Alabama Appellate Opinions Released April 19, 2019
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 Released 
April 19, 2019
Alabama Supreme Court
Court Holds There Was a Genuine Issue of Material Fact Regarding Employer’s Excuse From Performance Due to Employee’s Initial Breach

Shoals Extrusion, LLC v. Beal

In Shoals Extrusion, LLC. v. Beal , the Alabama Supreme Court was faced with the question of whether Shoals Extrusion, LLC (“Shoals Extrusion”) or one of its former employees (“Beal”) breached a five-year employment agreement that both parties executed on March 27, 2015. The employment agreement obligated Shoals Extrusion to pay Beal a $20,000 signing bonus, a first-year salary of $70,000, and Beal’s health insurance premiums. In return, Beal agreed to work a 40-hour plus work week at a work period to be directed by Shoels Extrusion. The employment agreement also contained a severance package which provided that Shoals Extrusion would pay Beal wages and benefits for the term of one year if it terminated Beal during the five-year term of the agreement.

Although Beal had only worked for Shoels Extrusion for eight months before his termination, Shoals Extrusion did not pay him severance benefits. Beal filed suit against Shoals Extrusion in the Lauderdale Circuit Court asserting a breach-of-contract claim and alleging he was entitled to the severance benefits. Shortly after filing his Complaint, Beal filed a motion for summary judgment on his breach-of-contract claim. Shoals Extrusion opposed Beal’s motion arguing it was not required to pay Beal under the employment agreement because Beal had breached the implied duty of good faith. Shoals Extrusion alleged that Beal refused to work at its directed work periods, refused to work the additional hours that he was requested to work, and threatened to reduce his working hours unless he was given an ownership interest in Shoels Extrusion. The trial court granted Beal’s motion for summary judgment after finding that Shoals Extrusion effectively terminated Beal for cause despite the absence of a provision in the employment agreement that authorized termination for cause. Shoals Extrusion appealed.

Unlike the circuit court, the Alabama Supreme Court did not frame the issue as to whether Shoals Extrusion had a right to terminate Beal for cause. Rather, it focused its analysis on whether Shoals Extrusion was excused from further performance under the employment agreement due to an initial breach by Beal. After reframing the issue, the Court held that there was a genuine issue of material fact regarding Beal’s performance under the employment agreement. Thus, the Court reversed the summary judgment and remanded. 
Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
Court Upholds Trial Court’s Assigned Physical Impairment Rating Due to Employer’s Concession 

Tuscaloosa County v. Beville

In the workers’ compensation matter Tuscaloosa County v. Beville , a Tuscaloosa County correctional officer (“Beville”) sued Tuscaloosa County (“the county”) due to a left wrist injury that she sustained after a slip and fall at the Tuscaloosa County jail. Beville’s authorized treating physician determined that Beville had suffered a 4% impairment to her left upper extremity.

At the beginning of trial, the parties stipulated that Beville’s authorized treating physician had assigned her a 4% impairment rating. The parties also entered a stipulation regarding the monetary value equating to the 4% impairment rating. However, the trial court entered a judgment that Beville had “suffered a 60% injury to her left upper extremity” and awarded her more than the stipulated monetary value. The county appealed.

The threshold issue before the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals was whether the trial court properly considered the whole evidence in determining the extent of Beville’s loss of use of her left arm. Beville argued that the stipulations were merely limited to her authorized physician’s statement regarding her physical-impairment rating and the monetary value corresponding to the physical-impairment rating rather than foreclosing the trial court’s consideration of Beville’s actual physical-impairment rating. The Court agreed by emphasizing that the county did not indicate to the trial court that Beville’s physical-impairment rating was not open for consideration. Thus, the Court upheld the trial court’s decision.
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