Court Reviews Scope of Law of the Case Doctrine

In its second opinion in the Poole v. Prince litigation, the Alabama Supreme Court reviewed the law of the case doctrine to determine whether its first opinion in this matter was dispositive of the issue before it in the second appeal.  The Court concluded that because the facts on which its first summary judgment opinion was based were different from the facts relevant to the second summary judgment appeal, the law of the case doctrine did not apply.  Poole v. Prince, 1090461 (Ala. Oct. 22, 2010)..   

Quoting Bagley ex rel. Bagley v. Creekside Motors, Inc., 913 So. 2d 441, 445 (Ala. 2005), the Court explained:

 "’"It is well established that on remand the issues decided by an appellate court become the ‘law of the case, ‘ and that the trial court must comply with the appellate court’s mandate." Gray v. Reynolds, 553 So. 2d 79, 81 (Ala. 1989). If, however, an observation by the appellate court concerning an issue is premised on a particular set of facts, and the nature of the remand is such that it is permissible and appropriate to consider additional facts relevant to the issue, the law-of-the-case doctrine is inapplicable. Quimby v. Memorial Parks, Inc., 835 So. 2d 134 (Ala. 2002); United States Fid. & Guar. Co. v. Baldwin County Home Builders Ass’n, 823 So. 2d 637 (Ala. 2 0 01); Blumberg v. Touche Ross & Co., 514 So. 2d 922 (Ala. 19 8 7); Gonzalez v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama, 750 So. 2d 878 (Ala. Civ. App. 2000) . ‘

"’"Under the doctrine of the ‘law of the case, ‘ whatever is once established between the same parties in the same case continues to be the law of that case, whether or not correct on general principles, so long as the facts on which the decision was predicated continue to be the facts of the case." Blumberg v. Touche Ross & Co., 514 So. 2d 922, 924 (Ala. 1987) . See also Titan Indem. Co. v. Riley, 679 So. 2d 701(Ala. 1996) . "It is well established that on remand the issues decided by an appellate court become the ‘law of the case, ‘ and that the trial court must comply with the appellate court’s mandate." Gray v. Reynolds, 553 So. 2d 79, 81 (Ala.1989).’

"Southern United Fire Ins. Co. v. Purma, 792 So. 2d 1092, 1094 (Ala. 2001) . In the words of Justice Holmes, the doctrine of the law of the case ‘merely expresses the practice of courts generally to refuse to reopen what has been decided ….’ Messinger v. Anderson, 225 U.S. 436, 444 [] (1912)."