Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

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In appeal no. 1120678, Michael D. Beam appealed circuit court orders in a conservatorship proceeding. In appeal no. 1120679, Michael appealed a will-contest proceeding that was then-pending in the same court. Upon review of these cases, the Supreme Court concluded the circuit court never obtained subject-matter jurisdiction over the conservatorship proceeding and that the orders entered by the circuit court in were void and therefore should have been vacated. Because a void order will not support an appeal, the Court dismissed appeal no. 1120678 and directed the circuit court to vacate its orders. View "Beam v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Denise Scott Ricks sought to admit a self-proving will to probate. After the will was admitted, Adam Dorough, Rufus Dorough, James Dorough, Patrick Dorough, and Robert Dorough brought a will contest at Circuit Court. The Circuit Court declared the will to be valid, and the Dorough brothers appealed. The Court of Civil Appeals reversed the judgment of the Autauga Circuit Court. After its review, the Supreme Court affirmed the Circuit Court and reversed the judgment of the Court of Civil Appeals. View "Dorough v. Ricks " on Justia Law

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In 2010, the State of Kentucky entered an order finding that 74-year-old Shirley Day was in need of a guardian and conservator. The Kentucky court appointed her adult daughter, Rhonda Sears, to serve in both capacities. Subsequently, Sears applied to the Kentucky court to transfer the guardianship and conservatorship to Alabama, where she and Day resided. In early 2012, the Kentucky court issued a provisional order granting the request. Sears then applied to the Montgomery Probate Court for a provisional order accepting the transfer from Kentucky. That same day, the probate judge appointed Valerie Cain as a guardian ad litem to represent Day in the transfer proceeding. Cain later submitted a report to the probate court questioning expenditures from Day's estate and requesting a guardian ad litem fee. Although nothing in the report indicated any inappropriate actions regarding Sears's actions in caring for Day, Cain recommended that both the conservatorship and the guardianship be transferred but that, rather than Sears, "the [Montgomery] county guardian and conservator be appointed." The probate court granted the petition to transfer and appointed James Hampton as guardian of Day and conservator of Day's estate. Day was removed from Sears's home and placed in an apartment home. The probate court also approved Cain's guardian ad litem fee to be paid from Day's estate. Sears appealed the probate court's order on the ground that the probate court's order violated Alabama law. Ultimately, the court denied Sears's requested relief and set the matter for further proceedings. Sears then filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court found that one of Day's other adult daughters disagreed with Sears's expenditures from Day's estate, and could have objected and the probate court could then have held a hearing to determine whether the transfer to Alabama of Sears's Kentucky guardianship and conservatorship would be in Day's best interests. Here, the probate court would have erred by appointing any new guardian and conservator, most especially a different guardian and conservator than the one previously appointed by the transferring court, when the only matter properly before the court was the issue whether a provisional order of transfer would be approved. "This was clearly beyond the scope of the statute, and the probate court acted without authority in doing so." As a result of the erroneous appointment of the Montgomery County guardian and conservator, Day was subjected to removal from Sears's home and Day's estate was subjected to unnecessary fees in this jurisdiction when the Alabama law safeguards the protected person and his or her resources from the transfer of an inappropriate guardianship or conservatorship when it is not in the best interests of the protected person. Because the Court could not ascertain whether the probate court's grant of the transfer petition was dependent upon its erroneous appointment of a new guardian and conservator, the Court felt compelled to reverse both aspects of the court's order. View "Sears v. Hampton" on Justia Law

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Dr. Ann M. Mottershaw and The Radiology Group, LLC, appealed a trial court's order granting a motion for a new trial filed by plaintiff Shannon Ledbetter, as administrator of the estate of Venoria Womack. These appeals primarily concerned whether the trial court exceeded its discretion in ordering a new trial based on the jury's exposure to certain evidence that the trial court had excluded by an order granting a motion in limine. After careful consideration of defendants' arguments and the trial court record, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's decision. View "Mottershaw v. Ledbetter" on Justia Law

