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At issue on appeal was whether a motion for sanctions may be dismissed without prejudice when the underlying facts and issues allegedly establishing the sanctionable conduct are also at issue in another pending case involving the same parties. The Supreme Court held (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed the motion for sanctions without prejudice where the district court would likely need to consider many of the same factual issues that were also at play in the pending circuit court action; and (2) while the signature of a court clerk or judge is generally necessary for appellate review of a final order, the signed filings related to the order being appealed were sufficient in this case to provide appellate jurisdiction. View "Deutsche Bank National Trust Co. v. Greenspon" on Justia Law

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Frank Griswold submitted public records requests to the City of Homer, seeking all records of communications between members of the Homer Board of Adjustment, City employees, and attorneys for the City leading up to the Board’s decision in a separate case involving Griswold. He also requested attorney invoices to the City for a six-month period. Citing various privileges, the City Manager refused to provide any records of communications surrounding the Board’s decision; the Manager provided some complete invoices but provided only redacted versions of some invoices and completely withheld some invoices. Griswold appealed the partial denial of his records request to the City Council; the Council affirmed, and Griswold appealed to the superior court. The superior court substantially affirmed. Griswold then turned to the Alaska Supreme Court. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed with respect to the communications relating to the Board’s decision, but vacated and remanded the attorney invoices issue for further analysis. View "Griswold v. Homer City Council" on Justia Law

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Alaska’s medical peer review privilege statute protected discovery of data, information, proceedings, and records of medical peer review organizations, but it did not protect a witness’s personal knowledge and observations or materials originating outside the medical peer review process. A hospital invoked the privilege in two separate actions, one involving a wrongful death suit against a physician at the hospital and the other involving both a medical malpractice claim against the same physician and a negligent credentialing claim against the hospital. In each case the superior court compelled the hospital to disclose materials related to complaints submitted about the physician and to the hospital’s decision to grant the physician medical staff membership. The hospital and the doctor sought the Alaska Supreme Court's review of the discovery orders. Because the Supreme Court concluded these discovery orders compelled the hospital to disclose information protected by the peer review privilege, it reversed the discovery orders in part. Furthermore, the Court held that the false information exception to the privilege provided in AS 18.23.030(b) applied to actions for which the submission of false information was an element of the claim and thus did not apply here. View "Mat-Su Valley Medical Center, LLC v. Bolinder" on Justia Law

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Paulette Harper sued two New York corporations in Alaska superior court alleging violations of her right of publicity and right of privacy. Her claims related to an allegedly false account regarding her recovery from cancer; she discovered the account in a brochure promoting products by BioLife Energy Systems, Inc., while working for BioLife’s distributor in Colorado. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss based on lack of personal jurisdiction, claiming that neither of them has the minimum contacts with Alaska necessary to satisfy due process. The superior court granted the motion, reasoning that although BioLife arguably had some contacts in Alaska, the woman’s claims did not relate to those contacts, and the defendants’ contacts were insufficient to establish all-purpose jurisdiction. Harper appealed, but finding no reversible error, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed. View "Harper v. Biolife Energy Systems, Inc." on Justia Law

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Frank Griswold twice appealed the Homer Advisory Planning Commission’s approval of a conditional use permit to the Homer Board of Adjustment and later appealed the Board’s second decision to the superior court, which sua sponte dismissed his appeal for lack of standing. Because Griswold did not have notice that his standing was at issue, his due process rights were violated. The Alaska Supreme Court therefore reversed and remanded for the superior court to decide his appeal on the merits. View "Griswold v. Homer Board of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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Homeowners Brooke and Patrick Corkery appealed the denial of their application of a variance by the Anchorage Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals. The homeowners’ house exceeded the 30% lot coverage limit for their zoning district by over 10% due to a renovation performed in 1983 by a prior owner. The Board denied the variance application because it concluded that three of the seven standards required to grant a variance had not been satisfied. On appeal, the homeowners challenged the Board’s interpretation of the variance standards. They also argued the equitable doctrine of laches barred the Board from denying their variance request. Furthermore, the homeowners argued the Board’s consideration of a memo written by a Municipality attorney violated their due process rights and that this violation warranted a trial de novo at superior court. After independently interpreting the variance standards, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed with the Board’s interpretation. In light of the Court's de novo interpretation of these variance standards, any error in the memo’s legal advice or in the process of the Board’s consideration was deemed harmless and did not warrant trial de novo. The Court also concluded the homeowners could not invoke the defense of laches because, in the zoning context, this defense was available only to defendants in a zoning enforcement action. View "Corkery v. Municipality of Anchorage" on Justia Law

