Justia Alabama Supreme Court Opinion Summaries
Byrne v. Fisk
Douglas Byrne appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Vera Fisk regarding Byrne's premises-liability negligence claim against Fisk. On December 8, 2018, Byrne was a mail carrier working for the United States Postal Service. That evening, Byrne was responsible for a delivery route different from his usual route. Byrne attempted to deliver mail to Fisk's residence. Although Fisk's home was not on his usual delivery route, Byrne had likely delivered mail there before, including within the preceding year. It was dark outside, and it was raining. Fisk's porch lights were not turned on, but Byrne was wearing a headlamp, which was on at the time. Byrne was also wearing slip-resistant boots, as required by his employer. Byrne crossed the five tiled steps leading to Fisk's tiled front porch, where her mailbox was located, "holding the handrail and being careful." However, Byrne slipped and fell backward down the steps. Byrne suffered three fractures in his right femur and a fracture in his hip socket. He was hospitalized for nine days, underwent multiple weeks of rehabilitation, and returned to work in May 2019. In December 2020, Byrne filed suit against Fisk and fictitiously named parties, alleging there were defects in Fisk's premises about which Fisk knew or should have known and that Fisk should have remedied the defects or should have warned him about or guarded him from the defects. Byrne's complaint asserted a negligence claim and a "wantonness/recklessness" claim. Fisk answered Byrne's complaint, moved for and received a summary judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding genuine issues of material fact exist regarding whether a defect or unreasonably dangerous condition existed on Fisk's premises; whether Fisk had knowledge of the alleged defect; whether the alleged defect proximately caused Byrne's injuries; and whether the darkness of Fisk's premises or the rainfall present there constituted open and obvious hazards. View "Byrne v. Fisk" on Justia Law
Sampson v. HeartWise Health Systems Corporation, et al.
Alicia Sampson ("Alicia"), as administratrix of the estate of her deceased husband, Joshua Sampson ("Josh"), appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of HeartWise Health Systems Corporation; HeartWise Clinic, LLC (collectively referred to as "HeartWise"); Isaac Health & Prevention Partners, LLC ("Isaac Health"); William Nixon, M.D.; and Jeffrey Saylor, M.D., in a wrongful-death action. At its HeartWise clinic, Isaac Health administered a battery of up to 31 physical tests that were intended "to assist in the detection of early evidence of vascular and cardiac abnormalities." In 2015, 29-year-old Josh visited the Isaac Health clinic. Months earlier, Josh's father died at age of 56 from "right ventricular dysplasia," which was a "congenital heart defect." Lowell's death led the Sampson family to seek heart evaluations to determine whether they had inherited the heart defect. Josh underwent the full battery of testing provided at the Isaac Health clinic; Josh's data from the left ventricular echocardiogram was within the "normal" range. Josh's mother, who also received the testing, stated that the nurse practitioner did not tell Josh in any way that he "needed to have any further diagnostic work-up or testing relative to his heart." On October 5, 2015, Josh collapsed at home while working on a construction project. He was taken to the Emergency Room, but died that day. The Sampson family procured a private autopsy; the report concluded that Josh died due to an arrhythmia secondary to hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a congenital heart condition. Alicia thereafter filed suit against the clinic, HearWise and the doctors, alleging fraud and negligence. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed summary judgment entered in favor of Isaac Health and Drs. Nixon and Saylor with respect to Alicia's negligence allegations against them because those allegations were never properly presented to the circuit court for adjudication. The Court also reversed summary judgment in favor of HeartWise with respect to Alicia's fraud allegations against HeartWise because Alicia presented substantial evidence of Josh's reasonable reliance upon HeartWise's representations about its program. The Court affirmed summary judgment in favor of Isaac Health with respect to Alicia's fraud allegations against Isaac Health because Alicia failed to present substantial evidence that Josh's course of conduct would have changed if he had not seen HeartWise materials in the Isaac Health clinic's waiting room. The Court also affirmed summary judgment in favor of HeartWise with respect to Alicia's negligence allegations against HeartWise for multiple reasons. View "Sampson v. HeartWise Health Systems Corporation, et al." 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
City of Orange Beach v. Boles.
