Huffaker Appointed as Federal District Court Judge

We are proud to announce that R. Austin Huffaker, Jr., a shareholder of Rushton Stakely, has been appointed to serve in a lifetime position as a federal district court judge for the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Austin was nominated by President Trump on July 8, 2019, and he was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 4, 2019 on a 89-4 vote. We offer our congratulations to Austin for this incredible honor.

Austin joined Rushton Stakely in 1999, and since that time, he has focused his practice on civil litigation defense, including complex commercial, product defect, lender liability, and professional malpractice matters. He has served as a Commissioner of the Alabama Securities Commission and a Member of the Alabama Pattern Civil Jury Charge Committee. He earned his Bachelor of Engineering degree, cum laude, from Vanderbilt University and his Juris Doctor, magna cum laude, from the University of Alabama School of Law, where he was a member of the Alabama Law Review and a Hugo Black Scholar.

Tommy Keene, the firm’s president, said, “Our firm is overwhelmed with joy as we announce the confirmation of Austin Huffaker to the prestigious Federal Court Judgeship in the Middle District of Alabama. While we will realize a great loss to our firm in his leadership and legal abilities, we recognize that he now answers a higher calling. He will serve the citizens of the Middle District in exemplary fashion, and we know that he will deliver justice in the most fair, intelligent, and even-handed manner possible.” Austin brings twenty years of experience in the practice of law to his new position. We extend our warmest congratulations and wish him every success in his new duties.

Lee County Circuit Court Awards Summary Judgment in Mechanic’s Lien Case

Dennis Bailey, James Dickens, and Theresa Johnston recently obtained summary judgment in the Circuit Court of Lee County on behalf of their client, a real estate developer, in a mechanic’s lien dispute. The Circuit Court agreed with the defendant developer’s position that because an arbitrator had previously decided that no unpaid balance was owed from the developer to the general contractor, the plaintiff subcontractor could not recover against the developer.

Alabama Supreme Court Revisits Hospital Lien Law

On April 28, 2017, the Alabama Supreme Court released its opinion in Ex Parte Alfa Mutual Insurance (No. 1141343), which clarified its interpretation of Alabama’s Hospital Lien law in a case alleging a first party insurance payment impaired a hospital’s lien. In so doing, the Court adopted the argument that Evans Bailey made to the trial court and the Court of Civil Appeals: lien impairment claims against first party insurers should, at least, be capped by the insurer’s policy limits. Previous decisions from the Alabama Supreme Court appeared to indicate that policy limits were not a factor in calculating the amount owed in a lien impairment case. The decision in Ex Parte Alfa reversed the trial court’s judgment that the plaintiff-hospital could recover 18 times the defendant-insurer’s policy limits on a lien impairment claim.

PowerSouth has dedicated a building in honor of Shareholder Ted Jackson

Rushton Stakely is pleased to announce that PowerSouth, a long-time client of the firm, has dedicated a building in honor of Rushton Stakely Shareholder Ted Jackson who has served as General Counsel to PowerSouth since 1978.  During the building dedication ceremony, PowerSouth President and CEO Gary Smith thanked Mr. Jackson for his service to the organization and stated that Ted “is part of this organization’s foundation, so it’s fitting to name a building in his honor…Ted is both our history and our historian.  He’s done so many things that lead us to the future.”  The building is a 44,000-square foot building that houses PowerSouth’s state-of-the-art Energy Control Center, data center, and network operations center.   The building also includes office space for over 50 employees.

PowerSouth serves the wholesale energy needs of 16 electric cooperatives and four municipal electric systems in Alabama and northwest Florida.  Collectively, the members provide electric service to homes, businesses, and industries in 39 Alabama and 10 Florida counties.

Mr. Jackson joined Rushton Stakely in 1970.  He practices primarily in the areas of utility law, taxation, general corporate law, municipal and corporate finance, and the law of cooperative organizations.  Mr. Jackson represents several utility cooperatives engaged in generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity.  He also represents agricultural cooperatives, a large number of corporate and other business clients, and bond issuing authorities.  He has received numerous awards throughout his career, and he has been recognized repeatedly by The Best Lawyers in America.

Freeman and Love obtain favorable verdict in Montgomery County Jury Trial

Plaintiff sustained various injuries arising out of a motor vehicle collision with Defendant driver. Plaintiff asserted that the Defendant was guilty of negligence and wantonness causing the collision and resulting in bodily injury and other damages including wage losses for three weeks of work missed, medical expenses, pain and suffering and other special damages. Defendant denied any and all wrongdoing and noted that to the extent Plaintiff was injured or otherwise damaged was the result of Plaintiff’s own negligent conduct. Prior to the trial of this case, the UM carrier advanced settlement proceeds in the amount of $30,000. Applicable policy limits were $50,000. In order for Plaintiff to recover anything at trial, Plaintiff would have had to obtain a verdict over $50,000. The Plaintiff asked the jury to award no less than $75,000.00. After several days of trial, the jury deliberated for approximately two hours. The jury returned a verdict in the amount of $10,000 resulting in Defendant’s carrier retaining net proceeds of $20,000.

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals Affirmed Dismissal

The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed the dismissal of a patronage capital credit putative class action against Central Alabama Electric Cooperative on the ground that it failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted under Alabama cooperative law.  The unanimous panel decision held that “While [Ala. Code] § 37-6-20 requires that excess revenues be distributed, Caver’s claims ignore how § 37-6-20 provides that the manner of distribution of patronage refunds is determined by a cooperative’s bylaws. To be clear, our narrow holding here is that § 37-6-20 does not require CAEC to distribute patronage refunds only in a cash payment manner.”

