Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

by
Deidre W. Lee and Samuel G. McKerall appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Town of Magnolia Springs Mayor Charles Houser and Town Councilman Robert C. Holk. The Town of Magnolia Springs and the Magnolia Springs Planning Commission (the remaining defendants in the underlying action), appealed a judgment entered on a jury award to Lee and McKerall. In 2005, Lee purchased 47 acres of property in Baldwin County. In 2006, she submitted an application for preliminary subdivision-plat approval detailing a 124-lot residential subdivision to the Baldwin County Planning Commission. The Town of Magnolia Springs incorporated in June 2006, six months before Lee submitted her plat application to the Baldwin County Planning Commission. The first mayor and council for the Town of Magnolia Springs were sworn in 13 days before Lee submitted her application to the Baldwin County Planning Commission. When Lee submitted her application, the Town of Magnolia Springs had no jurisdiction over Lee's property, and only the Baldwin County Planning Commission had the authority to consider Lee's application because her property was outside the town limits. The Baldwin County Planning Commission tabled Lee's application. The Town of Magnolia Springs' mayor informed the Baldwin County Planning Commission that the jurisdiction of Magnolia Springs would extend to include Lee's property and that Magnolia Springs intended to pass a moratorium on subdivision approvals because "a couple of [the town's] council members ... have been involved in ... trying to get [Lee's plat application] delayed." He also acknowledged that Magnolia Springs had "no rules and regulations" regarding applications for preliminary subdivision-plat approvals. Lee sued when the plan was ultimately denied. After careful review, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment in favor of Lee against the Town of Magnolia Springs and its planning commission, as well as the summary judgment in favor of Houser and Holk, and pretermitted any remaining issues. The Court held that McKerall's claims against the Town of Magnolia Springs and its planning commission were barred by his failure to timely file a notice of claim, and reversed the judgment in his favor. View "Lee v. Houser" on Justia Law

by
Lowell and Deborah Fuller, and Ronald Sheila Turner, appealed a circuit court judgment that found that although the Town of Magnolia Springs held no riparian rights in or to the Magnolia River, the Town was entitled to construct improvements on the shores and to construct a boat launch, dock and/or pier to be used in connection with "Rock Landing," a public landing on the River, and that Rock Street (a public street adjoining land owned by the Fullers and Turners) could be used as temporary parking for the purpose of launching a boat or other float at Rock Landing. The Town cross-appealed that portion of the judgment which declared that the Town held no authority to convert a portion of Rock Street from a public street to a parking facility and recreational area. The Supreme Court, after its review, concluded that the trial court's findings of fact and conclusions of law were contradictory to the remedy it ultimately fashioned. Because of this contradiction, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded the case for revision of either the conclusion of law or the relief ordered. With regard to the Town's cross appeal, the Court found that because the issue of parking along Rock Street directly related to the issues on appeal, it too should have been reconsidered. View "Fuller v. Town of Magnolia Springs " on Justia Law

by
Lowell and Deborah Fuller, and Ronald and Sheila M. Turner, appealed a circuit court judgment which found that, although the Town of Magnolia Springs held no riparian rights in and to the Magnolia River, the Town was entitled to construct improvements on the shores of the River and extending into the River for a boat launch, a boat dock, and/or a pier to be used in connection with Rock Landing, a public landing on the River, and that Rock Street, a public street in the Town that adjoined the lands owned by the Fullers and the Turners and that terminated at Rock Landing, could be used for temporary parking "for the purpose of launching a boat, kayak, canoe or other float at Rock Landing." The Town cross-appealed that part of the judgment that declared the Town was without authority to convert a portion of Rock Street from a public street to a parking facility and recreational area. On appeal, the Fullers and Turners argued that the remedy ordered by the circuit court was inconsistent with the underlying factual findings and conclusions of law. Upon review, the Supreme Court agreed that the conclusions of law were indeed contradictory to the remedy the circuit court fashioned. The Court reversed the circuit court and remanded the case for the court to either revise its conclusions of law or the relief it ordered. Furthermore, because the Town's cross-appeal directly related to the issues raised on appeal, the Court ordered the cross-appeal to be reconsidered by the circuit court on remand. View "Fuller v. Town of Magnolia Springs " on Justia Law

