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Ex parte U.S. Steel Mining Co., LLC

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

August 22, 2014

Ex parte U.S. Steel Mining Company, LLC;
v.
U.S. Steel Mining Company, LLC) (In re: Elijah Allen et al.

Released for Publication April 13, 2015.

(Jefferson Circuit Court, Bessemer Division, CV-02-1588). Annetta H. Verin, Trial Judge.

For Petitioner: Neil Richard Clement of RichardsonClement PC, Birmingham.

For Respondents: Donald W. Stewart and John E. Lawes of Stewart & Stewart, P.C., Bessemer.

MOORE, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman and Thomas, JJ., concur. Donaldson, J., concurs specially.

OPINION

Page 1246

PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

MOORE, Judge.

U.S. Steel Mining Company, LLC (" the employer" ), petitions this court to issue a writ of mandamus to the Bessemer Division of the Jefferson Circuit Court (" the trial court" ) directing that court to set aside its order of May 28, 2014, granting a Rule 60(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., motion filed by counsel representing hundreds of plaintiffs (" the employees" ) in a workers' compensation case. We deny the petition.

On November 12, 2002, the employees filed a complaint against the employer seeking workers' compensation benefits; the action initiated by the filing of the complaint was assigned to Judge Dan C. King III. On January 12, 2004, Judge King stayed the action pending the completion of a third-party action initiated by the employees in the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court. After Judge King was removed from the bench, the workers' compensation action was reassigned to Judge Eugene R. Verin, who, on February 15, 2013, dismissed the action, with prejudice, for " want of prosecution." On April 10, 2014, counsel for the employees filed a motion for relief from the dismissal judgment. The action was reassigned to Judge Annetta H. Verin, who, after a hearing, entered an order on May 28, 2014, granting the motion for relief from the judgment. Subsequently, the employees moved to sever their individual claims, which the trial court granted on June 19, 2014.

The employer argues that the trial court exceeded its discretion in granting the motion for relief from the dismissal judgment. The order granting the Rule 60(b) motion is an interlocutory order that may be reviewed by way of a petition for a writ of mandamus. Ex parte Alfa Mut. Gen. Ins. Co., 681 So.2d 1047 (Ala. 1996).

" An aggrieved party seeking relief from an interlocutory order via a writ of mandamus must demonstrate: '(1) a clear legal right ... to the order sought; (2) an imperative duty upon the respondent [in this case the trial judge] to perform, accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another adequate remedy; and (4) properly invoked jurisdiction of the court.' Ex parte Edgar, 543 So.2d 682, 684 (Ala. 1989) (citing Barber v. Covington County Comm'n, 466 So.2d 945 (Ala. 1985)). Clearly, [the employer] is entitled to a writ of mandamus if it can demonstrate that it was denied the benefit of a final judgment in its favor in the underlying action through the trial judge's improper entry of an order purporting to grant [the employees'] Rule 60(b)[, Ala. R. Civ. P.,] motion for relief from the judgment."

681 So.2d at 1049.

In their motion seeking Rule 60(b) relief, the employees asserted that they were entitled to relief from the judgment on two different grounds. First, the employees asserted that the judgment dismissing the case was void due to lack of due process. Second, the employees asserted that aggravating extraordinary circumstances required reinstatement of the case. We conclude that the first ...


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