Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

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The Boys and Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc. ("BGCSA"), sought a writ of mandamus to order the Baldwin Circuit Court to dismiss a declaratory-judgment action filed against it and The Community Foundation of South Alabama by the attorney general of Alabama, Fairhope-Point Clear Rotary Youth Programs, Inc. ("Rotary Inc."), and Ruff Wilson Youth Organizations, Inc. ("Wilson Inc.") In 1996, B.R. Wilson, Jr., one of the incorporators and a principal benefactor of BGCSA, executed a deed transferring to BGCSA approximately 17 acres of real estate. Contemporaneously with the execution of the deed, Wilson gave a letter to BGCSA that stated Wilson's intentions and stipulations concerning his gift of the property. The letter stated that BGCSA was "'free to ultimately dispose of this property,'" but that it was Wilson's "'desire and understanding that [BGCSA] will use the proceeds from any such disposition for [BGCSA's] facilities and/or activities in the Fairhope–Point Clear area.'" Wilson died in 1997. In 2010, the Eastern Shore Clubs filed an action in the Baldwin Circuit Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief against BGCSA. The Eastern Shore Clubs alleged that BGCSA "ha[d] used," or, perhaps, was "anticipat[ing] using," the proceeds from the sale of the property for its own operations, rather than for the benefit of the Eastern Shore Clubs. In 2012, the Baldwin Circuit Court entered a judgment concluding Wilson's intent was that the Wilson funds should be used for the "exclusive benefit of the Fairhope and Daphne Clubs." The Baldwin Circuit Court ordered the disbursal of the remainder of the Wilson funds. This case was the third action that has come before the Supreme Court arising out the dispute between BGCSA and the Eastern Shore Clubs over the Wilson funds. The Supreme Court concluded Section 6-5-440 compelled dismissal of this case because another action involving the same cause and the same parties ("the Mobile action") was filed first. Therefore, the Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus and directed the Baldwin Circuit Court to vacate its most recent order in this case, and to enter an order dismissing this case. View "Alabama et al. v. Boys And Girls Clubs of South Alabama, Inc." on Justia Law

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The City of Midfield, Officer Jason Davis, and Sgt. Otis Brown petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Jefferson Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their favor, based on State-agent immunity, on claims filed against them by Patrick Williams ("Patrick") and Elizabeth W. McElroy, as successor administratrix of the estate of Willie Lee Williams. Police engaged a suspect in a high speed chase following a traffic stop. The driver struck Patrick's vehicle. The collision caused the truck to flip over several times. Willie Lee died at the scene, and Patrick suffered severe injuries. Patrick and the estate sued the driver alleging claims of wrongful death, negligence, and wantonness. Patrick and the estate also sued the Midfield defendants, alleging various negligence claims. The Midfield defendants moved the circuit court to dismiss the claims against them, alleging, among other things, that Officer Davis and Sgt. Brown were entitled to police-officer immunity, and that because the officers were immune from suit, the claims against Midfield also failed. The circuit court denied the motion, and the Midfield defendants petitioned the Supreme Court for mandamus relief, which was denied in May 2012. While the Midfield defendants' first mandamus petition was pending, Patrick and the estate amended their complaint, alleging negligence per se against Midfield for the negligence of Sgt. Brown, claims of negligent supervision and training against Midfield, and claims of general negligence against Officer Davis and Sgt. Brown and, derivatively, against Midfield. In May 2013, the Midfield defendants filed a motion for a summary judgment, again arguing, among other things, that Officer Davis and Sgt. Brown were immune from suit and that the claims against Midfield were too. The circuit court denied the motion, and the Midfield defendants appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the circuit court erred in denying the Midfield defendants' motion for summary judgment, granted their petition, and issued the writ. View "Williams v. City of Midfield" on Justia Law

