Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Utilities Law
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The City of Wetumpka sued Alabama Power Company because Alabama Power refused to relocate overhead electrical facilities located within the City's downtown area at the power company's expense. The circuit court dismissed the case, finding that it was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Alabama Public Service Commission. To this, the Alabama Supreme Court agreed: the City challenged service regulations of the PSC, and the PSC had exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate such challenges. View "City of Wetumpka v. Alabama Power Company" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Startley General Contractors, Inc. ("Startley"), and Mandy Powrzanas, appealed the denial of their renewed motion to have Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Robert Vance, Jr. recuse himself from the underlying action the plaintiffs filed against the Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("BWWB"), Board members, Jones Utility and Contracting Co., Inc., and Richard Jones (collectively, “defendants.”). Plaintiffs alleged the defendants conspired to violate Alabama's competitive-bid law in ways that resulted in financial harm to the plaintiffs. Plaintiffs contended that Judge Vance had received monetary contributions to his 2018 campaign for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court from law firms and attorneys representing the defendants. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the renewed motion to recuse did not fall under the auspices of section 12–24–3, Ala. Code 1975, because it was not based on campaign contributions in "the immediately preceding election." Moreover, “even if [section] 12–24–3 did apply, the plaintiffs failed to establish a rebuttable presumption for recusal because, in order to meet the required threshold, the plaintiffs: (1) included contributions from law firms and individuals who were not ‘parties,’ as that term is defined in 12–24–3(c), to the case; (2) aggregated campaign contributions from multiple parties in contravention to 12–24–3(b) addressing campaign contributions made by ‘a party to the judge or justice’; and (3) incorrectly assumed that ‘total campaign contributions raised during the election cycle’ refers to one-month totals for campaign contributions rather than the ordinary meaning of an ‘election cycle,’ which concerns a longer period.” The Court concluded plaintiffs did not establish that a single, actual "party" to this case gave a "substantial campaign contribution" that would give rise to the conclusion that "[a] reasonable person would perceive that [Judge Vance's] ability to carry out his ... judicial responsibilities with impartiality is impaired." View "Startley General Contractors, Inc. v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham et al." on Justia Law

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The Utilities Board of the City of Opp appealed a circuit court's order that denied its motion to dismiss a third-party complaint filed by Shuler Brothers, Inc. The Alabama Electric Company (AEC) had filed suit against Shuler Brothers seeking recovery for services performed and for breach of contract when Shuler Brothers refused to pay an invoice for repairs AEC made to some equipment. Shuler Brothers argued that the repairs did not solve its equipment issue. Shuler Brothers alleged the Utilities Board was negligent in maintaining power lines going to its facility that was part of its equipment troubles. In its motion to dismiss, the Utilities Board argued that a two-year statute of limitations applied to Shuler Brothers' claim, and that the alleged negligence was not discovered until AEC served Shuler Brothers with its complaint. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment to deny the Utilities Board's motion to dismiss; reversed the circuit court's decision denying Shuler Brothers' breach-of-contract claim; and reversed the circuit court's denial of the Board's motion to dismiss Shuler Brothers' negligence claim. View "Utilities Board of the City of Opp v. Shuler Brothers, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Novus Utilities, Inc. sought a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court to direct the Cullman Circuit Court to dismiss negligence and private-nuisance claims against it as time-barred. Eleven property owners residing in Cullman County sued Defendants the Hanceville Water Works & Sewer Board and Southwest Water Company, alleging that the defendants had allowed approximately two million gallons of untreated raw sewage from the sewage-treatment facility operated by the Board to be discharged into waterways in Cullman County. They alleged that on January 21, 30, and 31, 2008, the sewage treatment facility released the untreated raw sewage, and that release created a health hazard and damaged and devalued their property. Novus was added as a defendant to the suit as a subsidiary of Southwest. Novus moved to dismiss claims against it. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court was correct in denying Novus' motion to dismiss, and denied its petition for a writ of mandamus to quash the trial court's judgment. View "Roberts v. Hanceville Water Works & Sewer Board" on Justia Law