Justia Contracts Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
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Builder Systems, LLC, appealed an order, certified as final pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., entered in favor of George "Jerry" Klamer and his wife Lisa Klamer arising from a remediation and new-construction project performed by Builder Systems on the Klamers' house. Because the Alabama Supreme Court determined that the order was not appropriate for Rule 54(b) certification, it dismissed the appeal. View "Builder Systems, LLC v. Klamer" on Justia Law

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The law firm of Sirote & Permutt, P.C., and attorney C. Randall Caldwell, Jr., each claimed they were entitled to one-third of the attorneys' fees that were owed for a BP oil spill settlement. Sirote and Caldwell litigated their dispute against each other, and, following a bench trial, the trial court ruled in favor of Caldwell and awarded the funds to him. The Alabama Supreme Court determined the trial court had sufficient evidence to find the existence of a valid referral agreement between Caldwell and Cunningham Bounds as well as the existence of an attorney-client relationship between Caldwell and the Woerner entities. Sirote was not entitled to replace Caldwell as referring counsel merely because the Woerner entities terminated their attorney-client relationship with Caldwell. And the trial court's finding that Caldwell earned his referral fees at the time he referred the Woerner entities' BP claims did not require reversal. Finally, it is clear that the trial court did not award postjudgment interest. In all respects, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Sirote & Permutt, P.C. v. Caldwell" on Justia Law

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Paradigm Investment Group, LLC, and HR IV, LLC ("the tenants"), entered into a written lease agreement, which was ultimately assigned to Dewey Brazelton ("the landlord"). The lease obligated the tenants to make rental payments to the landlord from the operation of a fast-food franchise on the leased premises. When the tenants failed to remit rental payments, the landlord sued the tenants for breach of contract and unjust enrichment. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of the landlord, finding that the tenants had breached the lease agreement and were obligated to pay the landlord $113,869.44. The tenants appealed, arguing the trial court erred in entering summary judgment in favor of the landlord because they abandoned the leased premises; the lease agreement does not address abandonment; and, therefore, as a matter of law, common-law principles of abandonment, rather than the terms of lease, govern the landlord's available remedies. The tenants assert that, had the trial court correctly applied common-law principles of abandonment, it would not have awarded contract damages under the lease. Finding summary judgment was properly granted in favor of the landlord, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed. View "Paradigm Investment Group, LLC and HR IV, LLC v. Brazelton" on Justia Law

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In an earlier action, 623 Partners, LLC, obtained a default judgment against Bart Bowers. But 623 Partners never collected on that judgment. About nine years after obtaining the judgment, 623 Partners filed this case, alleging that Bart and members of his family had orchestrated the fraudulent conveyance of a property that should have been used to pay the judgment. While this case was pending, the judgment in the earlier action reached the 10-year mark, meaning the judgment was presumed satisfied. 623 Partners tried but failed to revive the judgment. The defendants in this case then moved for summary judgment on the sole basis that 623 Partners could not enforce the judgment -- effectively arguing that the 623 Partners' fraudulent-conveyance claims were moot. The trial court granted that motion. Because the Alabama Supreme Court presumed the judgment against Bart and its underlying debt were satisfied, the Court affirmed. View "623 Partners, LLC v. Bowers et al." on Justia Law

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Deborah Hillard and Holland Hillard Warr jointly petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus, raising numerous issues. The Court ordered answers and briefs on one issue raised by Warr: whether the circuit court erred in denying her summary-judgment motion on the counterclaim brought against her by her former husband, Rik Tozzi, which Warr claimed was barred by principles of res judicata. Warr specifically requested that the Supreme Court issue the writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to grant her summary-judgment motion. The Court denied the petition as to that issue. "Warr does not provide meaningful discussion of the precedent she cites or the other relevant precedent ... She has not established that the instant case is controlled by opinions holding that a former spouse was barred from pursuing a tort claim against the other former spouse based on conduct that occurred before a divorce. For example, she has not shown that the allegedly tortious acts and omissions surrounding the execution and delivery of the promissory note were fully litigated in the divorce action or that Tozzi's tort allegations were resolved by a settlement agreement entered in the divorce action or by the final divorce judgment." Because Warr did not demonstrate a clear legal right to a judgment in her favor on Tozzi's counterclaim based on principles of res judicata, the Supreme Court denied the petition. View "Ex parte Hillard and Warr." on Justia Law

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In case number 1190525, Paul Childs and Granger Construction Company, LLC ("Granger Construction"), appealed a circuit court judgment entered in favor of Harry ("Bud") and Brenda Pommer. In their cross-appeal, case number 1190580, the Pommers appealed the trial court's judgment entered in favor of Melissa Granger ("Melissa"), as the administratrix of the estate of Daniel Granger ("Granger"), deceased. In 2014, the Pommers decided to build a garage on property that they owned in Fairhope, Alabama. Childs was referred to Bud for the work. Childs brought Granger into the project as the licensed contractor for the work. The evidence presented at trial indicated that the project experienced significant delays. Evidence was presented indicating that Granger and Childs performed some of the physical labor on the project. In March 2015, when an invoice was presented to the Pommers, Bud and Brenda told the Childs and Granger that they did not want to give them another check based on how things had been going. A "heated" meeting between the parties resulted in the Pommers hiring an attorney. Bud requested the City conduct an inspection; the garage did not pass. The Pommers subsequently hired another contractor and other companies to repair work done by Granger Construction and to complete unfinished work on the project. The Pommers ultimately sued Childs and Granger Construction for breach of contract. Childs and Granger Construction filed their answer to the amended complaint and a counterclaim, asserting breach of contract/unjust enrichment against the Pommers. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court as to Granger Construction in case number 1190525. The Court reversed the trial court as to Childs, and rendered judgment in favor of Childs. In case number 1190580, the Court affirmed the trial court. View "Childs et al. v. Pommer" on Justia Law