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The State of Alabama, the Alabama Department of Finance, and the Comptroller of the State of Alabama, nonparties to the underlying action, appealed a circuit court order denying the State's motion to intervene as of right. Mrs. Frances Ann Yarbrough died intestate with no heirs that were in the line of descendant distribution. As a result, her assets escheated to the State of Alabama. The Supreme Court ordered the Estate to pay certain expenses of the Estate, and then to pay the balance of the Estate's funds to the State of Alabama. In that same order, the Court ordered the State of Alabama to pay the escheated funds to the St. Clair County's Circuit Clerk's office to be used by the Clerk 'to rehire some of the employees lost to proration.' The State, through its counsel Mr. Bledsoe, stated that the Estate's escheated funds must be used or applied in furtherance of education in accordance with the Alabama Constitution.Through counsel, Mr. Bledsoe, declared that there was no objection to disbursing the Estate's escheated assets to the Pell City Board of Education and the St. Clair County Board of Education. Based on that representation, the Estate moved the Supreme Court to Alter, Amend, or Vacate its earlier order to direct the State to pay the Estate's escheated assets to the Pell City Board of Education and the St. Clair County Board of Education. The State objected to the Supreme Court's order. In turn, the Supreme Court treated the objection as a Motion to Alter, Amend, or Vacate, filed it with the circuit clerk, and set the matter for a hearing. Because the State was not a party to this matter, the State did not receive direct notice of the hearing. The Estate's counsel, Ms. Williams, however, provided the State notice of the hearing by e-mail to Mr. Bledsoe. The State did not appear at the hearing, and the Supreme Court denied the relief requested by the State. The circuit court then denied the State's motion to intervene. Because the circuit court failed to follow the Supreme Court's order, it reversed the circuit court's order denying the State's motion to intervene. "The circuit court exceeded its authority in attempting to appropriate the escheated funds." All issues having been decided on both the motion to intervene and the underlying action, a judgment was rendered for the State. View "Alabama et al. v. Estate Yarbrough" on Justia Law

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Petitioners the City of Valley Grande and its mayor, David Labbe, petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Circuit Court to vacate its order denying petitioners' motion for a summary judgment and to enter a summary judgment for the petitioners on claims asserted against them by Marcus Kelley, Yolanda Kelley, and Jeffery Barlow, Jr. The Valley Grande Volunteer Fire Department was incorporated specifically as a charity under 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In 2008, the City entered into an agreement with the fire department to which the fire department agreed to provide fire protection service to the City "without remuneration." However, the petitioners did acknowledge in the fire-service agreement that the City "ha[d] in the past and likely [would] continue to provide [the fire department] with some level of annual funding." Mayor Labbe testified that the City and the fire department are separate entities and that the City did not maintain or reserve any right of control over the fire department. In early 2011, James Barlow, Sr., and his mother, Bertha Yeager, were killed in a house fire. W. Alan Dailey, the coroner for Dallas County, pronounced Barlow and Yeager dead at the scene and directed members of the fire department to remove the remains of the deceased from the house. The plaintiffs alleged that the fire department represented that it had recovered all the decedents' remains. The plaintiffs stated that in April 2011 the family discovered a body bag at the scene of the fire that contained additional remains of Barlow. Plaintiffs sued petitioners, among others, asserting claims of negligence; wantonness; intentional infliction of emotional distress; fraud; suppression; and negligent and/or wanton hiring, training, and supervision of the individual firefighters against both the City and the mayor. Petitioners moved for a summary judgment, arguing, among other things, that the petitioners did not employ, supervise, or train any firefighters; that petitioners did not reserve any right of control over the fire department; that the petitioners were entitled to immunity pursuant to the Volunteer Service Act, 6-5-336, Ala. Code 1975; that the City was immune from suit for intentional torts of its agents, officers, or employees; and that the petitioners could not be liable for negligent and/or wanton hiring, training, or supervision of the individual firefighters because, they said, no master-servant relationship existed between the City and the fire department. The trial court denied petitioners' motion. Because of the procedural posture of this case, the Supreme Court addressed only those issues on immunity grounds and concluded that the agreement between the City and the fire department, as well as the donations made to the fire department by the City, did not alter the fire department's status as a "volunteer" fire department. Furthermore, the Court concluded that the firefighters were immune from liability for their negligent acts under the Volunteer Service Act. Accordingly, the Court granted the petition for a writ of mandamus in this case and directed the trial court to enter summary judgment for the petitioners. View "Kelley et al. v. Dailey" on Justia Law