by
Anne Bates Gibbons appealed a circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the Town of Vincent ("the Town"), the town's planning commission, and White Rock Quarries, LLC ("White Rock") (collectively, "appellees"). This matter stemmed from a zoning change impacting 86 acres of undeveloped land owned by White Rock that were annexed into the Town. Gibbons's complaint challenged the Town's rezoning of the land based on a rezoning application submitted by White Rock and its annexation of the 86 acres. White Rock sought the rezoning and annexation so that it could construct and operate a rock quarry on the property. Gibbons alleged that the Town did not satisfy the notice requirements of the applicable statutes that give municipal corporations in Alabama the power to enact zoning ordinances and that set out the requirements for enacting such ordinances in adopting a 2009 amendment. In the alternative, assuming that the 2009 amendment was validly adopted, Gibbons sought a declaration that White Rock's proposed use of the land was covered under section 5.5, not section 5.14.5, of the Town's zoning code. The circuit court ultimately granted appellees' motion for summary judgment, and Gibbons appealed. Finding that the Town complied with the applicable statutes in its annexation of the 86 acres, the Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the appellees. View "Gibbons v. Town of Vincent" on Justia Law

by
The Housing Authority of the Birmingham District ("HABD") appealed the judgment entered by the Jefferson Circuit Court which awarded Logan Properties, Inc., $350,000 on its inverse condemnation claim against HABD, as well as an additional $100,000 for litigation expenses, and awarding the intervening plaintiff Alamerica Bank $10,000 for litigation expenses. Logan Properties is a real-estate and property-management company that purchases, renovates, rents, and maintains single-family and multi-family residences. In January 2002, Logan Properties purchased "Patio Court," a 30-unit apartment complex for approximately $101,000. Logan Properties began renovating the vacant units in the complex with the plan of transferring current tenants into the newly renovated units until the entire complex was eventually renovated and leased. Logan Properties financed the purchase and rehabilitation of Patio Court by obtaining a construction loan from Alamerica Bank. In February 2003, Logan Properties obtained an adjacent parcel of property including a triplex unit with the same goal of renovating and leasing the units. Sometime in 2004, Logan Properties learned that HABD had obtained a federal grant to redevelop "Tuxedo Court," a multi- block public-housing complex located across the street from Patio Court. That project entailed the demolition of the existing Tuxedo Court housing complex and the construction of new housing in its place. After the plans for the Tuxedo Court project were made public, tenants started leaving Patio Court, telling Logan Properties that HABD was going to condemn Patio Court as part of the project. As residents in Tuxedo Court left as well, the general area deteriorated, and the vacant Patio Court apartments became the subject of theft and vandalism. Though Logan Properties had completely renovated 18 of the units, it eventually stopped renovation work, and, at trial conceded that the entire property had become unlivable. The parties tried to negotiate salvaging the area, but Patio continued to deteriorate. HABD subsequently initiated condemnation proceedings, and simultaneously filed a lis pendens notice on the properties. The probate court granted HABD's application for condemnation and appointed three disinterested commissioners to determine the compensation due Logan Properties for the condemnation of its property. The probate court failed to enter an order adopting the commissioners' report within a seven-day period required by statute and Logan Properties moved for a dismissal of the condemnation action. The probate court granted that motion and dismissed the action. Logan Properties then initiated an inverse-condemnation action against HABD, alleging that HABD had taken or injured property owned by Logan Properties. Upon review of the trial court record, the Supreme Court concluded that because no evidence was presented at trial indicating that HABD was responsible for a direct physical injury upon Logan Properties' property, that judgment was reversed and the cause remanded for the trial court to enter a judgment as a matter of law in favor of HABD. View "Housing Authority of the Birmingham District v. Logan Properties, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Howard M. Schramm, Jr., appealed a March 6, 2012, judgment of the Baldwin Circuit Court approving pier construction permits issued to Schramm's neighbors, George G. Spottswood and Amy H. Spottswood, by the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources ("DCNR") and Baldwin County even though the proposed pier would violate the 10-foot setback rule in the applicable DCNR and Baldwin County rules and regulations. The Spottswoods crossappealed the order of the Baldwin Circuit Court denying their January 9, 2012, motion to alter, amend, or vacate its February 27, 2007, judgment setting the boundaries of their riparian-use area. Upon careful consideration of the trial court record, the Supreme Court found no error and affirmed. View "Schramm, Jr. v. Spottswood " on Justia Law

