Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama
Alabama River Group, Inc. v. Conecuh Timber, Inc. et al
Conecuh Timber, Inc., Ayres Forestry, Inc., BAR Forest Products, LLC, Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., Pea River Timber Company, Inc., Pineville Timber Co., LLC, and THE Timber Company, LLC ("TTC") (collectively referred to as "the wood dealers"), sued Alabama River Group, Inc. ("ARG"), and ARG's chairman and chief executive officer George Landegger, asserting various claims arising from transactions between the wood dealers and ARG's predecessors; the transactions were affected by a short-lived subsidy program administered by the United States Department of Agriculture's Farm Service Agency ("the FSA") known as the Biomass Crop Assistance Program ("BCAP"). Following a jury trial, a judgment was entered against the ARG defendants awarding the wood dealers $1,092,692.71 in compensatory damages and $7,000,000 in punitive damages. The trial court reduced the punitive-damages award by virtue of the statutory cap in section 6- 11-21, Ala. Code 1975, resulting in a total judgment of $6,395,489.37. The ARG defendants filed post-trial motions, which, after a hearing, the trial court denied. The ARG defendants appealed. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment as to liability and compensatory damages. The Court affirmed the punitive damages awarded to Dry Creek Loggers, Inc., and to Conecuh Timber, Inc. With respect to the punitive-damages awards of the remaining wood dealers, the judgment of the trial court was affirmed on the condition that those wood dealers file a remittitur of the punitive-damages awards to a 3:1 ratio to the Supreme Court. Should any wood dealer fail to timely file the respective remittitur, the judgment as to that wood dealer would be reversed and the cause remanded for a new trial. View "Alabama River Group, Inc. v. Conecuh Timber, Inc. et al" on Justia Law
Breland v. City of Fairhope
Charles Breland, Jr., and Breland Corporation (collectively, "Breland") appealed the grant of summary judgment entered in favor of the City of Fairhope in Breland's declaratory action based on alleged negligent conduct by Fairhope in relation to real property owned by Breland. In 2000, Breland filed applications for permits and certifications from the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management ("ADEM") in order to fill approximately 10.5 acres of wetlands on the property. Fairhope opposed the fill project. Breland purchased the mitigation credits required by the Corps permit, and hired engineers and consultants for the project sometime before he began actual filling activity. Eight years later, actual work on the fill project began, but the City issued a stop-work order that halted operations. Because his Corps permit would expire in late 2008, Breland sued Fairhope for declaratory relief and an injunction against the effects of multiple City ordinances passed in attempts to stop Breland's work. Fairhope moved to dismiss the complaint. Charles Breland testified that he dismissed his lawsuit against Fairhope when both his Corps permit had been extended (to 2013), and that "there [were] conversations that the city [initiated] about buying the property." According to Breland, by late 2011, he got the impression that Fairhope had been negotiating with him to buy the remainder of the property under false pretenses and that Fairhope actually was trying to delay Breland from resuming the fill project until the Corps permit expired. In early 2013, Breland sued again seeking a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Fairhope's attempts to stop the fill project. The trial court dismissed Breland's case on statute of limitations grounds. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that each time Fairhope enforced its ordinances to stop Breland from filling activity on his property, Fairhope committed a new act that served as a basis for a new claim. Fairhope's last stop-work order was issued in November 2011; Breland filed this action on August 7, 2013. Accordingly, the two-year statute of limitations did not bar a claim for damages stemming from the 2011 stop-work order. View "Breland v. City of Fairhope" on Justia Law
Regions Bank v. BP P.L.C. et al.
Regions Bank appealed a final judgment dismissing its action against BP P.L.C., BP Corporation North America, Inc., and BP America Inc. (collectively, "BP"). In 2010, an explosion and fire occurred aboard the Deepwater Horizon, an offshore-drilling rig, located off the coast of Louisiana. The incident led to a massive discharge of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, which, in turn, spawned an expansive clean-up and response operation by BP and various governmental agencies. Regions owned coastal real property located in Baldwin County, Alabama. Regions filed this trespass action against BP in Alabama Circuit Court, alleging BP occupied Regions' property, without authorization, for its spill-response operation; that BP moved equipment and structures onto the property without permission; and that BP erected fences and barriers on the property, again, without permission. Regions further alleged that BP stored hazardous materials and waste on the property and that those hazardous materials and waste damaged the property. BP filed a Rule 12(c), Ala. R. Civ. P., "motion to dismiss" Regions' trespass action on the ground that it was subject to the class-action settlement approved in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) and, therefore, that dismissal was warranted on the basis of the doctrine of res judicata. After review, the Alabama Supreme Court found "clear and unequivocal" exceptions to the MDL economic-and-property-damage-settlement class, and concluded that Regions was not a member of the settlement class. Therefore, its trespass claim was not adjudicated as part of the MDL class-action settlement. Accordingly, the Court reversed the circuit court for dismissing Regions' action on the ground of res judicata. View "Regions Bank v. BP P.L.C. et al." on Justia Law