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JT Construction, LLC ("JTC"), appealed a circuit court's judgment awarding declaratory and injunctive relief to MW Industrial Services, Inc. ("MWI"). MWI contracted with Golder Associates, Inc., to provide labor and services for a construction project at Plant Gorgas, a power plant operated by Alabama Power Company. Pursuant to the terms of the contract, MWI was prohibited from "permit[ting] any lien, affidavit of nonpayment, stop payment notice, attachment or other encumbrance ... to remain on record against [Plant Gorgas] or the property upon which it is situated for ... work performed or materials finished in connection [there]with" by any subcontractor with whom MWI might also contract. JTC subcontracted with MWI to work at Plant Gorgas. The subcontract agreement ("the lien-waiver provision") precluded JTC, in accordance with the master contract, from filing a lien against property owned by Alabama Power or Southern Company. Following execution of the subcontract agreement, a dispute arose between MWI and JTC in connection with JTC's performance of its contractual obligations and the amount owed to JTC for the work it had performed. In September 2020, counsel for JTC provided a "Notice of Mechanics' Lien" indicating that JTC claimed against the real property on which Plant Gorgas was situated, a lien in connection with JTC's work under the subcontract agreement. MWI pointed out the language of the lien-waiver provision of its subcontract, and demanded that JTC withdraw the lien notice. MWI asserted that JTC had been paid for any previous work before its execution of the subcontract agreement, and demanded that JTC withdraw its notice of lien. The trial court ultimately entered an order issuing a permanent injunction and ruling in favor of MWI on its declaratory-judgment claim, prohibiting JTC from filing its lien. The Alabama Supreme Court held the trial court erred in issuing the declaratory judgment and in awarding permanent injunctive relief without prior notice to JTC, as required by Rule 65(a)(2), and that JTC was prejudiced by that error. The trial court's judgment was therefore reversed, and this case was remanded for further proceedings. View "JT Construction, LLC v. MW Industrial Services, Inc." on Justia Law

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David Roberson appealed a circuit court's dismissal of his claims against Balch & Bingham, LLP ("Balch"), on the basis that those claims were barred by the limitations periods contained in the Alabama Legal Services Liability Act ("the ALSLA"). After review of the trial court record, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed, but on grounds that differed from the trial court's. "[T]he gravamen of Roberson's claims against Balch involved the provision of legal services. However, both Roberson and Balch assert that Roberson was not Balch's client, and those assertions are borne out in the third amended complaint, which indicates that Balch was engaged by Drummond, not personally by Roberson. ... Roberson's claims against the law firm Drummond engaged, Balch, are barred by the ALSLA because Roberson cannot meet an essential element of an ALSLA claim -- namely, he was not Balch's client -- and thus Balch owed no duty to Roberson. ... the circuit court's rationale was based on the applicability of the ALSLA's limitations periods." View "Roberson v. Balch & Bingham, LLP" on Justia Law

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Fuston, Petway & French, LLP ("the Firm"), appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of The Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham ("the Board") regarding the Board's termination of a contract between the parties. In September 2015, the Firm and the Board entered into a one-year contract in which the Firm agreed to provide legal representation for the Board. In 2016, the Firm and the Board entered into negotiations for a new contract. The chairman of the Board approached the Firm regarding the Board's need to have independent oversight and review of a program designed to attract "historically underutilized business entities" ("the HUB program"). Board meeting minutes at the end of 2016 reflected that the contract was approved. The contract between the Firm and the Board provided, in pertinent part, that the Firm would administer a Contract Compliance Program for the HUB program. Before the contract expired, the Board elected to terminate its contract with the Firm. The Firm sued for breach of contract and other theories. In its judgment, the trial court found, among other things, that the entirety of the Firm's obligations in the contract entailed legal services and that, as a result, the contract was terminable by the Board at any time. After review of the Firm's arguments appealing the trial court judgment, the Alabama Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed. View "Fuston, Petway & French, LLP v. Water Works Board of the City of Birmingham" on Justia Law

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Vectus 3, Inc., sued Shorter Brothers, Inc., and its owners for breaching an asset-purchase agreement and related claims. In doing so, Vectus asked the trial court to pierce Shorter Brothers' corporate veil and hold Shorter Brothers' owners personally liable for the company's actions. The trial court granted complete relief to Vectus and awarded it damages, leading defendants to appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. Vectus cross-appealed, arguing that the damages awarded were insufficient. Vectus operated FedEx Ground delivery routes for several years before its owner decided to sell its assets. Brothers Joseph Shorter and Jason Shorter expressed interest in purchasing those assets. Shorter Brothers entered into an asset purchase agreement ("the Agreement") with Vectus in October 2018. Because of concerns that Shorter Brothers would not obtain financing by the Agreement's closing, the parties provided a financing contingency in the Agreement. Shorter Brothers failed to obtain financing. As a result, it paid a downpayment and a monthly rental fee for approximately six months. It ceased making any payments after June 2019. The Alabama Supreme Court found no reversible error in the trial court's judgment. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed as to the Shorter Brothers' appeal and Vectus' cross-appeal. View "Shorter Brothers, Inc.,et al. v. Vectus 3, Inc." on Justia Law