Justia Arbitration & Mediation Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
Women’s Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter
Consolidated appeals stemmed from an employment dispute between Dr. Margot G. Potter and her former employer, Women's Care Specialists, P.C. ("Women's Care"), and out of a dispute between Potter and three Women's Care employees: Dr. Karla Kennedy, Dr. Elizabeth Barron, and Beth Ann Dorsett ("the WC employees"). In case no. CV-21-903797, Potter alleged claims of defamation, tortious interference with a business relationship, and breach of contract against Women's Care. In case no. CV-21-903798, Potter alleged claims of defamation and tortious interference with a business relationship against the WC employees. After the trial court consolidated the cases, Women's Care and the WC employees filed motions to compel arbitration on the basis that Potter's claims were within the scope of the arbitration provision in Potter's employment agreement with Women's Care and that the arbitration provision governed their disputes even though Potter was no longer a Women's Care employee. The trial court entered an order denying those motions. Women's Care and the WC employees separately appealed; the Alabama Supreme Court consolidated the appeals. In appeal no. SC-2022-0706, the Supreme Court held that Potter's breach of-contract claim and her tort claims against Women's Care were subject to arbitration. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's order denying Women's Care's motion to compel arbitration. In appeal no. SC-2022-0707, the Supreme Court held that Potter's tort claims against the WC employees were subject to arbitration. The Court therefore reversed the trial court's order denying their motion to compel arbitration, and remanded both cases for further proceedings. View "Women's Care Specialists, P.C. v. Potter" on Justia Law
Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas, Inc., et al. v. Southern Lift Trucks, LLC
Consolidated appeals arose from of a commercial dispute between Southern Lift Trucks, LLC ("Southern"), and Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas, Inc. ("Hyundai Construction") -- an alleged subsidiary of Hyundai Heavy Industries Co., Ltd. ("Hyundai Heavy Industries"). Southern was a heavy-equipment dealer for Hyundai Construction. Southern filed suit against Hyundai Construction and Hyundai Heavy Industries (collectively, as "Hyundai") asserting various claims, including claims under the Alabama Heavy Equipment Dealer Act ("the AHEDA"). Southern also sought a preliminary injunction to prevent Hyundai: (1) from unlawfully terminating one of the dealer agreements at issue in these appeals; and (2) from unlawfully adding a second dealer in the territory that was covered under another dealer agreement at issue. In response, Hyundai moved to compel arbitration. The circuit court granted Southern's request for a preliminary injunction and denied Hyundai's motion to compel arbitration. In appeal no. SC-2022-0675, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order insofar as it granted Southern's motion for a preliminary injunction as to the forklift agreement. However, the Court reversed the trial court's order insofar as it issued a preliminary injunction related to the construction-equipment agreement, and remanded the case for the trial court to enter an order consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion. In case no. SC-2022-0676, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's order insofar as it denied Hyundai's motion to compel arbitration as to any provisions of Southern's declaratory-judgment claim relating to the "enforceability of any provision" of the dealer agreement. However, the Court reversed the trial court's order insofar as it denied Hyundai's motion to compel arbitration as to Southern's other claims, and that case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Hyundai Construction Equipment Americas, Inc., et al. v. Southern Lift Trucks, LLC" on Justia Law
Alabama Somerby, LLC, et al. v. L.D.
Alabama Somerby, LLC, d/b/a Brookdale University Park IL/AL/MC; Brookdale Senior Living, Inc.; and Undrea Wright (collectively, Brookdale) appealed a circuit court's order denying their motion to compel arbitration of the claims asserted against them by plaintiff, L.D., as the next friend of her mother, E.D. Brookdale operated an assisted-living facility for seniors ("the nursing home") in Jefferson County, Alabama; Wright was the administrator of the nursing home. In March 2022, L.D. filed on E.D.'s behalf, a complaint against Brookdale and Wright and others, asserting various tort claims and seeking related damages premised on allegations that, following her admission to the nursing home, E.D. had been subjected to multiple sexual assaults both by other residents and by an employee of Brookdale. The Brookdale defendants jointly moved to compel arbitration of L.D.'s claims against them or, alternatively, to dismiss the action without prejudice to allow those claims to proceed via arbitration. Following a hearing, the trial court, denied the motion seeking to dismiss the action or to compel arbitration. The Brookdale defendants timely appealed, asserting that the trial court had erred by failing to order arbitration. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Brookdale defendants established that an agreement providing for arbitration existed and that the agreement affected interstate commerce. The trial court erred in denying the Brookdale defendants' request to compel arbitration. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's order and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Alabama Somerby, LLC, et al. v. L.D." on Justia Law
Escapes! To the Shores Condominium Association, Inc. v. Hoar Construction, LLC, et al.
