Alabama Appellate Opinions
We are committed to sharing decisions and providing legal updates that may be beneficial to you and your teams. Included below are summaries of cases recently released by Alabama Appellate Courts. Please reach out to any member of our Appellate Practice  group with any questions.

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Alabama Appellate Opinions Release Date:
October 18, 2019
Case of Note: Favorable Opinion Obtained from Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals

Huie attorneys  Bart Cannon Phil Collins , and  Alex Parish  recently received a favorable opinion from the  Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals  on behalf of a telecommunications client. A summary of the case is available here , and a copy of the court’s opinion can be found  here .
Alabama Supreme Court
Court Declines to Create Right to Have Citizen Petitions Addressed by Cities

Courtyard Manor Homeowners’ Association, Inc. v. City of Pelham

This case originated from a petition by the Courtyard Manor Homeowners’ Association (Courtyard Manor) for the City of Pelham to de-annex Courtyard Manor. When Pelham did not respond to the petition, Courtyard Manor filed suit claiming Article I, § 25 of the Alabama Constitution required Pelham to respond. Pelham filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim which the trial court granted.

The primary issue on appeal was whether Article I, § 25 of the Alabama Constitution requires cities to respond to a petition or grievance. However, the Court held that section only contemplates the right of the citizens to assemble and apply to the government by “petition, address, or remonstrance.” It does not imply the government must respond to the petition of the citizens, nor does any case law support that notion. The Court therefore affirmed the circuit court’s decision, declining to create a right under the Alabama Constitution to receive a response from a city to citizen’s petitions. 
Court Finds Motion to Vacate Was Denied By Operation of Law 

SAI Montgomery BCH, LLC, d/b/a Classic Cadillac, and Andrew Harper v. Donald Williams and Mary E. Williams

This lawsuit arises from a lease agreement between Classic Cadillac and Donald and Mary Williams (the Williamses). After two payments were made on time, and before a third payment was due, Classic Cadillac repossessed the vehicle it had leased to the Williamses and had them arrested for theft of property. The Williamses sued for malicious prosecution, among other claims. On June 15, 2018, Classic Cadillac moved to compel arbitration. On July 5, 2018, the trial court granted the motion. Then on July 17, 2018, the Williamses filed a motion to vacate the July 5th order. On October 23, 2018, the trial court held a hearing on the motion to vacate. On November 13, 2018, the trial court entered an order denying Classic Cadillac’s motion to compel arbitration.

Classic Cadillac appealed, arguing the Williamses motion to vacate was made under Ala. R. Civ. P. 59, rather than Ala. R. Civ. P. 60(b), and therefore had been denied as a matter of law due to the 90-day limitation imposed by Rule 59.1.

On appeal, the Court held that a motion which can be filed under Ala. R. Civ. P. 59, and is filed within 30 days of the judgment, is considered filed under Ala. R. Civ. P. 59 motion even if it is titled as a Rule 60 motion. Because the trial court did not enter its order denying the motion to compel until November 13, 2018, the 90-day limitation imposed by Rule 59.1 had passed. As a result, the Williamses’ motion to vacate was denied as a matter of law. Because the motion to vacate was denied, the judgment became final after the 90-day period expired, and the trial court no longer had jurisdiction to change that order. Therefore, any order entered after the 90-day period was improper. The Court reasoned that Rule 60 is meant to provide a remedy in cases where there are extreme circumstances that require a judgment to be changed. This, the Court explained, was not the case here as the Williamses merely claimed they did not have an opportunity to respond to the motion to compel because the trial court had not set a date by which they had to respond. The Court therefore held the November 13, 2018, order was void because the court lacked jurisdiction and dismissed the appeal.
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Court Reverses Trial Court’s Denial of Claimant’s Tort Claims on Different Grounds

Swain v. AIG Claims, Inc., ICSP, Thomas, Coventry, and Angeles 

In this case, the claimant was injured at work due to an explosion of a large electrical circuit breaker. The worker filed suit in the Circuit Court of Jefferson County claiming physical and mental injuries. He further claimed that during his treatment the defendant nurse approached him stating she would be serving as his nurse on his behalf and not the employer or the insurance company’s behalf. The claimant alleged that after his medical treatment he was sent back to work without any restrictions which exacerbated his claimed mental-health issues. Ultimately, the claimant alleged that the defendants’ handling of his workers’ compensation claim resulted in him suffering a mental breakdown at work. The claimant amended the Complaint to include tort claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress (“the tort of outrage”), fraud, and conspiracy against the defendants.

The defendants filed a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss arguing the claims were barred under § 25-5-77(a) because the claimant had not sought a second opinion from an authorized physician selected from a panel of four physicians. The trial court granted the defendants’ motion, and the claimant appealed.

Although the parties only tangentially referenced the exclusivity provisions of Alabama’s Workers’ Compensation Act, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals recast the issue on appeal as whether the exclusivity provisions of the Act applied to bar the claims. Citing Lowman v. Piedmont Executive Shirt Mfg. Co. , 547 So. 2d (1989) for the proposition that “intentional tortious conduct … committed beyond the bounds of the employer’s proper role is actionable,” the Court noted that a proximate-cause analysis was required to determine the applicability of the exclusivity provisions. According to the Court, this inquiry was not appropriate for resolution under a 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Therefore, the Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal and remanded the case. 
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