The court also held that CAEC’s removal of the case to federal court under the federal officer removal statute (28 U.S.C. § 1442(a)(1)) was proper.

Rushton Stakely shareholders Dennis Bailey, Mac Freeman and Evans Bailey represented defendant Central Alabama Electric Cooperative at the district court level where they secured a dismissal and briefed the appeal before the Eleventh Circuit. Dennis Bailey presented oral argument to the panel for the cooperative.

The published opinion was authored by Circuit Judge Frank M. Hull with Circuit Judge Gerald B. Tjoflat and District Judge Carlos E. Mendoza, sitting by designation, joining.

The appellants were represented by Oscar M. Price, IV of Price Armstrong LLC and Wilson F. Green of Fleenor & Green, LLP.

Amicus briefs were submitted on behalf of the Florida Electric Cooperatives Association by Lawrence J. Hamilton, Christina Schwing and Laura B. Renstrom of Holland & Knight LLP and for Dixie Electric Cooperative and Pioneer Electric Cooperative by Philip H. Butler, Robert E. Poundstone IV,  George R. Parker and Marc James Ayers of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP.

Eleventh Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment In Multi-Million Dollar Legal Malpractice Case

On August 29, 2016, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a summary judgment order in favor of a firm client in a multi-million dollar legal malpractice case defended by R. Austin Huffaker, Jr., Esq.  In the case, the plaintiff (a business entity) sued its bankruptcy counsel for legal malpractice in connection with a failed Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding. In particular, the plaintiff  claimed that its bankruptcy counsel failed to file a viable plan of reorganization within the time limits proscribed by the Bankruptcy Code, thereby resulting in conversion of the case to Chapter 7 and therefore liquidation of the plaintiff entity’s assets.    The plaintiff claimed over $3 million in damages.  After a hotly contested case which the defendant client vigorously defended and after striking the plaintiff’s experts, the bankruptcy court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant attorney on multiple grounds, including the failure by the plaintiff to show a question of fact regarding the standard of care and the failure to show that the outcome of the underlying bankruptcy would have been different but for the attorney’s alleged negligence.  On review of the bankruptcy court’s report and recommendation, the Middle District of Alabama (Watkins) affirmed.  On appeal, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.  This was a hard fought victory in a case with very complex legal issues.  The case cites are Land Ventures for 2 LLC v. Fritz, 2016 WL 4501660 (11th Cir. 2016)(affirming 551 B.R. 846 (M.D. Ala. 2015)). R. Austin Huffaker, Jr. with the firm defended the case.

Alabama Supreme Court Affirms Summary Judgment for Rushton Stakely Represented Insurance Agent

The Alabama Supreme Court recently affirmed a Summary Judgment in favor of an insurance agent represented by Paul James.  James obtained Summary Judgment in the Jefferson County Circuit Court – Bessemer Division in a case involving serious allegations that an insurance agency and its individual agent failed to procure insurance  for a business prior to a fire consuming a building that housed the Plaintiffs’ business.  The Plaintiffs argued that the failure to procure prohibited them from filing a claim for insurance benefits and that the agency knew or should have known that such insurance was necessary under the business arrangement between the two.   The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment in favor of James’ client on Friday, September 16, 2016.

Eighteen Rushton Stakely Attorneys Named Best Lawyers 2017

Rushton Stakely is pleased to announce that eighteen of our attorneys were chosen for the 23rd edition of The Best Lawyers in America© 2017.  The selected lawyers are: Dennis R. Bailey, Bet-the-Company Litigation, Communications Law, Commercial Litigation, Litigation – Banking & Finance, Litigation – Intellectual Property, Litigation – Labor & Employment, Litigation – Real Estate, and Product Liability Litigation – Defendants; Jeffrey W. Blitz, Real Estate Law; L. Peyton Chapman, Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Ronald G. Davenport, Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; William I. Eskridge, Real Estate Law; James W. Garrett, Jr., Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants, and Insurance Law; Alan T. Hargrove, Insurance Law, and Litigation – Insurance; William S. Haynes, Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants, and Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; R. Austin Huffaker, Jr., Appellate Practice; J. Theodore Jackson, Jr., Litigation and Controversy – Tax, Tax Law,  Trusts and Estates; Paul M. James, Jr., Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Thomas H. Keene, Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants, and Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Daniel L. Lindsey, Tax Law, and Trusts and Estates; Patrick M. Shegon, Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants; Christopher S. Simmons, Litigation & Controversy – Tax, Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law, Public Finance Law, Tax Law, and Trusts and Estates; Frank J. Stakely, Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants, and Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Fred W. Tyson, Medical Malpractice Law – Defendants, and Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Helen Crump Wells, Tax Law, and Trusts and Estates.

For over 30 years, Best Lawyers® has been regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence in the United States.  Inclusion in the Best Lawyers list is based on a rigorous national survey of leading U. S. attorneys, and Corporate Counsel® magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.”  We are proud that eighteen of our attorneys were recognized with this distinguished honor.

Summary Judgment For Construction Lender Affirmed

The Alabama Supreme Court recently affirmed a summary judgment in favor of a construction lender represented by Dennis and Evans Bailey. Dennis and Evans were able to successfully argue to Judge Gene Reese in the Montgomery County Circuit Court that the lender did not bear any liability for construction delays and the failure to pay some subcontractors. They were also able to obtain a judgment against the borrowers in the amount for $590,274.97, which included attorney’s fees and costs, for non-payment on the construction loan. The Alabama Supreme Court affirmed the lower court’s judgment in favor of Dennis and Evans’s client, without an opinion, on August 12, 2016.