Escapes! To the Shores Condominium Association, Inc. ("the Association"), individually and on behalf of certain condominium-unit owners, appealed an order denying a Rule 59, Ala. R. Civ. P. motion to vacate a judgment entered on an arbitration award in favor of Hoar Construction, LLC ("Hoar"), and Architectural Surfaces, Inc. ("ASI"). The arbitration award in favor of Hoar and ASI stemmed from the construction of a condominium building located in Orange Beach known as "Escapes! To the Shores." Hoar was the general contractor for the construction project; Stephen Hill was the architect for the construction project; and ASI was the subcontractor responsible for the installation of the exterior surfaces to the condominium building. After construction of the condominium building was substantially complete, the developer of the project sold the units and transferred ownership and management of the common areas to the Association. The Association thereafter filed suit against Hoar, ASI, and Hill seeking damages arising out of alleged construction and design defects to the condominium building, specifically, "stucco blistering and water intrusion." The Association's claims against Hoar and ASI proceeded to arbitration, but its claims against Hill remained pending in the trial court. A panel of three arbitrators issued a final award in favor of Hoar and ASI, concluding, in relevant part, that the defects to the condominium building were the result of a design defect and not a construction defect. Once the trial court entered a judgment on the arbitration award, the Association thereafter filed a Rule 59 motion to vacate that judgment. The Alabama Supreme Court concluded the Association has failed to demonstrate that the arbitration panel engaged in misconduct that would warrant vacatur. Accordingly, the order denying the Association's Rule 59 motion and the judgment entered on the arbitration award were affirmed. View "Escapes! To the Shores Condominium Association, Inc. v. Hoar Construction, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
Communications Unlimited Contracting Services, Inc. v. Clanton.
Communications Unlimited Contracting Services, Inc. ("CUI") appealed a circuit court judgment that granted Steve Clanton's motion for a remand for clarification of arbitration award issued by Judicial Arbitration and Mediation Services, Inc. ("JAMS"). Because the awards of money damages for each party were clearly stated and unambiguous in amount and scope, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred in remanding the arbitration award to JAMS for clarification. The Supreme Court reversed the circuit court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Communications Unlimited Contracting Services, Inc. v. Clanton." on Justia Law
Key v. Warren Averett, LLC, et al.
James P. Key, Jr. appealed a circuit court order denying his motion to compel arbitration of his claims against Warren Averett, LLC, and Warren Averett Companies, LLC (collectively, "WA"). Key alleged that he was a certified public accountant who had been employed by WA for 25 years and had been a member of WA for 15 years; that he had executed a personal-services agreement ("PSA") with WA that included a noncompete clause; and that WA had sent him a letter terminating his employment. Key sought a judgment declaring "that the Non-Compete Clause and the financial penalty provision contained in the PSA is not applicable to Key and is an unlawful restraint of Key's ability to serve his clients as a professional." The Alabama Supreme Court found that whether Key's claims against WA had to be arbitrated was a threshold issue that should not have been decided by the circuit court; nor was it appropriate for the Supreme Court to settle the issue in this appeal. Accordingly, the circuit court's order was reversed, and the case was remanded for the circuit court to enter an order sending the case to arbitration for a determination of the threshold issue of arbitrability and staying proceedings in the circuit court during the pendency of the arbitration proceedings. View "Key v. Warren Averett, LLC, et al." on Justia Law
The Terminix International Co., L.P., et al. v. Dauphin Surf Club Association, Inc., et al.
