Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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Georgia Urology, P.A., and several of its member physicians filed objections to challenge a $124 million attorney fee awarded by the Jefferson Alabama Circuit Court to class counsel as part of the settlement of Johnson v. Caremark Rx, LLC ("the Caremark class action). After the trial court overruled their objections and its judgment approving the settlement became final, the objectors appealed the attorney fee to this Court. Caremark Rx bought MedPartners; MedPartners was the subject of dozens of securities-fraud lawsuits alleging that it had made false statements regarding its financial condition and anticipated future performance. Many of those lawsuits were eventually consolidated into a class action. In 1999, the MedPartners class action was settled for $56 million based on MedPartners' assertions that the negotiated settlement exhausted its available insurance coverage and that it possessed limited other assets it could use to pay a larger award or settlement. Post-settlement, however, it was revealed in unrelated litigation that MedPartners actually held an excess-insurance policy providing unlimited coverage during the period in which the alleged fraud had been committed. In 2003, the Caremark class action was initiated against MedPartners' corporate successor Caremark Rx, and its previous insurer asserting fraud and suppression claims based on the $56 million settlement agreed to in the MedPartners class action. The objectors appealed the fee award to the Alabama Supreme Court, arguing that they had been given insufficient opportunity to object to class counsel's requested attorney fee inasmuch as their objections were due before class counsel's attorney-fee application was filed, and that the attorney fee ultimately awarded was excessive. The Supreme Court vacated the order entered by the trial court awarding class counsel an attorney fee of $124 million. On remand, class counsel may file a new attorney-fee application, including more detailed information regarding the time expended in this case and how that time was spent. The objectors would then be given a reasonable opportunity to review that application and may, if they still have objections to class counsel's new application, file those objections with the trial court. After the trial court considers those objections and enters a new order making an award of attorney fees, any party with a grievance may file a new appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. View "Walker v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Mary Hall, as personal representative of the estate of Adolphus Hall, Sr., and Anaya McKinnon, as personal representative of the estate of Wanzy Lee Bowman appealed the dismissal of their class-action claims against Environmental Litigation Group, P.C. ("ELG"). Plaintiffs alleged ELG agreed to represent hundreds of clients who had been exposed to asbestos, including their respective decedents. Plaintiffs alleged ELG charged its clients an excessive fee above and beyond the amount listed in their respective contracts. The trial court dismissed their case with prejudice. The Alabama Supreme Court disagreed with the trial court’s judgment, reversed and remanded. On remand, the trial court appointed a special master, who again recommended dismissal of plaintiffs’ claims. The trial court held that the attorney-employment agreement was ambiguous and that this ambiguity was fatal to the plaintiffs' class-allegation claims. Thus, the trial court dismissed the class claims before the class-certification process began. At this point in the proceedings and under the standard of review, the Supreme Court saw no ambiguity in the attorney-employment agreements, negating the trial court's contrary conclusion as to the individualized inquiry necessary with regard to the plaintiffs' contract claims. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's order dismissing the plaintiffs' claims for class-based relief and remanded the matter for further proceedings. View "Hall v. Environmental Litigation Group, P.C." on Justia Law

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In June 2000, the Franklin Circuit Court entered a final judgment approving a settlement agreement in “Taff v. Caremark, Inc.,” a class-action lawsuit against the corporate predecessor of the petitioner, Caremark Rx, LLC ("Caremark). Approximately 16 years later, in July 2016, Taff class counsel moved the trial court to enter an order requiring Caremark to produce for them certain information regarding the members of the Taff class so that Taff class counsel could notify those members of a proposed settlement in a separate class-action lawsuit pending against Caremark at the Jefferson Circuit Court, “Johnson v. Caremark Rx, LLC,” in which some of the members of the Taff class might be able to file claims. The trial court ultimately granted Taff class counsel's request and ordered Caremark to produce the requested information. Caremark petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to vacate that order. “The jurisdiction retained by the trial court after it entered its final judgment in Taff is limited to interpreting or enforcing that final judgment; the trial court could not extend its jurisdiction over any matter somehow related to the June 2000 final judgment in perpetuity by simply declaring it so.” The Court therefore granted the petition and issued the writ. View "Ex parte Caremark Rx, LLC" on Justia Law

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The Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority ("ACIFA") and its ex officio vice president Kim Thomas appealed a judgment entered on a jury verdict awarding $5 million in compensatory damages to Albert Wilson, Donald Simmons, Rufus Barnes, Bryan Gavins, Joseph Danzey, and a class of current and former nonexempt correctional officers employed by the Alabama Department of Corrections ("ADOC"). The correctional officers sued ADOC and its commissioner alleging ADOC was violating its own regulations and state law in the manner in which it: (1) compensated correctional officers for overtime; (2) restricted the way correctional officers were allowed to use earned leave; and (3) paid correctional officers the daily subsistence allowance provided by law. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in favor of the correctional officers, finding that there was a lack of substantial evidence in support of the officers' claims against ACIFA and against Thomas as ex officio vice president of ACIFA. As such, defendants were entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. View "Alabama Corrections Institution Finance Authority v. Wilson et al." on Justia Law

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Michael Howard appealed the grant of summary judgment entered against him in the action he commenced on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated taxpayers in Cullman County against Cullman County and its Revenue Commissioner Barry Willingham, in his official capacity. Howard sought a refund of property taxes he and other taxpayers paid in 2013. Howard sought a judgment declaring that, pursuant to former section 40-7-42, the Commission's levy of property taxes for October 1, 2012, through September 30, 2013, was invalid because it was done in May 2013 rather than at the Commission's first regular meeting in February 2013. He also sought the return of property taxes collected in 2013. The Supreme Court found that the trial court correctly concluded that the Commission's failure to follow the timing provision of former 40-7-42 did not invalidate its subsequent levy in 2013 of property taxes upon Howard and other property owners in Cullman County. Therefore, the Court affirmed summary judgment on all of Howard's claims in favor of Cullman County and the revenue commissioner. View "Howard v. Cullman County" on Justia Law