by
The Fort Morgan Civic Association, Inc. and Charles Browdy, a resident of the unincorporated Fort Morgan area of Baldwin County and a member of the Association (collectively "the FMCA"), sued the City of Gulf Shores and its mayor and city council seeking a court order declaring the City's annexation of a 19.3-mile segment of the land on which Fort Morgan Road is located and the adjacent land to be invalid.1 Following a nonjury trial, the trial court held that the FMCA had failed to establish that the Fort Morgan annexation was invalid; it accordingly entered a judgment in favor of the City. The FMCA appealed. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded: "because the FMCA submitted evidence at that trial indicating that two parcels of property included in the Fort Morgan annexation were owned by private individuals and because the City failed to submit any evidence indicating that those same parcels were owned by the State, the trial court exceeded its discretion in upholding the annexation." View "Fort Morgan Civic Association, Inc. v. City of Gulf Shores" on Justia Law

by
The Industrial Development Board of the City of Montgomery (IDB) appealed a circuit court's interlocutory order that denied its motion for summary judgment as to a breach-of-contract claim asserted against it by George and Thomas Russell as co-executors and co-trustees of the wills and testamentary trusts of Earnest and Myrtis Russell, Price and Mary McLemore and several others. In 2001, various officials of the State of Alabama, the City of Montgomery, the Montgomery County Commission, Montgomery Chamber of Commerce and the local water works board began making preparations to secure options to purchase property in the Montgomery area in an attempt to persuade Hyundai Motor Company to build an automobile plant in the area. All the trusts owned acres of land in the targeted area. The IDB signed separate options with the Russells, the McLemores and other trusts to purchase the respective properties. Hyundai's plans for its manufacturing plant changed, and subsequently, not all of the options were exercised. The Russells and the McLemores each filed breach-of-contract actions against the IDB and Hyundai alleging that neither adhered to the terms of their respective options. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the trial court did not err in denying the IDB's motion for summary judgment. The Court affirmed the lower court's decision.

by
The Greens at Auburn, The Greens at Auburn Land Development and the Loachapoka Water Authority (LWA) all appealed a partial summary judgment in favor of the Water Works Board of the City of Auburn (AWWB). As Auburn grew westward and southward, the city limits expanded to include certain portions of the territory to which LWA is authorized to provide service. Several disputes have arisen between AWWB and LWA concerning which entity will provide service in their overlapping areas. In 2009, AWWB filed suit seeking a declaratory judgment that it could provide water services to several discrete locations within the disputed areas. The Greens companies petitioned to intervene in the suit because they held interests in the disputed areas. In June 2010, the trial court entered a partial summary judgment in favor of AWWB on a majority of claims asserted in its complaint, including to those claims pertaining to The Greens at Auburn. In the same order, the court dismissed an LWA counterclaim, and certified the partial summary judgment as final. Upon review of the record, the Supreme Court found that the trial court exceeded its discretion by certifying the partial summary judgment as final. The Court set the certification aside and remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.