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Terrence Venter and the City of Selma ("the City") petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus to direct the Dallas Circuit Court to vacate its February 20, 2017, order denying their motion for a summary judgment based on Venter's State-agent immunity and to enter an order based on that defense. In 2008, Aubrey Vick was killed when the vehicle he was driving collided with a fire truck being driven by Venter. Mary Vick, as administrator of Aubrey's estate ("the estate"), filed a wrongful-death complaint against Venter and the City, alleging Venter, "while acting in the line and scope of his employment with the City of Selma's fire department, and operating a vehicle owned by the City of Selma, negligently drove the vehicle into the vehicle owned by plaintiff's decedent." The estate claimed that the City was vicariously liable for Venter's alleged negligence. The complaint also alleged the City had negligently installed, maintained, and/or designed the traffic light at the intersection where the accident occurred. After review of the facts of this case, the Supreme Court determined the trial court properly denied Venter and the City's motion, and denied their petition. View "Ex parte Terrence Venter & City of Selma." on Justia Law

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Darlene Slamen, Charles Martin, Wilhelmina Martin, and Harris Partnership, LLP ("Harris LLP") (collectively "the defendants"), appealed a circuit court order granting Herbert Slamen's motion for a preliminary injunction. Herbert and Darlene married in 1981 and later formed Harris LLP, of which Herbert, Darlene, Charles, and Wilhelmina each owned a 25% share. In 2008, Herbert was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and, in 2010, he moved to Thailand because, Darlene said, he wanted "to enjoy what remained of his life." After moving to Thailand, Herbert was dependent upon Darlene to send him the proceeds generated from his assets so that he could pay for living expenses and medical treatment. Payments in an agreed amount were deposited in a checking account in Thailand set up in Herbert's name. In addition to his interest in Harris LLP, Herbert's assets included a house in Alabama, a house in Florida, and an interest in the dental practice from which Herbert had retired. In 2013, Herbert, via his attorney in fact, established the Herbert A. Slamen Revocable Living Trust ("the trust") to facilitate the management of his assets, and he thereafter transferred his assets, including his interest in Harris LLP, to the trust. Herbert was the beneficiary of the trust, and both he and Darlene were the appointed cotrustees. In 2016, Herbert sued the defendants, alleging that he had revoked the trust but that Darlene, purportedly under her authority as cotrustee, had nevertheless transferred the assets of the trust to herself. As a result, Herbert alleged, the defendants had "failed to distribute proceeds from [Harris LLP] to [Herbert] and instead made all payments directly to Darlene." Herbert filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in which he requested that the trial court enjoin the defendants "from disbursing funds and profits from [Harris LLP] and requiring [the defendants] to keep all funds and profits in the regular business account of [Harris LLP] until the resolution of this case." The motion was granted, and the defendants appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding the underlying causes of action asserted in Herbert's complaint were actions at law that alleged only monetary loss and sought only to recover monetary damages for that alleged loss. Thus, Herbert's alleged injury was not irreparable, given that it can be adequately redressed with the monetary damages he sought if he was able to prove that the defendants wrongfully divested him of the proceeds generated from his assets. View "Slamen v. Slamen" on Justia Law

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D.B. and K.S. petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for certiorari review of the Court of Civil Appeals' judgment affirming, without opinion, a custody-modification judgment awarding K.S.B. ("the mother") custody of her daughter ("the child"). D.B., the child's maternal grandfather, and K.S., the child's maternal stepgrandmother, petitioned for custody of the child after the mother telephoned the grandfather in May 2010 and asked him to come get the child because she was "being mean" to the child. The mother did not appear at the hearing on the grandparents' custody petition, and the juvenile court awarded custody of the child to the grandparents in August 2010. Based on the juvenile court's custody judgment in favor of the grandparents, in order to succeed in her request to modify custody, the mother was required to meet the well settled custody-modification standard set forth in Ex parte McLendon, 455 So. 2d 863 (Ala. 1984). The mother conceded the grandparents had taken good care of the child, and she expressed no concerns in the juvenile court regarding the grandparents as custodians of the child; the mother simply testified that she believed that she could take care of the child and love her just as well as the grandparents. The Supreme Court held Ex parte McLendon required more. The Court found the evidence failed to support the juvenile court's judgment modifying custody was "plainly and palpably wrong." The judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals affirming the juvenile court's judgment modifying custody of the child was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings. View "Ex parte D.B. and K.S." on Justia Law