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This case arose from a contract between Roanoke Healthcare Authority (doing business as Randolph Medical Center) and Batson-Cook Company, a general contractor, to renovate the medical center, located in Roanoke. Batson-Cook received written notice from Roanoke Healthcare that work on the renovation project had been suspended. Batson-Cook notified one of its subcontractors, Hardy, of the suspension and stated that "[t]he contract has been suspended by [Roanoke Healthcare] through no fault of Batson-Cook ... or its subcontractors. [Roanoke Healthcare] is currently out of funding and has subsequently closed the facility while seeking a buyer." Liberty Mutual, the project's insurer, alleged in its answer that Roanoke Healthcare failed to pay Batson-Cook $241,940.51 for work performed pursuant to the contract. Batson-Cook sent Hardy a change order the change order deducted from the subcontract the $147,000 in equipment and materials another subcontractor Hardy hired, Johnson Controls, Inc. (JCI), had furnished for the renovation project and for which it has not received payment. JCI notified Liberty Mutual, Roanoke Healthcare, Batson-Cook, and Hardy by certified letters of its claim on a payment bond. The letters identified Batson-Cook as the general contractor and Hardy as the debtor. Liberty Mutual denied the claim. JCI sued Liberty Mutual, alleging JCI was entitled to payment on the payment bond Liberty Mutual had issued to Batson-Cook. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded JCI was a proper claimant on the payment bond. Therefore, the circuit court erred in entering a summary judgment in favor of Liberty Mutual and denying JCI's summary judgment motion. View "Johnson Controls, Inc. v. Liberty Mutual Insurance Company " on Justia Law

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The City of Birmingham appealed a Court of Civil Appeals affirmance of a summary judgment in favor of plaintiff Ernest Alexander in light of the Supreme Court's decision in "Ervin v. City of Birmingham." Upon execution of a search warrant of Alexander's home, federal drug enforcement agents and Birmingham police found marijuana, $38,675 in cash, cocaine, a firearm, and digital scales. In October 2009, a complaint for the civil forfeiture of the $38,675 was filed in the federal district court. Alexander failed to respond to the complaint or to take any action to reclaim the money. The federal court entered a default judgment of forfeiture as to the money on August 10, 2010. On March 16, 2011, Alexander filed a complaint in the Circuit Court seeking the return of the $38,675. He argued that the money had been seized but that no state forfeiture or condemnation proceeding had been filed as required by statute. The City filed a motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment, arguing, in part, that the trial court did not have jurisdiction over this matter. Based on the intervening change of law set forth in "Ervin," the Court of Civil Appeals' decision in the previous Alexander case ("Alexander I") was "clearly erroneous." Therefore, the Court of Civil Appeals erred when it relied on the law-of-the-case doctrine and on its prior decision in determining that its decision in Alexander I was not subject to appellate review and that the City was not entitled to relief based upon the Supreme Court's decision in Ervin. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Civil Appeals' judgment and remanded this case for further proceedings. View "City of Birmingham v. Alexander" on Justia Law

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Don Davis, in his capacity as the Judge of Probate for Mobile County, appealed a Circuit Court's final judgment in favor of then Secretary of State Beth Chapman and the three members of the Mobile County Board of Registrars: Pat Tyrrell, Shirley Short, and Virginia Delchamps. The matter before the Supreme Court concerned a regulation promulgated by the Secretary in an effort to comply with certain federal election laws and an asserted conflict between that regulation and the residency requirement prescribed by three Alabama election statutes. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the circuit court: "Alabama statutory law continues to require, as it long has, that voters who have moved cast ballots at the polling place designated for their new address. Further, Ala. Admin 20 Code (Secretary of State), Reg. 820-2-2-.13(1), was not and is not required by NVRA or HAVA. Because Reg. 820-2-2-.13(1) expressly contradicts Alabama statutory law, it is void." View "Davis v. Bennett" on Justia Law

