Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

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The Utilities Board of the City of Opp appealed a circuit court's order that denied its motion to dismiss a third-party complaint filed by Shuler Brothers, Inc. The Alabama Electric Company (AEC) had filed suit against Shuler Brothers seeking recovery for services performed and for breach of contract when Shuler Brothers refused to pay an invoice for repairs AEC made to some equipment. Shuler Brothers argued that the repairs did not solve its equipment issue. Shuler Brothers alleged the Utilities Board was negligent in maintaining power lines going to its facility that was part of its equipment troubles. In its motion to dismiss, the Utilities Board argued that a two-year statute of limitations applied to Shuler Brothers' claim, and that the alleged negligence was not discovered until AEC served Shuler Brothers with its complaint. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's judgment to deny the Utilities Board's motion to dismiss; reversed the circuit court's decision denying Shuler Brothers' breach-of-contract claim; and reversed the circuit court's denial of the Board's motion to dismiss Shuler Brothers' negligence claim. View "Utilities Board of the City of Opp v. Shuler Brothers, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Guardian Builders, LLC, and Wayne Tackett (collectively "Guardian") appealed an order that denied its motion to vacate or modify an arbitration award entered in favor of Randy and Melissa Uselton. In April 2010, the Useltons sued Guardian alleging several claims arising from Guardian's construction of a house. Guardian subsequently filed a motion to compel arbitration, and the circuit court granted that motion. The arbitrator entered a final award in favor of the Useltons in the amount of $452,275.20. Upon review, the Supreme Court construed Guardian's motion to vacate or modify the arbitration award of as a notice of appeal under Rule 71B, thus effectuating the appeal of the award to the circuit court. However, because the clerk of the circuit court never entered the award as the judgment of that court, the circuit court's order denying Guardian's motion to vacate or modify was void. "Essentially, Guardian's appeal remains pending in the circuit court, awaiting further procedures under Rule 71B. Further, because Guardian has appealed from the arbitration award under Rule 71B, that award could not be entered as the judgment of the court under 71C. Thus, the circuit court lacked authority to enter a judgment on the award under Rule 71C and to award Better Business Bureau fees and facility costs in connection with the entry of that judgment." View "Guardian Builders, LLC v. Uselton " on Justia Law

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The Phenix City Board of Education ("the Board") sought mandamus relief from the Russell Circuit Court's denial of the Board's motion to dismiss or, in the alternative, for a summary judgment on claims brought against it by The Lisle Company, Inc. ("Lisle"). Because the Board is immune from suit pursuant to § 14, Ala. Const. 1901, the Supreme Court granted the Board's petition and issued the writ. View "Lisle Company, Inc. v. Phenix City Board of Education" on Justia Law

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Lexington Insurance Company and Chartis, Inc. appealed a circuit court order that appointed a third arbitrator to the arbitration panel established to settle a dispute between Lexington and Southern Energy Homes, Inc. ("SEH"). From January 1, 2002, through October 31, 2004, SEH purchased from Lexington three commercial general-liability ("CGL") policies. An endorsement to a CGL policy insuring SEH from January 1, 2002, through December 31, 2002, provided that SEH is responsible for a $100,000 self-insurance retention ("SIR") "per occurrence." Endorsements to two successive CGL policies that together provided coverage to SEH through October 31, 2004, provide that SEH is responsible for a $250,000 SIR per occurrence. The SIR applied both to costs of defense incurred by SEH and to amounts SEH pays in settlement or pursuant to a judgment. From January 1, 2002, through October 31, 2004, SEH was named as a defendant in 46 lawsuits alleging property damage and personal injury resulting from SEH's using a vinyl-on-gypsum product in the homes it manufactured. SEH gave notice of these lawsuits to Lexington, and that it had exhausted its SIR amounts in the litigation and was entitled to reimbursement from Lexington. More than 120 days passed without SEH receiving a decision from Lexington as to whether it agreed with SEH's claim for this amount. SEH made an arbitration demand pursuant to the arbitration clauses of the CGL policies, including the SIR endorsement to the 2002 policy. Upon review of the policies in question, the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court erred in appointing the third arbitrator. The order was reversed and the case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Lexington Insurance Co. v. Southern Energy Homes, Inc. " on Justia Law

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Town & Country Property, L.L.C., and Town & Country Ford, L.L.C. (collectively referred to as "T&C") appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment Amerisure Insurance Company and Amerisure Mutual Insurance Company (collectively referred to as "Amerisure"), holding that Amerisure was not obligated to pay a $650,100 judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of T&C and against Amerisure's insured, Jones-Williams Construction Company, because, the trial court reasoned, the faulty construction of the T&C facility upon which the judgment was based was not an "occurrence" covered under the commercial general-liability ("CGL") insurance policy Amerisure had issued Jones-Williams. On October 21, 2011, the Supreme Court affirmed in part the judgment entered by the trial court, agreeing that faulty construction did not in and of itself constitute an occurrence for CGL-policy purposes and that, accordingly, "Amerisure was not required to indemnify Jones-Williams for the judgment entered against it insofar as the damages represented the costs of repairing or replacing the faulty work." On remand, the parties filed briefs with the trial court: T&C argued that the vast majority of the $650,100 judgment should be attributed to covered damage, while Amerisure argued that the damages T&C sought for the repair and/or replacement of defective construction exceeded the amount of the verdict and thus none of the judgment should be attributed to covered damage to personal property or nondefective portions of the T&C property. In its order resolving the issue on remand, the trial court identified $257,500 in damages claimed by T&C at trial as representing the repair or replacement of faulty construction. It therefore subtracted that amount from the $650,100 awarded by the jury and awarded T&C $392,600 plus interest and costs. Upon a review of the record, the Supreme Court found that the $392,600 judgment entered by the trial court was not supported by the evidence. The judgment entered by the trial court on remand was accordingly reversed, and the case was again remanded for the trial court to enter a final judgment in favor of T&C for the amount of damages the Supreme Court deemed T&C was entitled to: $600. View "Town & Country Property, L.L.C. v. Amerisure Insurance Co. " on Justia Law