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After prevailing against the City of Kodiak on a Public Records Act claim, Kodiak Public Broadcasting Corporation (known by the call letters of its radio station, KMXT) was awarded full attorney’s fees under AS 09.60.010(c)(1), which provided for attorney’s fees to a claimant who prevails in asserting, protecting, or enforcing a constitutional right. The City appealed, arguing that KMXT’s claim was statutory rather than constitutional, that the award included fees which were not necessarily and reasonably incurred, and that the award erroneously included municipal sales tax on attorney’s fees. The Alaska Supreme Court agreed the court erred in granting KMXT full attorney’s fees as a constitutional claimant and reversed the award of attorney’s fees and remanded for a fee award pursuant to Alaska Civil Rule 82 instead. The Court also agreed that it was error to include sales tax in the fee award, and direct the superior court on remand to exclude sales tax from its revised fee award. View "City of Kodiak v. Kodiak Public Broadcasting Corporation" on Justia Law

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This case concerned the interpretation of Alaska’s usury statute and whether it provided for a maximum interest rate on contract or loan commitments in which the principal amount exceeds $25,000. William Cox argued the statute provided for a maximum interest rate of 10.5% on all loans in which the principal exceeds $25,000. The Estate of Steve Cooper and Dorothy Cooper (collectively “the Coopers”) argued that parties could contract for any interest rate if the principal of the contract or loan commitment exceeded $25,000. The superior court initially agreed with Cox that loans over $25,000 had a maximum legal interest rate of 10.5%, but the Coopers moved for reconsideration and provided the court with statutory history. This statutory history convinced the court that the Coopers were correct and that AS 45.45.010 did not limit the interest rate for contract or loan commitments over $25,000. Cox appealed, challenging the superior court’s decision to consider statutory history when ruling on the Coopers’ motion for reconsideration and the superior court’s decision to grant the Coopers reasonable attorney’s fees under Alaska Civil Rule 82. The Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's ruling in all respects. View "Cox v. Estate of Steve Cooper" on Justia Law

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Dolgencorp, LLC ("Dollar General") filed a petition for a writ of mandamus requesting relief from a discovery order entered by the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court on February 8, 2017. In 2016, Daisy Pearl White Freeman was operating her vehicle in the Northwood Shopping Center in Northport, Alabama. She lost control of her vehicle, ran over the curb and onto the sidewalk, and struck Deborah Gilliam, who had just walked out of a Dollar General store located in the shopping center. Gilliam sued Dollar General, among others. As to Dollar General, the complaint stated claims of negligence and wantonness. Gilliam then filed a notice of intent to serve subpoenas on nonparties Dolgencorp of New York, Inc.; Dolgen Midwest, LLC; Dolgencorp of Texas, Inc.; Dollar General Partners; DG Louisiana, LLC; and DG Retail, LLC (collectively as "the nonparty Dollar General entities"). Dollar General filed a motion to quash the nonparty subpoenas, arguing that the nonparty subpoenas were unduly burdensome. When the trial court refused, Dollar General petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for mandamus relief from the discovery order. The Supreme Court concluded that even though the trial court modified the scope of discovery in this case, the discovery ordered was as oppressive and burdensome as the discovery requests in Ex parte Compass Bank, 686 So. 2d 1135 (Ala. 1996), and Ex parte Mobile Fixture & Equipment Co., 630 So. 2d 358 (Ala. 1993). Therefore, the burden on Dollar General to comply with that order was out of proportion to any benefit Gilliam would obtain from the requested information. Therefore, the Court concluded Dollar General established it had a clear legal right to relief from the trial court's February 2017 discovery order. View "Ex parte Dolgencorp, LLC." on Justia Law

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The estate of Ray Wendell Williams appeals a circuit court judgment ordering it to make a monthly payment of $1,000 to Williams's daughter Kimberly Loveless pursuant to a provision in Williams's will directing WTW Enterprises, Inc. ("WTW"), a trucking business operated by Williams before his death, to commence paying Loveless a monthly salary of "no less than $1,000" upon his death. The Alabama Supreme Court dismissed this appeal, finding: a party petitioned the probate court to transfer the administration of an estate to the circuit court; the probate court granted that petition and took action purporting to transfer administration of the estate to the circuit court; and the circuit court thereafter took over administration of the estate without entering an order of its own authorizing the removal. Such a transfer is improper, and the circuit court never properly acquired subject-matter jurisdiction over the administration of Williams's estate. Accordingly, all actions the circuit court purported to take in this case –– including the judgment the estate has appealed concerning the validity of the directive in Williams's will requiring WTW to pay Loveless a $1,000 monthly salary –– were void due to the lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. View "Estate of Ray Wendell Williams v. Kimberly Loveless" on Justia Law