sold at a tax sale that took place inside the Bessemer courthouse instead of "in front of the door of the courthouse" as required by section 40-10-15, Ala. Code 1975. He argued that the sale was void because of that irregularity. To that, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed and therefore reversed the circuit court's judgment refusing to set aside the tax sale. "The tax-sale statutes include a clear list of procedures designed to protect the rights of property owners and the public. The requirement that a tax sale be held in a uniform public location encourages fairness and transparency, and it supports the legitimacy of the tax-sale system as a whole. If the 'in front of the door of the courthouse' requirement is no longer important to Alabamians, it is up to the legislature (not the courts) to remove it." View "Stiff v. Equivest Financial, LLC" on Justia Law

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Kevin Crook appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Allstate Indemnity Company ("Allstate Indemnity"), Allstate Insurance Company ("Allstate Insurance"), and The Barker Agency (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the defendants"). Crook owns lake-front property in Tuscaloosa County. The property consists of a house, a bathhouse, a garage, a deck, and a boat dock. In 2006, Crook, through The Barker Agency, obtained property insurance on the house and other structures from Allstate Indemnity. Allstate Indemnity issued a policy to Crook ("the policy") and provided uninterrupted insurance coverage of Crook's house from 2006 through 2015. On February 12, 2015, Allstate Indemnity conducted an inspection of the property for underwriting purposes. After the inspection, on February 23, 2015, The Barker Agency sent Crook a letter with the results, finding no "issues that impact [Crook's] current coverage, and you do not need to do anything further. ...our inspection... focused only on identifying certain types of hazards or conditions that might impact your future insurance coverage. It may not have identified some other hazards of conditions on your property." In April 2015, a storm damaged the deck and the boat dock. Ultimately, Crook sued defendants for breach of contract, bad-faith failure to pay a claim, negligent/wanton procurement of insurance, and estoppel, all relating to the policy's coverage of the storm damage. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found no reversible error in the grant of summary judgment in favor of defendants and affirmed. View "Crook v. Allstate Indemnity Company, et al." on Justia Law

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Nancy Beamon, personal representative of the estate of Lois P. Arnott, filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting that the Alabama Supreme Court order the Washington Circuit Court to dismiss the complaint filed against her by Bruce Allen Arnott. Donovan Arnott, Jr., was married to Lois Arnott. The two were residents of Lee County, Georgia. Bruce was the son of Donovan and Lois. Lois had two children from a prior marriage, Beamon and John Edward Terry. Donovan adopted Beamon but did not adopt Terry. Donovan died testate in 2014. In his will, Donovan left a house and two lots located in Clarke County to Lois. Donovan devised a remainder fee-simple interest in the "Atchison" tract to Bruce; a reminder fee-simple interest in the Smith tract to Beamon; and a remainder fee-simple interest in the "Taylor" tract to Terry. Lois died testate in 2017. In his complaint, Bruce alleged Lois, as the life tenant to the Atchison tract, had timber on the land clear cut in 2016, and took no steps to replant trees as was required by the terms of Donovan's will. Bruce argued the obligation of timber regeneration passed to Lois' estate. Bruce alleged though the estate promised to compensate him (as the remainder person), but made no payment. The Alabama Supreme Court granted Beamon's petition for mandamus relief: Bruce's claim was, in actuality, a claim against Lois's estate and that he was suing Beamon in her capacity as the executor of Lois's estate. However, Beamon, in her capacity as the executor of Lois's estate, had no authority to defend a suit in Alabama because the letters testamentary appointing her were issued by the Georgia court. Therefore, the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction over claims against Beamon in her capacity as the executor of Lois's estate. Accordingly, it erred when it denied Beamon's motion to dismiss the claims against her. View "Ex parte Nancy Beamon." on Justia Law

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In December 2016, Geraldine Daniels was residing at the Hawthorne at Lily-Flagg apartment complex, which was owned by Hawthorne-Midway Lily Flagg, LLC ("Hawthorne-Midway"), and managed by Hawthorne Residential Partners, LLC, and its community manager, Tracy Wiley. Daniels sued Hawthorne-Midway and Wiley for damages resulting from injuries she suffered when she fell while stepping off a sidewalk at the complex. Daniels appealed summary judgment entered in favor of Hawthorne-Midway and Wiley. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed: Daniels did not demonstrate any genuine issue of material fact that prevented Hawthorne-Midway and Wiley from being entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Daniels v. Hawthorne-Midway Lily Flagg, LLC" on Justia Law