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White-Spunner Construction, Inc., and Hartford Fire Insurance Company ("Hartford") appealed the grant of summary judgment and the award of attorney fees in favor of Construction Completion Company, LLC ("CCC"), in CCC's action alleging that White-Spunner failed to pay it for labor and materials it provided as a subcontractor to White-Spunner in the fall of 2008 in conjunction with White-Spunner's work as the general contractor on a public-works project at Auburn University CCC cross-appealed, arguing that the Mobile Circuit Court erred in dismissing its bad-faith and fraud claims against Hartford, which had issued payment bonds to White-Spunner for the project. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the grant of summary judgment based on the fact that CCC's claims against White-Spunner and Hartford stemmed from an illegal contract CCC entered into with an unlicensed contractor that provided that contractor's employees would complete the work CCC was contracted to perform. As a result of this reversal, the Court dismissed the cross-appeal as moot. View "White-Spunner Construction, Inc. v. Construction Completion Company, LLC" on Justia Law

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David Bennett and Bennett & Bennett Construction, Inc. ("Bennett") appealed the trial court's denial of their motion to compel arbitration of the claims alleging fraud in the inducement and the tort of outrage brought against them by Barbara and Leotes Skinner. The Skinners entered into a construction-services contract with Bennett, pursuant to which Bennett was to renovate and remodel their residence located in Oxford. After disagreements developed between the parties, the Skinners sued Bennett, alleging claims of breach of contract; breach of warranty; fraud in the inducement; assault and battery; the tort of outrage; and negligence, wantonness and recklessness. Bennett moved to compel arbitration of all claims, arguing that, because each of the claims alleged by the Skinners arose from the construction-services contract or were related to the construction-services contract, the claims were subject to arbitration. Furthermore, Bennett argued that the tort-of-outrage claim arose out of a disagreement concerning the construction-services contract and that the Skinners should not be allowed to avoid arbitration because they cast their claim as a tort. The Skinners responded, arguing that their agreement to the arbitration clause in the contract was obtained fraudulently. The trial court denied Bennett's motion. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the Skinners' tort-of-outrage claim arose out of a disagreement concerning the construction-services contract and thus was a proper claim for arbitration. The Court reversed the trial court's ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Bennett v. Skinner " on Justia Law

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Northstar Battery Company, LLC ("Northstar"), petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Cullman Circuit Court to vacate its order denying Northstar's motion to dismiss the action filed against it by Apel Steel Corporation ("Apel") and to enter an order dismissing the action for lack of in personam jurisdiction. The case stemmed from a contract in which Apel Steel was working as a subcontractor for a battery manufacturing plant in Springfield, Missouri. Northstar Battery, owner of the plant, contracted with Walton Construction to serve as general contractor. Apel had further subcontracted a portion of its work to JS Nationwide, who erected structural steel at the plant. Sparks from welding started a fire which resulted in the destruction of property/equipment, and caused heat and smoke damage in the affected area of the plant. The contract between Apel and Walton contained a provision by which Apel allegedly waived all rights against JS Nationwide. Counts against Northstar alleged negligence, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, misrepresentation and conspiracy. Northstar moved to dismiss citing lack of personal jurisdiction. Finding that Apel failed to carry its jurisdictional burden, the Supreme Court held that the trial court "clearly" erred in denying Northstar's motion to dismiss. Accordingly, the Court granted Northstar's petition and issued the writ. View "Apel Steel Corporation v. JS Nationwide Erectors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Employers Mutual Casualty Company (Employers Mutual) appealed a circuit court's denial of its motion to intervene in a pending case. Holman Building Company was sued by multiple homeowners who claimed their homes were poorly built from inferior building materials with poor quality workmanship. In 2010, Employers Mutual moved to intervene in the action, asserting that it had issued Holman commercial general-liability and umbrella policies that covered some if not all of the allegations made by the homeowners. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Employers Mutual's permissive intervention: "given the complexity of this case, the trial court was clearly within ints discretion to deny Employers Mutual's request to intervene for the purpose of obtaining a bifurcated trial of insurance-coverage issues or a special verdict or a general verdict accompanied by answers to interrogatories ... this case provides a prime example of the need for discretion in a trial court's ruling on an insurer's motion for permissive intervention." Accordingly, the Court affirmed the trial court's decision to deny the insurance company's intervention. View "Employers Mutual Casualty Company v. Holman Building Co., LLC et al. " on Justia Law

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Town & Country Property, L.L.C., and Town & Country Ford, L.L.C. (T&C), sued Amerisure Insurance Company and Amerisure Mutual Insurance Company (Amerisure) and its insured, Jones-Williams Construction Company, Inc., alleging that Amerisure was obligated to pay a $650,100 judgment entered in favor of T&C and against Jones-Williams in a separate action pursuant to a commercial general-liability insurance policy Amerisure had issued Jones-Williams. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Amerisure, and T&C appealed. Specifically, the trial court held that Amerisure was not required to indemnify Jones-Williams because there had been no occurrence invoking coverage under the policy. Upon review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment to the extent the awarded damages represented the costs of repairing or replacing faulty work covered under the liability policy. The Court remanded the case to the trial court so that it could consider arguments from the parties to determine if any of the damages awarded represented compensation for damaged property. View "Town & Country Property, L.L.C.v. Amerisure Ins. Co." on Justia Law