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Appellants Tomeka and Marlon McElroy appealed a circuit court judgment denying their will contest. In 2010, Tracy McElroy filed a petition to probate the will of Clifton McElroy, Jr. Tracy was the executrix; the will was self-proving in accordance with the requirements of section 43-8-132, Ala. Code 1975. The probate court admitted the will to probate and issued letters testamentary to Tracy. Later that year, appellants filed a will contest in the probate court, alleging that Clifton's signature on the will was forged and that, therefore, the will was not properly executed. Appellants were both Clifton's heirs and beneficiaries under his will, and demanded that their will contest be transferred to the circuit court pursuant to 43-8-198, Ala. Code 1975. Tracy moved to dismiss the will contest, arguing that because the will had already been admitted to probate, the contest could not ben filed pursuant to 43-8-190, Ala. Code 1975. Generally, "[o]nce the administration and settlement of an estate are removed from the probate court, the probate court loses jurisdiction over the estate, and the circuit court obtains and maintains jurisdiction until the final settlement of the case." However, in this case, the administration of Clifton's estate was not properly removed from the probate court; therefore, the circuit court never obtained jurisdiction over the administration of Clifton's estate. Thus, the circuit court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to consider the will contest, and the judgment entered by the circuit court on the will contest was void. Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed. View "McElroy v. McElroy" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Lisa Wilson appealed dismissal of her complaint seeking damages against defendants, University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C. ("UAHSF"); Carla Falkson, M.D.; Tina Wood, M.D.; Ravi Kumar Paluri, M.D.; and Mollie DeShazo, M.D., based on the tort of outrage. Wilson's complaint alleged that, in late 2011, her elderly mother, Elizabeth Monk Wilson ("Elizabeth"), was diagnosed with and underwent treatment for colon cancer. According to Wilson, before the onset of Elizabeth's illness, Elizabeth had executed an advanced health-care directive that "instruct[ed] ... caregivers to use all available means to preserve [Elizabeth's] life" and further named Wilson as Elizabeth's health-care proxy "in the event [Elizabeth] became 'too sick to speak for' herself." Elizabeth subsequently suffered a recurrence of her cancer. In August 2015, she was admitted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital, a facility operated by UAHSF. In her complaint, Wilson alleged that, while Elizabeth was in the hospital, she was treated by the doctors. She further alleged that the doctors made numerous and repeated tactless comments to Elizabeth and Wilson about Elizabeth's condition and her impending death, and to the effect that she was wasting resources by being in the hospital instead of dying at home. Wilson's complaint alleged a single claim for damages "for the tort of outrage, and for the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress" and sought compensatory and punitive damages. Wilson sought to hold UAHSF vicariously liable for the alleged conduct of the doctors, which conduct, she alleged, occurred within the line and scope of the doctors' employment with UAHSF. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court's holding that the tort of outrage "is limited to three situations" was an incorrect statement of law: the tort can be viable outside the context of the above-identified circumstances and has previously been held to be so viable. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings where the trial court should, under the standard appropriate for a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), determine whether the alleged conduct was "so extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency and be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in a civilized society." View "Wilson v. University of Alabama Health Services Foundation, P.C." on Justia Law

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Alan Newell appealed the grant of summary judgment against him on various claims and counterclaims relating to two tracts of real property located in Franklin County. This appeal arises from a dispute between a father, Floyd Newell, and his son, Alan, regarding the ownership of two tracts of land located in Franklin County. The two tracts were farmland, "the Hester farm" and "the DeVaney farm." Floyd was the title owner of the two properties. Alan, however, claimed to be the true owner of the properties and asserts that the properties were deeded to Floyd only as security for loans Floyd made to Alan to purchase the land. Floyd sued Alan, asserting claims of ejectment and detinue. Floyd flatly denied Alan's claim of ownership of the two farms. Floyd contended he purchased both the Hester farm and the DeVaney farm and that he owned the farms outright. He denied lending Alan money to purchase the properties, and that Alan made any payments to him toward the purchase price of the farms. He disputed claims that Alan made improvements to the farms. However, Floyd admitted to allowing Alan to use the properties in varying degrees over the years. The trial court entered a partial summary judgment in favor of Floyd as to the ejectment claim and counterclaim and as to Alan's claim seeking recognition of an equitable mortgage. The trial court specifically held that the basis for Alan's claim of ownership of the two tracts of real property was barred by the Statute of Frauds. The Alabama Supreme Court determined it was clear from Alan's pleadings and from the arguments made at trial that what Alan termed an "equitable mortgage" was what the Supreme Court long recognized as a "resulting trust in the nature of an equitable mortgage." A resulting trust in the nature of a mortgage arises by implication of law and is therefore not subject to the Statute of Frauds. In this case, because the Statute of Frauds was not applicable to a claim seeking a declaration of a trust in the nature of an equitable mortgage, the summary judgment entered on that basis was in error. Furthermore, nearly every fact relevant to Alan's counterclaim seeking an equitable mortgage was disputed, making summary judgment improper. View "Newell v. Newell" on Justia Law

