Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Alabama

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Charles Breland was a developer of real property, with properties in Alabama and Florida. In 2002, Breland hired David Hudgens to provide legal services for him and his companies. According to Hudgens, Breland informed him early during their professional relationship that he "was suffering significant cash flow problems." As a result, Hudgens says, the various law firms with which Hudgens worked while providing Breland and his companies with legal services delayed billing "a significant portion of the attorneys' fees and costs" for those services. Breland disputed that, claiming that he and/or his companies paid Hudgens more than $2.7 million for Hudgens's legal services between 2004 and 2010. In 2009, Breland filed a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition. Breland filed the required schedules, required disclosure statement, and a proposed plan of reorganization that identified Hudgens & Associates, LLC ("H&A") as an unsecured creditor holding a $1 million claim and identified ETC as an unsecured creditor holding a $390,000 claim. Hudgens filed a proof of claim in the Breland bankruptcy on behalf of H&A for "legal fees" in the amount of $2,334,987.08 and filed proofs of claim on behalf of ETC for "guaranty of note" in the amounts of $879,929.55. Breland did not make payments according to the bankruptcy reorganization plan. Breland conveyed property to Gulf Beach Investment Company of Perdido, LLC which Hudgens alleged was in violation of the reorganization plan. Hudgens filed suit against Breland and Gulf Beach seeking enforcement of the plan, monies owed under the plan, and to void transfer of the property to Gulf Beach. The trial court entered a judgment on the parties' motions for a partial summary judgment, noting that it was not addressing the plaintiffs' "mortgage claim" because it had denied that claim in a September 2015 order. After setting forth extensive findings of fact and conclusions of law, the trial court awarded the plaintiffs $2,189,342.96 (consisting of $1.5 million in principal, plus interest); "denied and dismissed" the defendants' fraud, breach-of-contract, and slander-of-title claims; and certified the judgment as final pursuant to Rule 54(b). The trial court denied the defendants' postjudgment motion, and the defendants appealed. That case was assigned case no. 1150876, and the Alabama Supreme Court consolidated case nos. 1150302 and 1150876 for the purpose of writing one opinion. After review, the Court dismissed both appeals, finding the trial court exceeded its discretion in certifying as final the underlying appeals. View "Equity Trust Co. v. Breland" on Justia Law

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In 2005, Water's Edge, LLC purchased lots 62-69 of "Re-Subdivision A" in Baldwin County, commonly referred to as Gulf Shores Yacht Club and Marina ("the property"). Fairfield Financial Services, Inc. loaned Water's Edge $12.8 million of the $13 million needed to purchase the property. In 2006, Fairfield notified Water's Edge that it would not renew Water's Edge's loan. The members of Water's Edge authorized the managers to seek new financing. In December 2006, Vision Bank agreed to loan Water's Edge $14.5 million. Vision Bank later merged with SE Property Holdings, LLC ("SEPH"). Certain members of Water's Edge signed agreements guaranteeing all of Water's Edge's debt to SEPH. In October 2008, SEPH notified Water's Edge that the loans were in default. In October 2010, SEPH sued Water's Edge and 28 individuals, including the guarantors, based on the promissory notes and guaranty agreements pertaining to the various loans issued over the years. The trial took place in late 2014. The trial court did not submit the case to the jury, but instead discharged the jury and entered an order granting SEPH's motion for a JML. The trial court found the guarantors and the other defendants jointly and severally liable on continuing unlimited guaranty agreements. The trial court found each of them individually liable for differing amounts based on continuing limited guaranty agreements they had signed. A month later, the trial court revised its earlier order, taking into account settlements and declarations of bankruptcy that certain guarantors had declared. The guarantors timely filed a motion to alter, amend, or vacate the judgment, which the trial court denied. The guarantors then appealed. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed the appeals, finding that the trial court's judgment was not final because the trial court did not have jurisdiction to dismiss SEPH's claims against one of the guarantors, and the trial court did not certify its order as final pursuant to Rule 54(b). "An order entered in violation of the automatic bankruptcy stay is void as to the debtor, thus leaving the claims against [one of the guarantors] pending and rendering the judgment nonfinal. A nonfinal judgment will not support an appeal." View "Gaddy v. SE Property Holdings, LLC" on Justia Law