The Terminix International Co., L.P., and Terminix International, Inc. (collectively, "Terminix"), and Ken Stroh, an agent and employee of Terminix, appealed court orders appointing arbitrators, which were entered in two separate actions. The first action was commenced by Dauphin Surf Club Association, Inc. ("DSC"), an incorporated condominium owners' association, and multiple members of that association who owned individual condominium units. The second action was brought by Stonegate Condominium Owners' Association, Inc. ("Stonegate"), and multiple members of that association who owned individual condominium units. In 2006 and 2007, respectively, Terminix entered into contracts with DSC and Stonegate to provide protection from termites for the properties owned by DSC and Stonegate and their members. Both of those contracts included, among other things, an arbitration clause. After disputes regarding termite damage arose between Terminix and DSC and Stonegate, the DSC and Stonegate plaintiffs each petitioned for the appointment of an arbitrator to resolve the disputes. Defendants filed motions in opposition to the petitions, asserting that, because the National Arbitration Forum ("the NAF"), which had been designated as the arbitral forum in the arbitration agreement, was no longer administering consumer arbitrations, the claims could not be arbitrated by the NAF, as the parties had expressly agreed in the arbitration agreement, and that they could not be compelled to arbitrate in a manner inconsistent with the terms of the arbitration agreement. Plaintiffs countered that the contracts containing the arbitration agreement also contained a severability clause that should have been applied; the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA") governed the agreement; language in the agreement demonstrated Terminix's primary intent was to arbitrate disputes (and that the choice of the NAF as the arbitral forum was an ancillary matter); and that defendants should have been judicially estopped from arguing that the selection of the NAF as the arbitral forum was integral to the arbitration agreement because they had taken the position in prior judicial proceedings that the courts presiding over those proceedings were authorized to appoint substitute arbitrators under the FAA. The Alabama Supreme Court agreed that the designation of the NAF as the arbitral forum in the agreement was ancillary rather than an integral and essential part of the agreements, the trial court therefore correctly granted plaintiffs' petitions to compel arbitration under the FAA. View "The Terminix International Co., L.P., et al. v. Dauphin Surf Club Association, Inc., et al." on Justia Law
Ex parte Space Race, LLC.
The Alabama Space Science Exhibit Commission d/b/a U.S. Space & Rocket Center ("ASSEC") filed suit against Space Race, LLC ("Space Race"), seeking to avoid an arbitration award entered in favor of Space Race and against ASSEC by an arbitration panel in New York. In July 2016, Space Race agreed to produce an animated series for ASSEC aimed at promoting the interest of children in space exploration and science. The series was to be created and released to the public over a three-year period. In exchange, ASSEC agreed to compensate Space Race with funds ASSEC would receive from a grant from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration ("NASA"), which had contracted with ASSEC to provide funding for the series. The compensation was to be paid to Space Race annually as the series episodes were created during the three-year contract term. The parties' agreement provided that it "shall be governed" by Alabama law. Space Race produced the series before the contract term expired, but ASSEC failed to pay the amount owed for the last year of the series. Space Race claimed that ASSEC still owed Space Race approximately $1.3 million when the contract term expired. The parties' agreement contained an arbitration provision. In December 2017, after being notified by ASSEC that it would no longer make payments to Space Race because the grant from NASA had been terminated, Space Race commenced arbitration proceedings against ASSEC in New York. Space Race moved to dismiss ASSEC's Alabama action, asserting that a New York court had already entered a final judgment confirming the arbitration award. The Alabama trial court denied Space Race's motion to dismiss, and Space Race petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to dismiss ASSEC's action. Because the New York judgment confirming the arbitration award against ASSEC was entitled to full faith and credit and res judicata effect, the Supreme Court granted Space Race's mandamus petition. The trial court was directed to vacate its order denying Space Race's motion to dismiss and to enter an order granting that motion. View "Ex parte Space Race, LLC." on Justia Law
Wynlake Residential Association, Inc, et al. v. Hulsey et al.
Wynlake Residential Association, Inc. ("the homeowners' association"), Wynlake Development, LLC, SERMA Holdings, LLC, Builder1.com, LLC, J. Michael White, Shandi Nickell, and Mary P. White ("the defendants") appealed a circuit court's judgment on an arbitration award entered against them. Because the defendants' appeal was untimely, the Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeal. View "Wynlake Residential Association, Inc, et al. v. Hulsey et al." on Justia Law
Performance Builders, LLC, et al. v. Lopas
Scott and Janet Lopas filed suit against, among others, Performance Builders, LLC, Chris White, Shana Tyler Clark, and DSKAT Holdings, LLC, d/b/a A-Pro Home Inspection Services Birmingham (collectively, "the movants") asserting various causes of actions based on the inspection, appraisal, and sale of a piece of real property purchased by the Lopases. The movants moved to compel arbitration of the Lopases' claims, which the circuit court denied. The movants appealed the circuit court's order. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court concluded the movants met their burden of establishing the existence of an agreement containing an arbitration provision between the parties, and that that agreement involved a transaction affecting interstate commerce. Furthermore, the arbitration provision dictated that the issue of enforceability raised by the Lopases had to be submitted to the arbitrator for determination. Therefore, the circuit court's order denying the movants' motion to compel arbitration was reversed. View "Performance Builders, LLC, et al. v. Lopas" on Justia Law