Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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Andrew Barnwell appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of CLP Corporation ("CLP"). CLP owned and operated a McDonald's fast-food restaurant. In 2013, Barnwell visited the restaurant. Barnwell stated that after he entered the restaurant, he went straight to the restroom to wash his hands. Upon exiting the restroom, Barnwell alleged he slipped and fell, and complained of leg and back pain shortly thereafter. Barnwell sued CLP, asserting a claim of negligence. After a review of the facts entered in the trial court record, the Supreme Court held the circuit court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of CLP. "CLP failed to present substantial evidence supporting its affirmative defense that the [floor's] condition that allegedly caused Barnwell to slip and fall was an open and obvious danger." View "Barnwell v. CLP Corporation" on Justia Law

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Austal USA, LLC filed two petitions for a writ of mandamus directing the Mobile Circuit Court to dismiss certain claims asserted against it by plaintiffs Michael Keshock, Martin Osborn, Richard Fitzgerald, Tyrone Lucas, Riley Bodiford, Tommie Brandon, Justin Reed, and William White. Austal operates a shipyard in Mobile that builds naval vessels. Each of the plaintiffs is an employee of Austal who claims to have been injured while working in the course of his or her employment. Specifically, each plaintiff claimed to have been injured by a tool known as a "Miller saw." After a review of the circuit court record, the Supreme Court concluded that Austal did not show a clear legal right to the relief sought. Accordingly, the Court denied Austal's petitions. View "Ex parte Austal USA, LLC." on Justia Law

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PT Solutions Holdings, LLC ("PT Solutions"), petitioned for a writ of mandamus seeking an order directing the Barbour Circuit Court to vacate its order denying PT Solutions' motion to dismiss the underlying complaint filed by Laurie White based on an outbound forum selection clause and to grant the motion to dismiss. PT Solutions hired White as the clinic director of its Eufaula location. In September 2014, PT Solutions revised the employment agreements for its clinic directors. The letter agreement described a bonus structure, and included a noncompete clause. The agreement also contained a forum-selection clause, selecting Fulton County, Georgia as proper venue for disputes between the parties. White voluntarily resigned her position as clinic director of PT Solutions' Eufaula clinic and became clinic director for Eufaula Physical Therapy (EPT). She also recruited the office manager and two physical therapists who were working at PT Solutions' Eufaula clinic to come work at EPT. Because of White's actions on behalf of EPT, PT Solutions' counsel sent White a cease-and-desist letter in which he asserted that White had violated the noncompetition agreement. In response, White sued PT Solutions and fictitiously named defendants in the Alabama Circuit Court seeking a judgment declaring that the noncompetition agreement was unenforceable. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found that White failed to clearly establish that enforcement of the forum-selection clause would be either unfair or unreasonable. PT Solutions demonstrated a clear legal right to have the action against it dismissed on the basis that venue in the Barbour Circuit Court was, by virtue of the forum-selection clause, improper. The circuit court exceeded its discretion in denying PT Solutions' motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the Supreme Court granted PT Solutions' petition and granted the writ. View "Ex parte PT Solutions Holdings, LLC." on Justia Law

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The Town of Mosses and its chief of police Jimmy Harris, separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Lowndes Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor on certain claims asserted against them by Geraldine Grant Bryson. The Court consolidated their petitions for the purpose of writing one opinion. At the time of the events giving rise to this action, Bryson operated an entertainment venue known as "The Spot." Bryson described "The Spot" as a "community center for all activities." Bryson requested that the Town grant her a liquor license, but the Town's council denied her request. In 2010, Bryson rented "The Spot" to a deejay, who planned to host a "beer bash" on its premises. Approximately 200 people turned out for the event even though the entertainment portion of the event was ultimately canceled by the deejay. Although Bryson, who was at "The Spot" on the night of the event, testified that she did not see anyone consuming alcoholic beverages at the event, she acknowledged that the deejay hosting the event had brought alcohol that he planned to "give ... away [to] the community for showing support for the center." The mayor saw one of the deejay's flyers promoting the event. The mayor, in turn, notified Harris. Harris saw one of the flyers, organized a task force of officers from multiple law-enforcement agencies, and entered "The Spot," observing alcohol being consumed. Bryson was ultimately arrested for selling alcohol without a license. The charges against Bryson were later dismissed because the Town was unable to produce a witness who could testify to paying an admission to "The Spot" and drinking alcohol on the premises. Bryson sued the Town and Harris asserting claims of malicious prosecution, false arrest, false imprisonment, harassment, intentional infliction of emotional distress, libel, and slander. When the trial court denied the Town and Harris' motions to dismiss, they sought mandamus relief. The Alabama Supreme Court directed the trial court to vacate its order denying Harris's summary-judgment motion as to the false-arrest, false-imprisonment, and malicious-prosecution claims and to enter a summary-judgment for Harris on those grounds. To the extent Harris sought mandamus review of intentional infliction of emotional distress, harassment, libel, and slander, the petition was denied. The trial court was further directed to vacate its order denying the Town's summary-judgment motion and to enter a summary judgment for the Town as to each claim asserted against it. View "Ex parte Town of Mosses." on Justia Law

