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)..   

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Court of Civil Appeals Discusses Rule That Failure to Hold Hearing on Postjudgment Motions Is Reversible Error

In Wicks v. Wicks, released by the Court of Civil Appeals on April 16, 2010, the court discussed the ule that a trial court’s failure to hold a hearing on postjudgment motions constitutes reversible error.  It held that the harmless error exception to that rule was not applicable where the husband alleged the wife’s fraudulent failure to list substantial assets in a divorce settlement agreement.    

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Trial Court’s Oral Rendition of Judgment Insufficient to Dispose of Pending Post-Judgment Motion

In Ex parte Jackson Hospital & Clinic, Inc., released by the Supreme Court of Alabama on April 16, 2010, the court issued a writ of mandamus voiding a trial court order that vacated a summary judgment in favor of petitioners.  Because the summary judgment order had been pending for more than ninety days, the trial court lacked jurisdiction at the time it purported to vacate it and the oral rendition that ocurred within the 90 day period was not sufficient.  

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Successive 60(b) Motions Not Allowed

The circuit court denied a plaintiff’s Rule 60(b) motion. The plaintiff then filed a second, “identical” Rule 60(b) motion. The circuit court correctly recognized that it had no jurisdiction to entertain the second motion. Barnes v. Alternative Capital Source, LLC, No. 2081103 (Ala. Civ. App. Jan. 29, 2010).

This concise opinion presents a string of postjudgment filing dates. Its upshot is that successive postjudgment motions under Rule 60(b), by the same party on the same grounds, are not allowed.  This is the oft-repeated rule that “motions to reconsider” Rule 60(b) motions are not recognized; so that once a trial court denies a 60(b) plea, it cannot hear a second one by the same party. The circuit court in this case was affirmed for deciding, under Rule 60(b)(4), that it lacked jurisdiction to hear a repeat 60(b) motion.

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Rule 60(b) Used to Review a Costs Award

In Fenison v. Birmingham Spring Service, Inc., [Ms. 2080023, 2080036] (Ala. Civ. App. Nov. 6, 2009), the Court of Civil Appeals held that a costs award could be challenged in the trial court by way of a Rule 60(b) motion, but ultimately held that the trial court exceeded its discretion by granting relief.

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Action to Enforce Divorce Judgment Required New Filing Fee to Vest Jurisdiction

Six years after the parties were divorced, the wife filed a motion to amend a provision in the divorce judgment that awarded her a part of the husband’s retirement benefits. The Court of Civil Appeals deemed this an independent action to enforce the divorce judgment, which should have been accompanied by the appropriate filing fee. Because the wife did not pay that fee, the circuit court never obtained jurisdiction over her action, and the orders it had entered in the case were void. The Court of Civil Appeals dismissed the appeal and instructed the circuit court to vacate its relevant orders. Montgomery v. Montgomery, No. 2080400 (Ala. Civ. App. Oct. 30, 2009).

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Rule 60(b) Motion May Only Be Granted Where Movant Alleges and Proves a Ground Set Forth in the Rule

In Jefferson County Board of Health v. Birmingham Hide & Tallow Company, Inc., [Ms. 1080847] (Ala. Sept. 11, 2009), the Supreme Court reversed the granting of a Rule 60(b) motion for relief from judgment.  The motion in the trial court neither specified which subsection of the rule the motion was made, nor did it explain why relief was justified under the rule.  The Supreme Court held that the movant must offer evidence supporting a ground under Rule 60 and, because the movant failed to do so, the trial court exceeded its discretion in granting the motion.

Another Appeal Dismissed For Failure To Comply With Rules For Appeals From Arbitration Awards

Yet another appeal was dismissed for failure to follow the rules for appealing arbitration awards.  In Lindsey v. Deep South Properties, LLC, [Ms. 1080701] (Ala. Aug. 21, 2009), Deep South Properties obtain an arbitration award against Lindsey.  Deep South filed a copy of the award with the circuit court and moved the court to enter judgment on the award, which it did.  Lindsey then filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court.  However, under Horton Homes, Inc. v. Shaner, 999 So. 2d 462 (Ala. 2008), and now Ala. R. Civ. P. 71B and 71C, Lindsey was required to file a motion to vacate the award in the trial court within 30 days of the entry of the judgment.  The motion to vacate in the trial court is a necessary prerequisite to filing an appeal,and the failure to file the motion prior to the appeal required that the appeal be dismissed.

Party Cannot Amend Complaint After Final Judgment Entered

In Ex parte Progressive Specialty Ins. Co., [Ms. 1080366] (Ala. Aug. 21, 2009), the Alabama Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus directing the trial court strike an amendment purporting to add new claims and new parties made after final judgment was entered. Once the trial court enters a final judgment, the trial court loses jurisdiction to allow amendments to pleadings: "a trial court has no jurisdiction to entertain a motion to amend a complaint to add new claims or new parties after a final judgment has been entered, unless that ‘judgment is first set aside or vacates’ pursuant to the state’s rules of civil procedure." Slip Op. pp. 9-10, quoting Faith Properties, LLC v. First Commercial Bank, 988 So. 2d 485, 490 (Ala. 2008).  Here, there was no post-judgment motion, so the trial court was without jurisdiction to accept any amendments to the pleadings after the judgment was entered.