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The Shelby County Board of Equalization petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, or, in the alternative, a writ of prohibition, to direct the Shelby Circuit Court to dismiss as untimely an appeal filed by Central Shelby LTD. challenging a final ad valorem tax assessment issued by the Board. In response to Central Shelby's objection to the Board's 2013 assessed value of real property owned by Central Shelby, the Board entered a final ad valorem assessment. The clerk of the Shelby Circuit Court mailed a copy of the notice of appeal to the Board, which received the notice on July 8, 2013. Thereafter, the Board moved to dismiss the appeal on the ground that Central Shelby had not filed with the secretary of the Board its notice of appeal within 30 days of the final assessment as, the Board contended, section 40-3-25 requires. The trial court, without stating the findings on which its decision was based, denied the Board's motion. In response, the Board filed this petition alleging that, as a result of the alleged untimely notice to it of Central Shelby's appeal, the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the underlying appeal. Central Shelby faulted the circuit clerk for her alleged untimely mailing of the notice of appeal to the secretary of the Board. The Supreme Court concluded the appealing taxpayer is charged with the responsibility of filing the notice of appeal with the secretary of the Board. As a result of Central Shelby's failure to comply with the provisions of 40-3-25, its appeal was not perfected and the trial court's jurisdiction was never invoked. The Supreme Court therefore granted the Board's petition and directed the trial court to vacate its order denying the Board's motion to dismiss and to dismiss Central Shelby's appeal as untimely. View "Central Shelby LTD. v. Shelby County Board of Equalization" on Justia Law

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The Alabama Supreme Court focused on two appeals (case no. 1101384 and case no. 1110310) and two petitions for writs of mandamus (case no. 1101313 and case no. 1110158) filed by the State of Alabama, all challenging orders entered by a circuit judge in Greene County requiring State officials to return to items seized by the State as contraband pursuant to search warrants previously issued by the Greene Court. In addition, the Supreme Court reviewed a petition for a writ of mandamus (case no. 1130598) filed by the State seeking relief from the refusal of a district judge in Greene County to issue warrants similar to the warrants involved in the first four cases based on evidentiary submissions similar to those provided by the State in those same four cases. The latter case involved the same potential defendants and gaming establishments as the first four cases, as well as similar gambling devices alleged by the State to be illegal. Moreover, the district judge in case no. 1130598 relied upon the judgment of the trial judge in the former cases in refusing to issue the warrants in that case. Upon review of the trial record of all parties' cases involved, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court was asked to preemptively adjudicate (within the confines of a motion filed under Rule 3.13, Ala. R. Crim. P.) the lawfulness of property seized as contraband. The Court concluded the Circuit Court had no jurisdiction to do so. Therefore the Supreme Court vacated the orders of the trial court in case no. 1101384 and 1110310 and dismissed those actions. The Court dismissed the appeals in those cases, and the related petitions for writ of mandamus then pending in case no. 1101313 and case no. 1110158. As to case no. 1130598, the Court, by separate order, granted the State's petition for a writ of mandamus and remanded this case for the immediate issuance of the warrants for which the State applied. View "Alabama v. Greenetrack, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Criminal defendants Clement Poiroux, Lamar Osborne, Travis Blair, Christopher Raybon, Sara Hawkins, Brian Williams, Levorish Hudson, Joseph Johnson, Jr., Nicholas McNeil, and Willie Walker II, and McNeil & Stokley Enterprises, LLC, d/b/a Metro Bonding Co., Bay Area Bail Bonds, LLC, A-Plus Bonding, Inc., Alternative Justice Bail Bonding, Inc., A-Advantage Bonding, LLC, Affordable Bail Bond, Inc., and Allstar Bail Bonds, Inc. appealed the dismissal of their claims against various district attorneys, circuit court clerks, and other state officials. Several of the criminal defendants and of the bail-bond companies sued the defendants and fictitiously named parties alleging claims related to Act No. 2012-535, Ala. Acts 2012 (codified as 12-14-31 and 12-19-311, Ala. Code 1975). The criminal defendants and the bail-bond companies argued, among other things, that the fee assessed pursuant to 12-19-311(a)(1)a., Ala. Code 1975 ("the filing fee"), and the fee assessed pursuant to 12-19-311(a)(1)b., Ala. Code 1975 ("the back-end fee"), were unconstitutional. Upon review of the circuit court record, the Supreme Court affirmed the dismissal of all claims regarding the back-end fees, all claims seeking monetary relief, and all claims against the defendant sheriffs. The Court also affirmed the dismissal of the criminal defendants' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief. The Court reversed the circuit court's judgment insofar as it dismissed the bail-bond companies' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief against the defendants other than the defendant sheriffs. View "Poiroux v. Rich" on Justia Law