Rule 54(b) Certification Improper Where Ruling Did Not Dispose Of All Aspects of Claim

In Alfa Mutual Ins. Co. v. Bone, [Ms. 1061808, 1061834] (Ala. Jan. 9, 2009), the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed an appeal based on an improper Rule 54(b) certification where the order did not dispose of all aspects of the declaratory judgment claim.  Disposing of some, but not all, issues raised by a claim does not support a Rule 54(b) certification.

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Petition For Writ of Mandamus Denied As Untimely

In Ex parte CJA [Ms. 2070994] (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 9. 2009), the Court of Civil Appeals denied a petition for writ of mandamus because it was filed after the presumptively reasonable time to appeal, and did not state good cause for failing to file it within the reasonable time.  Further, the fiing of a "motion to set aside" the original order did not toll the time in which a mandamus may be filed. The court, however, also went on to discuss the merits of the petition, and said it was due to be denied on that basis as well.  Judges Moore and Thomas dissented, saying that because the petition was untimely, it should be "dismissed" instead of  "denied," and there was no needto discuss the merits of the petition. 

Implicit Holding Does Not Have Force of Stare Decisis

Conclusions implicit in a court’s ultimate decision do not have the force of stare decisis.  Cochran v. Chapman, No. 2070541 (Ala. Civ. App. Dec. 31, 2008).  "’For a case to be stare decisis on a particular point of law, that issue must have been raised in the action, decided by the court, and its decision made part of the opinion of the case; accordingly, a case is not binding precedent on a point of law where the holding is only implicit or assumed in the decision but is not announced . . ."[a]rguments based on what courts do not say, logically speaking, are generally unreliable and should not be favored by the judiciary."

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Procedural Errors Doom Appeal

The Court of Civil Appeals’s decision in Chaney v. Ala West et al., No. 2070599 (Ala. Civ. App. Dec. 31, 2008), illustrates why parties should be particularly vigilant about appellate procedure in cases involving numerous parties and claims.  The trial court over a two year period entered summary judgment in favor of all of the defendants on all of the plaintiffs’ claims.  The trial court certified the first summary judgment order under Rule 54(b) for immediate review, but the plaintiffs did not appeal that order until they appealed from the final summary judgment.  Because the appellants filed their notice of appeal more than 42 days following the Rule 54(b) certification, the Court of Civil Appeals, in a case that the Alabama Supreme Court assigned to it, dismissed that portion of the appeal because it was untimely (and an untimely appeal is a jurisdictional error).  The Court of Civil Appeals also rejected the arguments that the appellants submitted in opposition to another defendant’s summary judgment motion because the appellants recycled arguments that they had offered in opposition to a third defendant’s summary judgment motion.  The Court found that the the "largely unresponsive" submission did not satisfy the appellants’ burden of proof. 

Cases Released January 9, 2009

From the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals:

Stephens v. Huie

Ex parte C.J.A., Petition for Writ of Mandamus; In re: In the matter of E.C.H., a minor

A.M.B. v. J.M.S.

Ex parte Russell, Petition for Writ of Mandamus; In re: Myers v. Russell, acting commissioner, Alabama Department of Revenue

Lackey v. Lackey

Ryland v. Ryland

M.B. and E.B. v. S.B.


From the Supreme Court of Alabama:

Ex parte King, Petition for Writ of Mandamus; In re: Ex parte State (In re: State of Alabama v. King)

Ex parte AIG Baker Orange Beach Wharf, L.L.C., Petition for Writ of Mandamus; In re: BE-JEWELED, L.L.C., and Alabama limited liability company, et al. v. AIG Baker Orange Beach Wharf, et al.

Williamson v. Fourth Avenue Supermarket, Inc.

Alabama State Bar v. McBrayer of Tuscaloosa, Inc. v. Morton

Hereford v. D.R. Horton, Inc.

Alfa Mutual Insurance Company v. Bone

Crutcher v. Williams


Standard of Review for Judicial Estoppel Undecided

In Henriksen v. Roth, No. 1060875  (Ala. Dec. 31, 2008), the Alabama Supreme Court left for another day the question of the proper standard of review for issues regarding judicial estoppel.  "Henriksen urges this Court to apply a de novo standard of review regarding the trial court’s refusal to grant her judicial-estoppel motion, arguing that the issue is purely a question of law. The Roth defendants urge this Court to employ an abuse-of-discretion standard of review, noting that Alabama law provides trial courts with considerable discretion concerning equitable remedies and observing that the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reviews such rulings applying that same standard. See Transamerica Leasing, Inc. v. Institute of London Underwriters, 430 F.3d 1326, 1331 (11th Cir. 2005)."  The Court did not decide the proper standard of review, "because the result is the same regardless of the standard applied."  


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