Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

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Black Warrior Minerals, Inc. sued Empire Coal Sales, Inc. and John Fay, Jr. Black Warrior sought money allegedly owed pursuant to a coal-purchase agreement between Black Warrior and Empire and a personal guaranty executed by Mr. Fay. A trial court entered summary judgment in favor of Black Warrior, awarding it damages plus attorney fees and costs. The trial court held a bench trial on the breach-of-guaranty claim against Mr. Fay, entering judgment in favor of Mr. Fay. Black Warrior appealed the latter, arguing that the trial court erred in finding the language of the guaranty was ambiguous and applied only to amounts in excess of $1.2 million owed by Empire to Black Warrior. Upon review of the language of the guaranty and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court erred in its interpretation of the guaranty's terms. The Court reversed the lower court's judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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Matador Holdings, Inc. and HoPo Realty Investments, LLC filed separate appeals to challenge elements of a circuit court's order involving commercial property owned by Matador. Matador sued HoPo for payment for materials and services Matador provided to HoPo's lessee Stratford Plastic Components of Alabama. The lease agreement contained provisions allowing for HoPo or its agents to enter the property during the lease-term to make inspections or repairs. Stratford had applied for and received a line of credit with Matador. After taking possession of the leased property, Stratford ordered materials from Matador to convert the property into one suitable for Stratford's production needs. Stratford vacated the property before the lease term expired without paying Matador for the materials. HoPo's agents testified that Stratford did not request any changes be made to the leased property and had no knowledge that Matador would supply materials to the lessee. To resolve the dispute, the trial court denied Matador's claim that HoPo was unjustly enriched by the services provided to Stratford that were unpaid, but the court placed a lien on HoPo's property for the unexpired portion of the Stratford lease. Upon review of the trial court record and its order, the Supreme Court affirmed the lower court's denial of Matador's unjust enrichment claim. Furthermore, the Court reversed the lower court's order insofar as it enforced any portion of a lien against HoPo's property or the improvements made to the property. The Court ruled the lien void.