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Stephen F. Thompson, Jr., Attorney at Law

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Were you or a friend terminated from work because you filed a #workers'compensation claim? We can help you take legal action!
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Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama
December 31, 2013

In an unanimous decision, the Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama affirmed the trial court’s ruling dismissing a third party claim brought by an employer against their insurance provider regarding an obligation to provide a defense in claims that should be barred by the exclusivity provisions of §25-5-52 of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. 
Cool Temp’s employee, Pinkerton, brought claims against Cool Temp outside the exclusivity provisions of the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act alleging the “Dual Capacity” doctrine. Cool Temp’s insurance agreement with Pennsylvania National contained express language exempting coverage in situations where the claim is brought against Cool Temp as an employer. 
Cool Temp’s third party action against their insurance provider was dismissed on summary judgment. Cool Temp asserted that they should receive a defense on the “Dual Capacity” issues brought by Pinkerton, which alleged claims against Cool Temp in a capacity other than employer.  Cool Temp argued that the ultimate outcome of a claim does not govern an insurer’s duty to defend, but the facts as are alleged in the complaint should dictate a duty. 
The Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama reasoned that the facts alleged in the complaint are a primary contributing factor, but they are not the only factor for consideration. The facts in the present case, although they did not expressly allege an employment relationship between Cool Temp and Pinkerton, necessarily inferred an employment relationship. Such a necessarily inferred employment relationship provided Pennsylvania National with sufficient foundation to deny coverage and avoid a claim for breach of contract. The “Dual Capacity” doctrine has been discussed, but never adopted by the Alabama appellate courts. Pennsylvania National was successful adopting a position that because the claims were barred by the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act, there was no duty to defend them.  
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Divorce Settlements Containing an Agreement to Later Agree Can be Unenforceable

Walker v. Walker, Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama
November 1, 2013 

This Alabama Divorce action settled on the day it was set for trial before the DeKalb County Circuit Court. The settlement agreement reached between the parties was read for the record in open court by the husband’s attorney. The husband and wife agreed on alimony, personal property, assumption of debt on the marital household, and other matters. The issue arose with the non-specific terms for the handling of certain tracts of land, and property the husband and wife owned on Sand Mountain, Alabama. The agreement stated that certain properties were to be ultimately conveyed to the couple’s daughter, but that the two attorneys were to “work on the language to make that happen.”  
The husband and wife immediately disagreed on the timing and nature of the conveyance of the Sand Mountain land. The husband filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement, which was granted by the trial court, which then triggered the wife’s appeal to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. 
Among the variety of arguments made by the parties, the Court of Civil Appeals focused on the undisputed facts before the trial court indicating that no meeting of the minds had occurred with regard to the tracts of land at issue. The settlement agreement reflected intent to work out the details later. The Court reasoned that “settlement agreements, like other agreements, are not valid when there has been no meeting of the minds with regard to the final terms of the agreement or when the parties have merely agreed to later agree.” Grayson v. Hanson, 843 So.2d 464, 465 (Ala. 1997).  
The Court reasoned that the lack of details relating to the timing and manner of conveyance of the Sand Mountain properties constituted unenforceable terms of an agreement to later agree. The wife testified that her understanding of the terms regarding the Sand Mountain Property were essential to her consent to all other terms of the Alabama divorce settlement agreement. The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals decided the terms of the settlement agreement were not severable and remanded the entire settlement agreement back to the trial court for further proceedings.
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Decide Whether or Not You Want an Alabama Divorce Attorney 
Before You Sign any Settlement Agreement

Ex parte Norma Phillips Mealing
(In re: Norma Phillips Mealing v. Eugene Mealing, Jr.) 
Ala. Court of Civil Appeals October 25, 2013

