Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

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Husband and wife Emmett and Debra Jackson appealed the grant of summary judgment in favor of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. in their action against the bank and trustee. The Jacksons challenged a foreclosure sale of their property. The Jacksons refinanced an existing home loan; in so doing, they gave a mortgage on the property which was subsequently assigned to Wells Fargo. Although the mortgage was, in turn, assigned to the trustee, the bank continued to function as the "servicer" of the loan. By 2007, the Jacksons were in arrears on their mortgage payments. While the Jacksons and the bank were engaged in negotiations for forbearance, the Jacksons did not make certain scheduled payments. During the negotiations, a debt-collection representative of the trustee sent the Jacksons a "NOTICE OF ACCELERATION OF PROMISSORY NOTE AND MORTGAGE." The house was put up for sale, and a foreclosure deed was issued to a third party. The Jacksons then sued the bank, the trustee, and the purchaser of the property alleging negligent or wanton foreclosure and breach of contract. The bank and trustee moved for summary judgment, contending that the Jacksons lacked any basis from which to contest the foreclosure sale. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Jacksons presented no basis on which to reverse the summary judgment as to their claim of negligent or wanton foreclosure, however, the Court agreed that the acceleration letter was fundamentally flawed. The Court reversed the grant of summary judgment on the breach of contract claim, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Jackson v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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American Suzuki Motor Corporation petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the circuit court to grant its motion to dismiss the claims filed against it by John Burns and Jill S. Hearn. Plaintiffs sued Defendants American Suzuki, several local dealerships and the dealerships' owner, alleging breach of contract based on Suzuki vehicle warranties, diminution in value of their vehicles, fraudulent misrepresentations, and unjust enrichment. Plaintiffs purported to bring the action on behalf of themselves and all members of a class composed of individuals who had purchased Suzuki vehicles from Defendants and had active warranties or service contracts on those vehicles. According to the complaint, new Suzuki vehicles carried a manufacturer's warranty, and that Defendants also sold purchasers of Suzuki vehicles extended warranties and maintenance agreements. In early March 2009, "the defendants closed dealerships … and [that] there are no other Suzuki dealerships closer than Nashville, Tennessee, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, or Birmingham, Alabama, to perform service work on the warranted vehicles." As a result of the dealerships being closed, Plaintiffs alleged they were "constructively barred from obtaining warranty work on their vehicles." The complaint did not allege that Plaintiffs needed or sought service under the warranties on their vehicles or that any of the Defendants refused to honor the warranties on vehicles. American Suzuki filed a motion to dismiss alleging that Plaintiffs' claims should be dismissed for failing to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Upon review, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's denial of American Suzuki's motion to dismiss, and remanded the case to the trial court to enter an order granting American Suzuki's motion.

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Appellee Compass Bank and Amy Hovis petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct a circuit court to dismiss an action filed in that court filed by Appellant Jerome Sirote based on Alabama's abatement statute. Appellant filed suit against the Bank and several of its employees alleging breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, violations of the Real Estate Settlement Procedures Act, fraud, deceit, and violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Appellant alleged that the Bank improperly processed transactions in his deposit account and misstated material facts related to that account. The Bank moved to dismiss the complaint. The district court entered an order dismissing Appellant's federal claims with prejudice. The court remanded the case for further proceedings on the state law claims. The Bank moved to dismiss the remaining charges under the Abatement Statute, arguing that Appellant was barred from prosecuting two actions simultaneously in different courts if the claims alleged in each action arose from the same underlying operative facts. Upon review, the Supreme Court granted the Bank's petition and issued the writ to direct the lower court to dismiss Appellant's state claims.

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Alabama Title Loans, Inc., Accurate Adjustments, LLC and Kevin Sanders all appealed a trial court order that denied their motions to compel arbitration filed against them by Plaintiff Kimberly White. In 2009, Ms. White borrowed money from Alabama Title Loans (ATL), securing the loan with an interest in her automobile. ATL required Ms. White to surrender the title to the automobile. The title-loan agreement contained an arbitration clause. Ms. White subsequently paid off her loan and borrowed more money against her car several more times. In August 2009, Ms. White said she went to ATL ready to pay off her loan in full. In January 2010, ALT contracted with Accurate Adjustments to conduct a "self-help" repossession of Ms. White's automobile. The police were called, and Accurate and ATL were required to release the automobile when it could not produce the title they claimed gave them the right to repossess. Ms. White filed suit alleging multiple theories: assault and battery, negligence, wantonness, trespass, wrongful repossession and conversion. At trial, the court denied the title-loan parties' motion to compel arbitration without making any findings of fact. Based on the broad language of the arbitration clause in the title-loan agreements executed by Ms. White, the Supreme Court held that the trial court should have granted the title-loan parties' motions to compel arbitration. The Court reversed the trial court's decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.