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Mitchell's Contracting Service, LLC ("Mitchell"), appealed a circuit court’s denial of Mitchell's renewed motion for a judgment as a matter of law or for a new trial in a wrongful-death action brought by Robert Guy Gleason, Sr., as the administrator of the estate of Lorena Gleason, deceased. Two of Mitchell’s employees were driving dump trucks when one of the trucks caused Lorena’s vehicle to leave the road, where it collided with a tree, resulting in her death. Gleason asserted claims against Mitchell based on vicarious liability for Pettway's or Turner's negligent and wanton acts and omissions. A jury returned a verdict in favor of Gleason for $2.5 million. Based on all the circumstances, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion in refusing Mitchell's request for a continuance. Accordingly, the trial court's judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for a new trial. View "Mitchell's Contracting Service, LLC v. Gleason" on Justia Law

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Petitioners-defendants Angela McClintock, Stephanie Streeter, and Christa Devaughn, all of whom were employees of the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources ("JCDHR"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus requesting that the Alabama Supreme Court direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Charges arose from the death of K.W., a newborn who was removed from her home following domestic abuse allegations at the home of T.H., K.W.’s mother. At the time of K.W.'s death, McClintock was the director of JCDHR; Streeter was an assistant director of child welfare for JCDHR; and Devaughn was a child-abuse and neglect investigative worker for JCDHR. In June 2011, T.H. was charged with third-degree domestic violence when S.W., T.H.'s mother, filed charges against her for striking a sibling in the face. K.W. was born in December 2011. While T.H. was still in the hospital, T.H.'s grandmother reported to JCDHR that she had concerns that T.H. would not be able to care for her new baby, that T.H. had left her father's home, and that T.H. had a history of running away. After conducting an investigation, JCDHR allowed T.H. to be discharged from the hospital to the home of K.M., T.H.'s second cousin. K.H., T.H.'s father, filed a dependency complaint, seeking custody of K.W. In January 2012, Devaughn filed a dependency complaint as to T.H. and a request for a pickup order for K.W. K.W. was picked up and placed in the foster home of Dennis Gilmer on that same date. K.W. died on February 24, 2012, while in foster care. K.H. and T.H. filed a complaint against the petitioners, Brandon Hardin, Dennis Gilmer, and JCDHR, stating claims of wrongful death of a minor, negligence, wantonness, and negligent/wanton training and supervision. The Alabama Supreme Court found petitioners established they had a clear legal right to summary judgment in their favor based on State-agent immunity. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted their petition for mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Angela McClintock et al." on Justia Law

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Profit Boost Marketing, Inc., d/b/a Hometown Values Coupon Magazine ("HVCM"), one of the defendants in the underlying case, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Marshall Circuit Court to vacate its order denying HVCM's motion to dismiss the claims filed against it by Mike Zak d/b/a Hometown Magazine ("Zak") and to direct that court to enter an order dismissing Zak's claims against it. HVCM was a Washington state based "print broker ... for direct mail advertising." Hometown Magazine was a coupon distributor; Mike Zak was its sole proprietor. In August 2013, Zak and HVCM entered into a "Print Brokerage Agreement" and related "Licensing Agreement" whereby Zak was to become an exclusive "Area Publisher" of HVCM's coupon magazine in three specified zones within Alabama. Zak obtained from the City of Arab ("the City") a business license to engage in "publishing industries." Zak ultimately published a single issue of a publication entitled Hometown Magazine. According to HVCM, "[i]nstead of publishing as [HVCM], Zak formed Hometown Magazine and used the [HVCM] trademark when he sold advertising to local business," i.e., allegedly, "Zak solicited ... clients as [HVCM], sold them advertising using the [HVCM] trademark ..., and never published a magazine as [HVCM]." This action resulted in a dispute between Zak and HCVM. As a result of a Facebook post, which Zak maintained "was entirely fallacious and possessed absolutely no truth," Zak allegedly began to receive queries from customers regarding the legality of his activities. Ultimately, according to Zak, his reputation was allegedly so "irreparably tarnished and damaged" that Zak was forced to close his business. Zak sued the City and various fictitiously named defendants. Specifically, Zak sought to recover both compensatory and punitive damages on various theories, including defamation, negligence, and "wantonness/gross negligence." After review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court held the trial court erred in denying HVCM's motion requesting dismissal of Zak's claims on statute-of-limitations grounds; therefore the Court granted HVCM's petition and issued a writ of mandamus directing the Marshall Circuit Court to vacate its January 3, 2017, order denying HVCM's motion and to enter an order dismissing HVCM as a defendant in the underlying action. View "Ex parte Profit Boost Marketing, Inc., d/b/a Hometown Values Coupon Magazine." on Justia Law