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The Circuit Court dismissed claims asserted by St. Union Baptist Church, Inc. ("the corporation"), against Reverend James M. Howard, Sr., and the counterclaims asserted by Howard against the corporation and its directors after concluding that their dispute was ecclesiastical in nature and outside the jurisdiction of the court. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's dismissal of the corporation's claims because they were indeed ecclesiastical in nature and outside the Circuit Court's jurisdiction. But the Court reversed dismissal of Howard's claims because the issues underlying that appeal involved only the financial affairs and property rights of the church. Howard's case was remanded for further proceedings. View "St. Union Baptist Church, Inc. v. Howard" on Justia Law

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This nearly two-decade-old case "is a veteran of numerous appellate campaigns." Pavilion Development, LLC's attempted redemption of the property at issue gave rise to five opinions from the Alabama Supreme Court. E.B. Investments, L.L.C. ("EB Investments"), appealed a Circuit Court holding that Pavilion was entitled to redeem certain property in Madison County in which EB Investments and other parties held legal interests (appeal no. 1141259). Pavilion filed a separate appeal naming as appellees JBJ Partnership, Pace Properties ("Pace"), James P. Pace, individually and as personal representative of the estate of James E. Pace, and William Byron Pace and challenged certain aspects of the same order, namely, the amount it had to pay redeem the property (appeal no. 1141416). The appeals were consolidated for the purpose of issuing one opinion. As to EB Investments' appeal, the Supreme Court affirmed in part and dismissed the appeal in part. As to Pavilion's appeal, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. View "E.B. Investments, L.L.C. v. Pavilion Development, L.L.C., et al." on Justia Law

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Clatus Junkin, a resident of Fayette County, owned and operated Johnco Materials, Inc., a sand and gravel pit located in Lowndes County. At some point in time, Junkin purchased diesel fuel from Southeastern Energy and had it delivered to Johnco Materials. When Southeastern Energy did not receive payment for the fuel, Southeastern Energy sued Johnco Materials and Junkin, individually, in Lowndes County. With regard to Junkin, Southeastern Energy alleged that "Junkin was personally liable to Southeastern Energy for diesel fuel that was sold and delivered to Johnco Materials." At the request of the parties, the Lowndes Circuit Court entered a consent judgment against Johnco Materials and in favor of Southeastern Energy for an agreed-upon amount and dismissed Junkin from the action with prejudice. Junkin then sued Southeastern Energy in Fayette County alleging malicious prosecution by Southeastern Energy in the Lowndes County case. Southeastern Energy moved to dismiss the malicious prosecution action or, in the alternative, to transfer the action to "Montgomery County, Alabama, or any other proper venue, pursuant to Rule 82(d), Ala. R. Civ. P., and governing law." Southeastern Energy Corp. petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus ordering the Fayette Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Southeastern Energy's motion for a change of venue for the underlying action and directing the Fayette Circuit Court to grant the motion and transfer the action to the Montgomery Circuit Court (case no. 1150033). Southeastern Energy filed a second petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Supreme Court to direct the Fayette Circuit Court to vacate an order transferring the underlying action to the Lowndes Circuit Court, and to direct the Fayette Circuit Court to enter an order transferring the action to the Montgomery Circuit Court (case no. 1150294). Finding no errors in the transfer orders, the Supreme Court dismissed Southeastern Energy's petition in case no. 1150033, and denied its petition in case no. 1150294. View "Ex parte Southeastern Energy Corp." on Justia Law

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Clatus Junkin, a resident of Fayette County, owned and operated Johnco Materials, Inc., a sand and gravel pit located in Lowndes County. At some point in time, Junkin purchased diesel fuel from Southeastern Energy and had it delivered to Johnco Materials. When Southeastern Energy did not receive payment for the fuel, Southeastern Energy sued Johnco Materials and Junkin, individually, in Lowndes County. With regard to Junkin, Southeastern Energy alleged that "Junkin was personally liable to Southeastern Energy for diesel fuel that was sold and delivered to Johnco Materials." At the request of the parties, the Lowndes Circuit Court entered a consent judgment against Johnco Materials and in favor of Southeastern Energy for an agreed-upon amount and dismissed Junkin from the action with prejudice. Junkin then sued Southeastern Energy in Fayette County alleging malicious prosecution by Southeastern Energy in the Lowndes County case. Southeastern Energy moved to dismiss the malicious prosecution action or, in the alternative, to transfer the action to "Montgomery County, Alabama, or any other proper venue, pursuant to Rule 82(d), Ala. R. Civ. P., and governing law." Southeastern Energy Corp. petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus ordering the Fayette Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Southeastern Energy's motion for a change of venue for the underlying action and directing the Fayette Circuit Court to grant the motion and transfer the action to the Montgomery Circuit Court (case no. 1150033). Southeastern Energy filed a second petition for a writ of mandamus asking the Supreme Court to direct the Fayette Circuit Court to vacate an order transferring the underlying action to the Lowndes Circuit Court, and to direct the Fayette Circuit Court to enter an order transferring the action to the Montgomery Circuit Court (case no. 1150294). Finding no errors in the transfer orders, the Supreme Court dismissed Southeastern Energy's petition in case no. 1150033, and denied its petition in case no. 1150294. View "Ex parte Southeastern Energy Corp." on Justia Law