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Pentagon Federal Credit Union ("PenFed") appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Susan McMahan. McMahan and her husband purchased property in Loxley, Alabama in 2005. The purchase mortgage was provided by Wells Fargo bank, and a second mortgage was granted in favor of PenFed. In pertinent part, the PenFed mortgage stated "At no time shall this mortgage, not including sums advanced to protect the security of this mortgage, exceed $55,000.00. ... [PenFed] shall be subrogated to the rights of the holder of any previous lien, security interest, or encumbrance discharged with funds advanced by [PenFed] regardless of whether these liens, security interests or other encumbrances have been released of record." In 2014, the McMahans filed for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection, listing both the Wells Fargo and PenFed mortgages. Both Wells Fargo and PenFed ultimately foreclosed on the mortgages. The McMahans' bankruptcy case was dismissed in late 2015. The Wells Fargo debt/lien and the PenFed debt were not discharged in the bankruptcy proceedings. PenFed filed suit against Wells Fargo to quiet title as the first lien holder to the McMahan property by virtue of the PenFed mortgage, the foreclosure deed, and the erroneous legal description in the Wells Fargo mortgage. PenFed did not notify or make McMahan a party to that lawsuit. That lawsuit was never tried to conclusion but was settled, and PenFed paid Wells Fargo $91,256.54 to satisfy the [Wells Fargo] note and in exchange for a cancellation and release of the Wells Fargo mortgage. PenFed did not acquire the right to enforce the Wells Fargo note and/or mortgage. Within one year of the foreclosure, PenFed sold the property, leaving the McMahans with a deficiency balance of $14,433.41. PenFed's calculation of the post-foreclosure-sale surplus proceeds excluded the $91,256.54 that PenFed paid to Wells Fargo to satisfy the Wells Fargo note and cancel the Wells Fargo mortgage. In 2018, McMahan sued PenFed, alleging PenFed's sale of the property to third-party purchasers created excess proceeds greater than what PenFed was entitled to received under the original note. The circuit court concluded PenFed could not exclude the surplus proceeds it paid to Wells Fargo to settle the Wells Fargo mortgage. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred in characterizing the doctrine of unjust enrichment as an affirmative defense. Accordingly, PenFed did not waive the defense of unjust enrichment by failing to plead it in its responsive pleadings. Instead, PenFed raised the argument to the circuit court at trial and in its trial brief; the argument was properly before the circuit court. Judgment was reversed for further consideration of the merits of PenFed's unjust-enrichment argument. View "Pentagon Federal Credit Union v. McMahan" on Justia Law

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Tamikia Everheart; Cardell Coachman, by and through his mother and next friend Johnitia Coachman; Michael Coleman, as administrator of the estate of Diane McGlown; Mary Weatherspoon; and Elizabeth McElroy, as administratrix of the estate of Jakobie Johnson (collectively, "plaintiffs"), filed four separate of summary judgments entered in their separate cases by the Jefferson Circuit Court in favor of Rucker Place, LLC, and Savoie Catering, LLC. While attending a Christmas party in December 2015 at the residence of Bruce McKee and Dale McKee, Jason Bewley consumed alcohol. Later, he was driving while allegedly intoxicated and was involved in an accident with a vehicle occupied by five individuals. As a result of the accident, two of those individuals were injured and the other three were killed. The plaintiffs filed four separate actions against Bewley, alleging negligence and wantonness in the operation of his vehicle. The plaintiffs also asserted dram-shop claims against Dale McKee; the estate of Bruce McKee, who died shortly after the Christmas party; Savoie Catering, LLC, which had catered the McKees' party and had served guests alcohol that had been provided by the McKees; and Rucker Place, LLC, which operates a catering business with connections to Savoie, but which claims it had no involvement with the McKees' party. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgments based on the conclusion that plaintiffs did not demonstrate that Reg. 20-X-6- .02(4) applied to the circumstances involved in their cases. The Court expressed no opinion as to whether plaintiffs presented evidence sufficient to establish a joint venture between Savoie and Rucker Place. View "Everheart et al. v. Rucker Place, LLC et al." on Justia Law

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Deutsche Bank National Trust Company sought to appeal a circuit court order in a foreclosure action it brought against Dortha and Randy Karr. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the order appealed from was not a final judgment, thus it dismissed the Bank's appeal. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Company v. Karr" on Justia Law