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Harley v. Anderson

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

November 14, 2014

Joan H. Harley
Edward Ray Anderson and Dorothy L. Anderson

Released for Publication July 22, 2015.

Appeal from St. Clair Circuit Court. (CV-12-55). Phil Seay, Trial Judge.

For Appellant: John B. Brunson, Massey, Stotser & Nichols, PC, Birmingham.

For Appellee: Charles E. Robinson, Jr., The Robinson Law Firm, P.C., Ashville; Peter M. Wright, Sirote & Permutt, P.C., Birmingham.

DONALDSON, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Thomas, and Moore, JJ., concur.


Page 356


Generally, an appellate court has no jurisdiction to consider an appeal from a nonfinal judgment. Sexton v. Sexton, 42 So.3d 1280, 1282 (Ala.Civ.App. 2010). Joan H. Harley appeals from a judgment of the St. Clair Circuit Court (" the trial court" ) setting aside certain inter vivos transfers made to her bye Floyd Anderson (" Floyd" ) before his death on the basis that she exerted undue influence on Floyd. Because the order appealed from is not final, we dismiss the appeal.

Floyd and Edward Ray Anderson (" Ray" ) were brothers. On June 17, 2004, Floyd executed a will naming Ray as sole executor and beneficiary of Floyd's estate in the event that Jean Anderson (" Jean" ), Floyd's wife, predeceased him. On August 13, 2009, Floyd and Jean executed a warranty deed to convey real property located in St. Clair County to Ray and Ray's wife, Dorothy L. Anderson (" Dorothy" ), as joint tenants with right of survivorship, but reserving for themselves a life estate in the property. On January 12, 2010, Floyd executed a power of attorney (" the original POA" ) appointing Ray as his attorney-in-fact. Shortly after Floyd executed these documents, Ray hired Harley to cook and clean for Floyd and Jean. After Jean's death on June 1, 2011, Floyd and Ray became estranged for reasons that the record does not make clear.

The litigation in the trial court consisted of four separate cases: case no. CV-11-900167, case no. CV-12-41, case no. CV-12-55, and case no. CV-12-900122.

Page 357

Before his death, Floyd filed a complaint against Ray and Dorothy to set aside the warranty deed he had executed in August 2009. That case was docketed as case no. CV-11-900167. After Floyd's death, the trial court appointed an administrator ad litem to represent Floyd's estate in that proceeding. Case no. CV-12-41 was initiated when a will contest filed by Harley in the St. Clair Probate Court was removed to the trial court. The trial court ordered the consolidation of case no. CV-11-900167 and case no. CV-12-41. The trial court ultimately dismissed the claims asserted in case no. CV-11-900167 by an order dated June 7, 2013, and purported to dismiss the will contest in that same order.[1] On appeal, the parties raise no issues arising from case no. CV-11-900167 and case no. CV-12-41.

Ray, as personal representative of Floyd's estate, initiated case no. CV-12-900122 on October 16, 2012, by filing a complaint against Harley in the trial court requesting injunctive relief. Specifically, the complaint sought to restrain Harley from disposing of funds she had received by transfer from Floyd before his death and alleged that the funds belonged to Floyd's estate.

Case no. CV-12-55 was initiated on July 12, 2012, when Ray and Deborah filed a complaint against Harley asserting trespass and ejectment claims and seeking injunctive relief, alleging that Harley was withholding from Ray and Dorothy possession of the real property that Floyd had deeded to them.[2] The trial court entered an order on November 26, 2012, ejecting Harley from the property. That order did not address the trespass claim. Ray and Dorothy amended the complaint in case no. CV-12-55 on February 8, 2013, to add claims alleging unjust enrichment and seeking a declaratory judgment, as well as to request injunctive relief to restrain Harley from disposing of assets that were transferred from Floyd before his death.[3]

Page 358

Specifically, the amended claims sought to set aside certain inter vivos transfers of funds and personal property Floyd had made to Harley before his death on the basis that Harley had unduly influenced Floyd. The trial court's judgment on the claims asserted in the amended complaint forms the basis of this appeal. The issues concerning undue influence and the validity of the inter vivos transfers were tried by the trial court on June 13, 2013. The trial court took additional testimony on June 20, 2013.

The following undisputed facts were presented to the trial court:[4]

" 1. [Floyd] Anderson was married to Jean Anderson ('Mrs. Anderson'). Ms. Harley was hired by the elderly Andersons in February, 2010, as their housecleaner.
" 2. Ms. Harley provided other services to the Andersons, including cooking, planting their garden, cutting their grass, running errands (including to the pharmacy to pick up medication(s) for him/her/them), and grocery shopping. She took them to the doctors, sorted out medications for them, and for [Floyd], ...

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