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Donald Hughes and John Hughes appealed circuit court judgment vacating a deed and imposing a constructive trust upon real property formerly owned by Henry Hughes and Emma Lucille Hughes, both of whom are deceased. Because the Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court never acquired jurisdiction of the claim at issue, it vacated the judgment and dismissed the appeal. View "Hughes v. Robbie Branton " on Justia Law

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Toma E. Smith, as personal representative of the estate of Tiffani P. Smith, appeals the grant of a summary judgment in favor of Dr. James Fleming, and a judgment entered in favor of Dr. Winfield S. Fisher III and the University of Alabama Foundation on her wrongful death claims. Dr. Fisher and the Foundation cross-appealed, arguing that the action should have been dismissed as being void ab initio. Based on the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court did not err in entering a summary judgment in favor of Dr. Fleming. The Court concluded the trial court did not err in its judgment in favor of Dr. Fisher and the Foundation. View "Smith v. Winfield" on Justia Law

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USA Water Ski, Inc. sought a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to vacate its discovery order compelling the production of a report that it deemed privileged under the work-product doctrine. Finding that USA Water Ski adequately explained that it's hired expert's post-incident report was prepared because of prospective litigation, the Supreme Court found USA Water Ski had shown the trial court exceeded its discretion in ordering production of the report. Accordingly the Court granted the petition and issued the writ. View "Ewing v. USA Water Ski, Inc." on Justia Law

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Tyson Foods, Inc. petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Blount Circuit Court to dismiss Reba Kirkley's action against it, brought in her capacity as administratrix of her father's estate, on the ground that Kirkley lacked standing. On April 15, 2008, Allen Hayes died in a workplace accident at the Tyson Foods plant in Blount County. A tractor operated by an employee of Tyson Foods hit Hayes, who was working as a security guard. His widow Mildred Hayes collected $40,964.19 in workers' compensation death benefits against the account of DSI Security Services, Allen's employer at the time of the accident. On June 26, 2008, Kirkley, the personal representative of Allen's estate and Allen and Mildred's daughter, filed a wrongful-death action against the Tyson petitioners, who answered and removed the case to federal court. In early March 2011, the federal court remanded the case to state court. The trial judge denied the motion to dismiss. Finding that Tyson did not demonstrate a clear legal right to the remedy it sought seek, the Supreme Court denied the petition. View "Kirkley v. Tyson Foods, Inc." on Justia Law

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Following an automobile accident in which Ron'Drequez Cortez White was killed by a drunk driver, Elizabeth McElroy, the county administrator for Jefferson County and appointed personal representative of White's estate, hired an attorney to file a wrongful-death action against the drunk driver. The wrongful-death action resulted in a recovery, and, following litigation on the issue of the personal representative's fee, the Circuit Court awarded McElroy a fee from the wrongful-death proceeds. Samuel Rodgers, White's father, contended in the litigation below that, as personal representative, McElroy was not entitled to be compensated for her services from the recovery in the wrongful-death action. Rodgers appealed the circuit court's judgment awarding McElroy a fee to the Court of Civil Appeals. The Court of Civil Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether a personal representative may be compensated out of the proceeds recovered in a wrongful-death action. Upon review, the Court concluded that McElroy was not entitled to compensation out of the proceeds of the wrongful-death recovery for her services as personal representative and that the circuit court exceeded its discretion in awarding McElroy compensation out of that recovery. View "Rodgers v. McElroy" on Justia Law

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Harold Keith Hunt, the surviving son of Harold Guy Hunt, who died testate in 2009, appealed a November 2011 circuit court order among other things, refused to issue him a deed to the real property devised to him in his father's will until all debts, claims, and costs of administration of the estate had been paid. Upon review of the matter, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal as having been taken from a nonfinal judgment. View "Hunt v. Estate of Harold Guy Hunt" on Justia Law