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In 2006, plaintiff Robert Kyle Morris, a licensed insurance agent, was working for his father's independent insurance agency, the Morris Insurance Agency ("Morris Insurance"). At some point, Morris contacted one of the Farmers entities about becoming a Farmers agent. Morris testified that he initially became interested in working as a Farmers agent because Farmers had a policy whereby a Farmers agent could place insurance with a different company if a customer was not eligible for insurance issued by Farmers or if Farmers refused to underwrite a policy for the customer. He further testified that he had not been looking to disaffiliate himself from his father's insurance agency and that he had told a Farmers recruiter that he did not want to cut off the working relationship he had with his father. Morris also testified that, when he agreed to become a Farmers agent, he signed several different agreements; that nothing in any of those agreements or documents indicated that his relationship with his father's agency constituted a conflict of interest; that the documents given to him did not say anything contrary to what he had been told by any recruiter, or that any representations made to him by the agents of Farmers were false. Despite signing an agent agreement, and having been recruited, Morris' contract was ultimately terminated for conflict of interest. Morris sued Farmers, arguing that Farmers had fraudulently induced him to become a Farmers agent. The trial court ruled in Morris' favor, and Farmers appealed. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part. The Court found Morris did not blindly rely on oral representations and ignore the terms of his contract. "The only information contrary to what Morris had been told was buried in a 200-page manual among dozens of other documents provided for training modules, and even longtime Farmers employees were not aware of the existence of the statement." Morris presented sufficient evidence of fraudulent inducement for the matter to be decided by the jury. Farmers' postjudgment motion was denied by operation of law, but the trial court did not make any findings regarding Farmers' request for a remittitur of the punitive-damages award. The Court remanded this case for the trial court to conduct a hearing on the punitive-damages award. View "Farmers Insurance Exchange v. Morris" on Justia Law

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Federal Insurance Company appealed a circuit court order denying its motion to compel arbitration of the breach-of-contract claim asserted against it by Kert Reedstrom. In 2008, Reedstrom entered into a written employment agreement with Marshall-Jackson Mental Health Board, Inc., d/b/a Mountain Lakes Behavioral Healthcare ("MLBHC"), to begin serving as its executive director in Guntersville. During the course of Reedstrom's employment with MLBHC, MLBHC held an executive-liability, entity-liability, and employment-practices-liability policy issued by Federal Insurance that generally protected certain MLBHC officers and employees described as "insureds" in the policy from loss for actions committed in the course of their employment with MLBHC. It was undisputed that Reedstrom was an "insured" covered by the Federal Insurance policy. The Federal Insurance policy contained an arbitration provision. A separate endorsement to the Federal Insurance policy further highlighted the arbitration provision and explained that its effect was that any disagreement related to coverage would be resolved by arbitration and not in a court of law. In July 2010, MLBHC terminated Reedstrom's employment and, in December 2010, Reedstrom sued MLBHC alleging that his termination constituted a breach of his employment contract. MLBHC asserted various counterclaims against Reedstrom based on his alleged misconduct while serving as executive director. Thereafter, Reedstrom gave Federal Insurance notice of the claims asserted against him and requested coverage under the terms of the Federal Insurance policy. Federal Insurance ultimately denied his claim and refused to provide him with counsel to defend against MLBHC's claims. A jury returned a verdict awarding Reedstrom $150,000 on his claim against MLBHC and awarding MLBHC $60,000 on its claims against Reedstrom. Consistent with its previous denial of his request for coverage, Federal Insurance refused Reedstrom's request to satisfy the judgment entered against him. Reedstrom sued Federal Insurance, asserting one claim of breach of contract and seeking $72,000 in damages ($60,000 for the judgment entered against him and $12,000 for the attorney fees he incurred in defending those claims). The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, finding that the trial court did not articulate its rationale for denying the motion to compel arbitration. The denial was apparently based on the court's resolving at least one of the arbitrability issues raised by Reedstrom in his favor and against Federal Insurance. However, because the subject arbitration provision delegated to the arbitrators the authority to resolve such issues, the trial court erred by considering the waiver and nonsignatory issues raised by Reedstrom instead of granting the motion to compel arbitration and allowing the arbitrators to resolve those issues. View "Federal Insurance Company v. Reedstrom" on Justia Law