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Jimmy Nation, Oliver McCollum, James Pickle, James Nation, Micah Nation, and Benjamin Chemeel II (collectively referred to as "the defendants") appealed the circuit court's denial of their motion to compel arbitration of a breach-of-contract claim filed against them by the Lydmar Revocable Trust ("Lydmar"). Lydmar owned a 75% membership interest in Aldwych, LLC. In 2008, Lydmar and the defendants entered into an agreement pursuant to which Lydmar agreed to sell its membership interest in Aldwych, LLC, to the defendants. The defendants paid Lydmar a portion of the agreed price at the time the agreement was executed and simultaneously executed two promissory notes for the balance of the purchase price. By 2014, Lydmar sued defendants for breach of contract for failing to make the required payments. At the request of the parties, the circuit court delayed setting the matter for a bench trial until they had an opportunity to resolve the case without a trial. The parties' attempts failed. Thereafter, defendants filed a motion to compel arbitration of Lydmar's breach-of-contract claim. Lydmar did not file a response to the defendants' motion to compel arbitration. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed, finding defendants submitted evidence showing that Lydmar signed a contract agreeing that all disputes between them related to the defendants' purchase of Lydmar's membership interest in Aldwych would be settled in arbitration and that the contract evidenced a transaction affecting interstate commerce. Lydmar did not refute that evidence, nor did it establish that the defendants waived their right to rely on those arbitration provisions. Therefore, the circuit court erred by returning the case to its active docket and effectively denying the defendants' motion to compel arbitration. View "Nation et al. v. Lydmar Revocable Trust" on Justia Law

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Walker Brothers Investment, Inc., and James Walker (collectively, "Walker Brothers") appealed a circuit court order granting a motion for a summary judgment in favor of the City of Mobile ("the City"). In 2012, the City filed a complaint against Walker Brothers seeking a preliminary and a permanent injunction, alleging Walker Brothers owned a building, known as the Tobin Building, located in a historic district in downtown Mobile and that Walker Brothers had allowed the building to deteriorate in violation of the Mobile City Code. The City asked the circuit court to enter an order requiring Walker Brothers to "mothball" the Tobin Building in accordance with plans submitted by Walker Brothers and subsequently approved by the Board. Walker Brothers argued that the City, through the HDC and the Board, had treated Walker Brothers unequally from other developers of historic properties, and it alleged that the City had engaged in selective enforcement of the City's rules and regulations in a manner that "amounted to malicious prosecution and abuse of process." Walker Brothers filed an objection to the City's motion to dismiss, stating that it had intentionally left part of the mothballing plan uncomplete so that it could file a counterclaim against the City. The circuit court purported to grant the City's motion to dismiss later the same day. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed Walker Brothers’ appeal, finding the City's "motion to dismiss" was a valid notice of dismissal pursuant to Rule 41(a)(1)(i), and, the circuit court was without the power to act on Walker Brothers' attempt to reinstate the City's action so that Walker Brothers could file a counterclaim. Accordingly, any order entered after the City filed its notice of dismissal was void, including the summary judgment in favor of the City that was the basis of Walker Brothers' appeal to the Supreme Court. View "Walker Brothers Investment, Inc. v. City of Mobile" on Justia Law