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Clinton Carter, in his official capacity as Director of Finance of the State of Alabama, and Chris Roberts, in his official capacity as director of the Alabama Office of Indigent Defense Services petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jackson Circuit Court to transfer the underlying action to Montgomery County, where, they argued, venue was proper. In January 2015, the Jackson Court, pursuant to section 15-12-21, Ala. Code 1975, appointed two attorneys to represent Barry Van Whitton, an indigent, in a noncapital-murder case. While the criminal case against Whitton was pending, the attorneys filed a motion seeking a declaration that section 15-12-21 was unconstitutional; an order allowing them to exceed the statutory fee cap set in the statute; and, in the alternative, an order reimbursing them for their overhead expenses incurred in the defense of the case. The trial court entered an order, which, among other things, declared section 15-12-21 unconstitutional and "no longer of any force or effect" ("the Whitton order). The attorney general did not appeal the Whitton order or otherwise challenge it. The issue presented in this petition did not concern the validity of the Whitton order or whether that order was enforceable. Rather, the only issue presented for the Supreme Court's review was whether venue for the civil action was proper in Montgomery County. The civil action was brought against the State defendants in their official capacities, and there was no waiver of objections to venue in the civil action. Thus, under the Court's holding in "Ex parte Neely," it concluded the State defendants demonstrated a clear legal right to mandamus relief. View "Ex parte Clinton Carter" on Justia Law

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The Maintenance Group, Inc. petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Madison Circuit Court to enter an order dismissing the claims against it based on lack of personal jurisdiction. This case arises from the sale of an aircraft. The purchaser alleged tortious conduct related to the sale of the aircraft negotiated and consummated outside Alabama by nonresident parties, including Maintenance. The only contact with Alabama being post-purchase travel into and out of Alabama. The Supreme Court concluded that, based on the evidence before the trial court, the purchaser did not establish a sufficient nexus between Maintenance's purposeful activity within Alabama and the claims made in its action sufficient to subject Maintenance to personal jurisdiction in an Alabama court. Accordingly, Maintenance has shown a clear legal right to the dismissal of the complaint on the ground that the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction over it. View "Ex parte The Maintenance Group, Inc." on Justia Law

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James Wood, a retired circuit court judge, appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of: the State of Alabama; Luther Strange, in his capacity as Attorney General for the State of Alabama; David Bronner, in his capacity as chief executive officer of the Employees' Retirement System of Alabama; the Board of Control of the Employees' Retirement System of Alabama ("the Board of Control"); and Thomas White, Jr., in his capacity as Comptroller for the State of Alabama. At issue were increases in the rates of contributions judges and justices are required to pay into the Judicial Retirement Fund ("the Fund"), pursuant to section 12- 18-5, Ala. Code 1975. The Fund was established under the provisions of Act No. 1163, Ala. Acts 1973, codified at section 12- 18-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975, to provide retirement benefits to qualified judges and justices. Judge Wood was serving his second official term when increases in contribution rates took effect. Judge Wood retired on January 15, 2013. In June 2012, Judge Wood, individually, and on behalf of a purported class of "all members" of the Fund, sued the State defendants, alleging that the mandatory increases in contributions to the Fund reduced Judge Wood's net pay without affording him any additional retirement benefits. He alleged that the increases in contributions violated the Judicial Compensation Clause of Art. VI, section 148(d), Constitution of Alabama of 1901 ("the Compensation Clause"). In his complaint, Judge Wood sought a judgment declaring the Act unconstitutional as violative of the Compensation Clause. Because Judge Wood's claim for money damages was not shown to be within the Alabama Supreme Court's subject-matter jurisdiction and his claim for prospective injunctive relief was moot, also defeating subject-matter jurisdiction, the Court did not address the constitutionality of the Act. Accordingly, the Court held the trial court's judgment upholding the Act against Judge Wood's constitutional challenge was void. Therefore, the Court dismissed the appeal, vacated the summary judgment in favor of the State defendants, and dismissed the action for failure to establish subject-matter jurisdiction as to the claim for monetary damages and on the basis of mootness as to the claim for prospective injunctive relief. View "Wood v. Alabama" on Justia Law

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Leigh Shelton, as the personal representative of the estate of Margaret Blansit, deceased, appealed a judgment in favor of I.E. Green in a personal-injury action brought by Shelton seeking damages for injuries Blansit allegedly suffered in a slip-and-fall accident at Green's residence. Before Shelton filed her complaint, Blansit died of causes unrelated to the fall. Green filed a motion for a judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Blansit's cause of action abated upon her death. The trial court agreed and granted Green's motion. Shelton appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Shelton v. Green" on Justia Law