The Alabama Court of Civil Appeals unanimously upheld a divorce settlement despite the trial court’s attempt to set aside. Norma Mealing consulted an Alabama divorce attorney to handle a divorce between her and her husband, Eugene Mealing, Jr. The Alabama divorce attorney counseled both the husband and wife on the details of their Alabama divorce and prepared the necessary settlement documents to file with the trial court. 
Although both parties signed original documents, the Alabama divorce attorney filed copies with the trial court that contained electronic signatures. The trial court granted the divorce and entered an Alabama divorce order based on the documents containing electronic signatures. 
Afterwards, the Husband consulted his own Alabama divorce attorney, and decided that he had been misrepresented in the original Alabama divorce order. He moved to have the Alabama divorce order set aside, but filed a Rule 59 motion one day after the deadline had passed. Thus the issue fell on the difference between relief from judgment under Rule 59, or Rule 60 of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure, and the trial court’s stated reasons for granting said motion. 
The Husband alleged fraud and misrepresentation of his rights as a basis for setting aside the Alabama divorce order, and so, in theory, his Rule 59 motion could be considered as a Rule 60 motion. The problem arose in the trial court’s findings as to why it set aside the Alabama divorce order, i.e. electronic signatures. The Husband admittedly signed the agreement, and never raised electronic signatures as a basis for setting aside his Alabama divorce order. 
The Court of Civil Appeals found that “the parties negotiated the settlement agreement, the husband admittedly signed the settlement agreement, and then the husband belatedly sough legal advice about the settlement agreement, which resulted in his desire to withdraw his consent to the settlement agreement. To allow the husband to be relieved of his deliberate choice not to seek legal counsel before entering into the settlement agreement runs counter to well settled legal principals regarding Rule 60(b) relief.” The trial court was unanimously ordered to vacate its order setting aside the original Alabama Divorce Order. 
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The Court of Civil Appeals Reverses Trial Court Award of 
Permanent Partial Disability Benefits in Favor of Schedule 

DuBose Construction Company v. James Simmons
Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama
October 25, 2013

The Court of Civil Appeals reversed a trial award of permanent partial disability benefits, pursuant to the Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act. James Simmons injured his knee in Alabama while working for DuBose Construction Company. After two corrective procedures, Simmons returned to work without restrictions and resumed his full duties. Simmons, however, testified that he ultimately left his job with DuBose because he was physically unable to perform the job tasks

At trial, Simmons testified that the work-related knee injury affected other parts of his body. The trial court found that Simmons suffered lower back problems allowed Simmons benefits outside the Alabama workers’ compensation schedule for a leg injury. Dubose appealed, contending that the trial court had insufficient evidence to award outside the Alabama workers’ compensation schedule for a leg injury, and that Simmons did not suffer any loss of earning capacity. 

At trial, Simmons never specifically mentioned that the work-related injury affected his lower back, and Simmons never received treatment for lower back pain. Furthermore, plaintiff’s treating physician testified that the knee injury did not extend to other parts of his body. It was noted that the trial court based its ruling on lower back pain, despite the lack of evidence to support any such back pain. 

The Court of Civil Appeals remanded the claim back to the trial court to determine the degree of disability, if any, to Simmons’ knee. Because the Court of Civil Appeals found that Simmons’ injury was not compensable outside the Alabama workers’ compensation schedule of injury, it declined to discuss the issue of loss of earning capacity.  
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An interesting case occurred in which woman who worked as a hospice nurse at SouthernCare seeking disability and injury benefits for her work-related fibromyalgia pain. The case was taken to the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals where the court ruled unanimously in favor of the woman. They awarded her permanent total disability benefits. Learn more about this case in our workers' comp blog.
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Are you looking to settle your divorce case outside of court? If you want to have more control over the final verdict of your case, then it is best to settle things through mediation. If you take your case to trial then the final outcome will be left up to the discretion of the judge. Our Birmingham divorce lawyer has extensive experience with divorce and family law mediation and we know how to resolve issues without serious contention. Find out if mediation is right for you today!
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In DuBose Construction Company v. James Simmons our firm was able to recover a trial award of permanent partial disability benefits for our client. After receiving a serious knee injury and suffering lower back problems due to a work-related accident, our client won't suffer financial hardship. Read about this recent case victory in our attorney blog.
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 Want to find out if your marriage is headed for divorce? Check to see how healthy your marriage by taking time to reflect and asking yourself the hard questions. Take this short divorce test and see how you score. This can help shed light on problem areas that need work. Have your spouse take the test as well if you would like to compare answers.
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Did you know that the economy has an impact on the divorce rate? Ever since the housing market and the economy has improved, more people have been filing for divorce. Read why that is our latest divorce blog.
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