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Hershel Easterling, both individually and as the personal representative of the estate of Charlotte Easterling, appealed the grant of a summary judgment in favor of Progressive Specialty Insurance Company ("Progressive") on his claims seeking uninsured/underinsured-motorist ("UIM") benefits. In December 2014, Hershel and his wife, Charlotte Easterling, were injured when their vehicle was rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Ashley McCartney. In April 2015, the Easterlings sued McCartney, alleging she behaved negligently and/or wantonly at the time of the accident. The Easterlings' complaint also named Progressive, their insurer, as a defendant and included a count seeking to recover UIM benefits from Progressive. The Alabama Supreme Court reversed and remanded for further proceedings, finding that by virtue of her bankruptcy filing, McCartney was not been relieved of legal liability for the harm she caused Hershel; instead, Hershel could prove the merits of his claim but was merely prevented by law from seeking to collect damages from McCartney for that harm even after his legal entitlement to recover those damages has been established. Any injunction against proceeding directly against the debtor, therefore, in no way extends to Hershel's own insurer. The trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Progressive on Hershel's UIM claim. View "Easterling v. Progressive Specialty Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Pharmacist Joseph McNamara, Jr. appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Benchmark Insurance Company ("Benchmark") in Benchmark's indemnity action against McNamara. Benchmark commenced the indemnity action in an effort to recover funds expended to settle a medical-malpractice action brought against Southern Medical, Inc., Benchmark's insured and McNamara's employer. The medical-malpractice action was brought against Southern Medical by Ricky Avant and Kim Avant and was based, at least in part, on the alleged tortious acts and omissions of McNamara. Because the act complained of occurred in January 2010 and Benchmark sued McNamara in February 2014, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded Benchmark's indemnity action was time-barred under section 6-5-482, Ala. Code 1975. Thus, the trial court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Benchmark and in denying McNamara's motion for a summary judgment. View "McNamara v. Benchmark Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Edwyna Ivey ("Edwyna") appealed a circuit court judgment denying her petition for an omitted-spouse share of the estate of her late husband, R.E. Ivey ("R.E."). In 1975, R.E. executed a will leaving the entirety of his estate to his first wife, Nancy, or, in the event Nancy preceded him in death, to his and Nancy's four children: Sharyl Eddins ("Sharyl"), William "Robbie" Ivey, Dell Moody, and Ty Ivey, in equal shares. R.E.'s 1975 will was the only will he ever executed and that he never executed a codicil to that will. Sharyl was named executor of R.E.'s estate. Even though Sharyl offered evidence indicating that R.E. and Edwyna had agreed that "what was hers would stay hers and what was his would stay his" in an attempt to prove that R.E. intentionally omitted Edwyna from his will, the Alabama Supreme Court determined she failed to offer evidence proving either that R.E.'s will indicated that Edwyna's omission was intentional or that R.E. intentionally disinherited Edwyna because he had made nontestamentary transfers to her intended to be in lieu of a testamentary provision. By failing to prove that either exception enumerated in section 43-8- 90, Ala. Code 1975 applied, Sharyl failed to prove that the omission of Edwyna from R.E.'s will was intentional, despite what other evidence might have indicated. The Court's reversal of the denial of Edwyna's omitted-spouse claim is therefore in accord with the legislature's intent in enacting 43-8-90 –- to avoid the unintentional disinheritance of a spouse who marries a testator after the execution of the testator's will. View "Ivey v. Estate of R.E. Ivey" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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This case involved two competing claims to a 40-acre tract of land ("the property") and whether the rule of repose could be applied to resolve that dispute. The complications in this case began in 1964, when one of Felix's children, James Freeman ("James"), purported to deed all the property to another child of Felix's, Joseph Freeman ("Joseph"). The 1964 deed was duly recorded. Nothing in the record established that, before that deed was executed, James owned more than the one-tenth interest in the property he had inherited from Felix in 1961. The 1964 deed from James to Joseph began a series of conveyances involving various parties over several years. That line of conveyances ended with two deeds in 2004, when DRL, LLC, purported to convey one-half of the surface estate of the property to Thomas and Cindy Hinote and one-half of the surface estate of the property to David and Rebecca Dowdy. DRL also purported to convey a portion of the mineral rights in the property to the Hinotes and the Dowdys; DRL retained a portion of the mineral rights for itself. The various transactions created a situation with two sides laying claim to the property. In 2011, four of Felix's descendants sued the Hinotes and the Dowdys. In pertinent part, the plaintiffs sought a judgment determining the ownership of the property, and they requested a sale of the property for a division of the proceeds. The Hinotes and the Dowdys primarily argued that the plaintiffs' action is barred by the 20-year rule of repose; the plaintiffs dispute that their action is barred by the rule of repose.After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the rule of repose was inapplicable in this case and thus did not bar the plaintiffs' action. Accordingly, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of the plaintiffs. View "Hinote v. Owens et al." on Justia Law

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Altapointe Health Systems, Inc., and Altapointe Healthcare Management, LLC (collectively referred to as "Altapointe"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the Mobile Circuit Court to vacate its order compelling Altapointe to respond to certain discovery requests and to enter a protective order in its favor in an action pending against it. Jim Avnet, as father and next friend of Hunter Avnet, sued Altapointe. Altapointe operated group homes for adults suffering from mental illness. Avnet asserted that Hunter, a resident at one of Altapointe's group homes, was assaulted by another resident with a blunt object, and was stabbed multiple times with a kitchen knife. Avnet asserted various claims of negligence and wantonness against Altapointe, including claims that Altapointe failed to comply with various unspecified regulations and guidelines designed to protect Hunter's safety and that Altapointe was negligent or wanton in hiring, training, and supervising its employees. Along with his complaint, Avnet served Altapointe with written discovery requests. Avnet's discovery requests sought the total amount of Altapointe's liability-insurance coverage limits; information regarding prior claims or lawsuits against Altapointe alleging personal injury or assault at the home; information concerning whether Altapointe was aware of any previous "aggressive acts" by the resident; and information and documents regarding Altapointe's own investigation of the incident. Altapointe objected to Avnet's discovery requests, contending that the information and documents requested were protected by certain discovery privileges. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded Altapointe offered sufficient evidence demonstrating that it was entitled to the quality-assurance privilege provided in 22-21-8, Ala. Code 1975 as to Avnet's request for information and documents relating to Altapointe's own investigation of the incident. Accordingly, the petition for writ of mandamus was granted as to that request. As to the remaining requests, however, Altapointe did not sufficiently establish that the discovery protections of the AMLA or the psychotherapist-patient privilege applied. Thus, as to those requests, the petition was denied. View "Ex parte Altapointe Health Systems, Inc." on Justia Law