In consolidated appeals, the City of Orange Beach ("the City") appealed a judgment entered in favor of Ian Boles in regard to a dispute over the City's inspection of Boles' property. Between 2013 and 2015 Boles constructed two eight-bedroom duplexes on property he owned located within the City limits ("the beachfront property"). In September 2015, Boles filed a building-permit application seeking a permit to construct two additional multiple-level duplexes on the beachfront property. Additionally, in October 2015, Boles filed a separate building-permit application for the construction of a single-family dwelling on another parcel of property that Boles owned within the City limits ("the Burkhart Drive property"). At the time of each permit request, Boles completed a "Home Builders Affidavit" attesting that he was the owner of the property; that he would be acting as his own contractor on the proposed project, which would not be offered for sale; and that he was, thus, exempt from the requirement that he be licensed under Alabama's Home Builders Licensure Law. The building-permit packages provided to Boles explained that a certificate of occupancy for the proposed structure would not be issued until, among other things, "a subcontractor list has been submitted to the [City's] Finance Department." Boles also received with each package a blank subcontractor form for identifying all subcontractors for the proposed project, which specified that it was due within 10 days of the issuance of the building permits. Boles proceeded with construction on the two properties without completing or returning the subcontractor form for either property. Boles's electrical subcontractor apparently contacted the City to request an electrical meter-release inspection upon completion of the electrical portion of that project; the City refused. Boles contended the City either lacked the authority to and/or were exceeding their authority in refusing to inspect the beachfront property until the City received information to which, according to Boles, it was not entitled. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred both in submitting Boles's damages claims to a jury and in denying the City's motion seeking a judgment as a matter of law. The trial court's judgment was reversed, and these matters were remanded for further proceedings. View "City of Orange Beach v. Boles." on Justia Law
Penrose v. Garcia, Jr., et al.
John and Amy Penrose bought a house in Montgomery. After moving in, they discovered multiple problems with the house and sued several parties that had been involved in the transaction, alleging that those parties' negligent or intentional acts had prevented the Penroses from discovering the house's problems before the purchase closed. During discovery, the Penroses failed to provide timely and complete responses to the defendants' discovery requests or to appear at two hearings on the resulting motions to compel. Following the second missed hearing, the circuit court dismissed the Penroses' lawsuit with prejudice. Invoking Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., the Penroses moved the trial court to reinstate their lawsuit, arguing among other things that the dismissal violated their due-process rights because no defendant had moved for dismissal and because the trial court had given them no indication that it was considering that sanction. The trial court denied their motion. The Penroses appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Penrose v. Garcia, Jr., et al." on Justia Law
Gross v. Dailey
Selanmin Gross appealed the grant of a new trial in a case filed by Christopher Dailey against Gross stemming from a motor-vehicle accident. Dailey alleged Gross' negligence and/or wantonness in operating his motor vehicle on August 5, 2019, had resulted in a collision with Dailey's motor vehicle and that Dailey had suffered physical, mental, and emotional injuries as a result of the accident. Dailey's action was consolidated with an action commenced by Ken Houston against Gross that stemmed from the same accident. The trial court dismissed Houston's action following the filing of a joint stipulation of dismissal. Trial proceeded on Dailey's claims. The trial court entered the jury-verdict forms into the record, which showed that the foreperson had signed both verdict forms. The first form simply stated: "We the jury find for the defendant" and had the date filled in by hand above a blank line labeled "Date" and the signature of the foreperson on a second blank line labeled "Foreman." The second verdict form stated: "We the jury find for the plaintiff, Christopher D. Dailey, and assess damages of $0 dollars." That form likewise had the date filled in by hand above a blank line labeled "Date" and the signature of the foreperson on a second blank line labeled "Foreman." Dailey moved for a new trial "Due to Inconsistent Verdict." Gross opposed it, noting that the trial judge announced a verdict for defendant in open court and had polled each juror and that each juror had confirmed the verdict for defendant. He argued that "the verdict was in no way inconsistent: the verdict form for the Plaintiff awarded zero (0) dollars in damages which is perfectly consistent with a verdict for the Defendant." The trial judge granted Dailey's motion. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in concluding the second verdict form awarding zero dollars in damages to Dailey meant that the jury reached an inconsistent verdict. "The cases relied upon by the trial court do not support that conclusion, and the evidence concerning the verdict overwhelmingly supports the conclusion that the jury reached a verdict in favor of the defendant, Gross." Accordingly, the trial court's order granting a new trial is reversed, and the trial court was instructed to reinstate the verdict in favor of Gross and to enter a judgment on that verdict. View "Gross v. Dailey" on Justia Law
Murray v. Porter
Seneathia K. Porter initiated an unlawful-detainer action against Tracy Murray, doing business as Tracy's Treasure Company, LLC ("Murray"), seeking possession of commercial property and the recovery of, among other things, unpaid rent, late fees, insurance costs, taxes, and attorney's fees. Porter claimed she owned the property, she had leased the property to Murray on a month-to-month basis for the sum of $1,500 per month, Murray defaulted under the lease by failing to pay rent in accordance with the lease, and that she had provided Murray with written notice that her right of possession of the property had been terminated. Murray, on the other hand, denied that she had leased the property. Rather, she claimed she had executed a contract to purchase the property and had made improvements to the property. Following a bench trial, the circuit court purported to enter a judgment in favor of Porter and against Murray. Murray appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, finding no evidence that the district court had adjudicated the unlawful-detainer action. Thus, the circuit court lacked jurisdiction over the action and the judgment it entered was void and, therefore, would not support an appeal. View "Murray v. Porter" on Justia Law
Ingenuity International, LLC, et al. v. Smith
The circuit court in this case summarily enforced a settlement agreement by ordering defendants to either: (1) pay money directly to plaintiff; or (2) pay money to the clerk of court pending adjudication of plaintiff's claims alleging breach of the settlement agreement. Because the circuit court essentially entered a summary judgment on the breach-of-settlement-agreement claim and issued an injunction order sua sponte and with no notice to the parties, the Alabama Supreme Court found the court deprived defendants of their due-process right to an opportunity to respond. Accordingly, the judgment was reversed. View "Ingenuity International, LLC, et al. v. Smith" on Justia Law
Posted in: Civil Procedure
Dream, Inc. d/b/a Frontier Bingo v. Samuels
Dream, Inc., d/b/a Frontier Bingo ("Frontier"), operated an electronic "bingo" facility located in Greene County, Alabama. Frontier refused to pay Tony Samuels $30,083.88 that he purportedly won playing electronic "bingo" at Frontier's facility. Samuels filed suit against Frontier alleging breach of contract and fraud. Following a jury trial, the trial court entered a judgment on the jury's verdict in favor of Samuels, ordering Frontier to pay Samuels $500,000, and Frontier appealed. Electronic "bingo" games, however, constitute illegal gambling in Alabama. Because Alabama will not enforce an illegal transaction, either in contract or in tort, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the judgment and rendered a judgment in favor of Frontier. View "Dream, Inc. d/b/a Frontier Bingo v. Samuels" on Justia Law
Galea v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Alex and Jane Galea fell behind on the mortgage payments for their house in Tuscaloosa; as a result, the property was sold at a foreclosure sale. The property was eventually conveyed to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs ("SVA"), which sent formal notice to the Galeas demanding they vacate the property. After the Galeas refused to do so, SVA initiated an ejectment action. The Galeas stated in their answer that they had evidence to prove that the foreclosure sale here was illegal, but they apparently never submitted that evidence to the trial court. Indeed, as the trial court noted in its judgment, the Galeas "did not offer any valid testimony or evidence" that would refute the evidence submitted by SVA. The trial court ultimately entered a summary judgment in favor of SVA. The Galeas appealed. But finding no reversible error in the trial court's judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Galea v. Secretary of Veterans Affairs" on Justia Law