Appeals from Shelby Circuit Court. (CV-11-291).
S. Ammons, gen. counsel, and Donald M. Harrison III and
Arthur F. Ray II, asst. gen. counsel, for
appellant/cross-appellee Alabama Department of Labor.
Romeo, Jr., of Romeo Law Firm, LLC, Birmingham; and Stewart
Springer of Springer Law Firm, LLC, Birmingham, for
appellee/cross-appellant Dental Referral Service, LLC.
Alabama Department of Labor (" the DOL"
) appeals from a summary judgment of the
Shelby Circuit Court (" the
circuit court" ) in favor of Dental Referral Service,
LLC (" Dental Referral" ). Specifically, the
judgment found that Dental Referral was not the employer of
Debra Yancy, a dental assistant who had obtained temporary
employment with a dentist through Dental Referral in
September 2010. Dental Referral cross-appeals from the
circuit court's denial of its request for an attorney
fee. Dental Referral made the request pursuant to §
12-19-272 of the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act
(" the ALAA" ), § 12-19-270 et seq., Ala. Code
record indicates that Yancy was employed in the dental office
of Dr. Melton until she " separated" from that
employment in July 2010. Yancy filed a claim with the DOL for
unemployment compensation after that separation, and she
began receiving benefits in July 2010. In August 2010, Yancy
entered into an " independent contractor agreement"
with Dental Referral, an agency that refers dental-care
professionals such as hygienists and dental assistants for
both temporary and permanent jobs with dentists' offices.
Through Dental Referral, Yancy obtained a temporary job with
a dentist for about six days during a two- to three-week
period in September 2010. Yancy apparently did not seek
unemployment-compensation benefits during that time. On
September 26, 2010, Yancy's temporary job ended, and she
again filed a claim for unemployment-compensation benefits.
September 28, 2010, the DOL mailed Dental Referral a notice
that the claim had been filed, and it sought information
about Yancy's " separation" from employment.
Dental Referral notified the DOL that it was not Yancy's
employer. Nonetheless, on October 12, 2010, the DOL made a
determination that Dental Referral was Yancy's employer.
Dental Referral challenged the DOL's determination, but
it did not deny that Yancy was entitled to receive
unemployment-compensation benefits. We note that Yancy is not
and never has been a party in this matter.
January 2011, a hearing was held before a DOL hearing
officer, who determined that Dental Referral was Yancy's
employer. After the State Board of Appeals for the DOL denied
Dental Referral's request for a hearing, Dental Referral
appealed the finding to the circuit court. Dental Referral
filed a properly supported motion for a summary judgment,
which the circuit court granted in August 2013, entering the
judgment finding that Dental Referral had not been
Yancy's employer. The DOL appealed the judgment to this
of several hearings before the circuit court, the DOL
acknowledged that all the unemployment-compensation benefits
it had paid to Yancy in 2010 were " charged solely to
Dr. Melton."  The attorney for the DOL explained to
the circuit court that, as of January 2012, 18 months after
Yancy had made her initial claim for benefits in July 2010,
Dental Referral could not be charged for any future claims
Yancy might make for unemployment-compensation benefits.
Yancy did not file a claim for which Dental Referral had been
charged during that 18-month period, and now, as the attorney
for DOL told the circuit court, " it's not going to
cost [Dental Referral] one cent."
appeal, the DOL raises five issues, but we find the
dispositive issue to be the DOL's argument that this case
became moot when the deadline passed after which Dental
Referral could no longer be charged for ...