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Ala. Dep't of Labor v. Wiggins

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

November 21, 2014

Alabama Department of Labor
v.
John M. Wiggins

Released for Publication July 22, 2015.

Appeal from Etowah Circuit Court. (CV-12-900049). William A. Millican, Trial Judge.

REVERSED AND REMANDED WITH INSTRUCTIONS.

For Appellant: Joseph S. Ammons, Gen. Counsel; Holly T. Sharp, Don Harrison, Asst. Gen. Counsel, Legal Division, Alabama Department of Labor.

For Appellee: John D. Floyd, Floyd Law Firm, LLC, Gadsden.

THOMAS, Judge. Thompson, P.J., and Pittman, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 85

THOMAS, Judge.

The Alabama Department of Labor[1] (" the department" ) appeals from a judgment entered by the Etowah Circuit Court (" the trial court" ) determining that John M. Wiggins was eligible and not disqualified to receive unemployment-compensation benefits and awarding him 22 weeks of unemployment-compensation benefits in addition to the 4 weeks of benefits he had already been paid.

Page 86

The record indicates that Wiggins was employed by Regional Biomedical Laboratory (" Regional" ) as a courier; his job consisted solely of driving from Regional's office located in Gadsden to Montgomery to pick up medical specimens and driving back to Gadsden. On October 7, 2011, Wiggins was hospitalized after fainting for no apparent reason; he remained hospitalized for several days.[2] The parties agree that on October 24, 2011, Wiggins met with Susan Emanuelsen, the president of Regional, and presented her with a release from his doctor permitting him to return to work with no restrictions. Emanuelsen, however, inquired of Wiggins if the cause of his fainting had been determined and if he had received treatment; according to the record, Wiggins indicated that the cause had not identified and that he had an appointment with his doctor on November 7, 2011. Emanuelsen informed Wiggins that she would not allow him to return to work without a doctor's release specifically stating that he was cleared to operate an automobile. As part of the unemployment-benefits claims process, the department obtained a doctor's release on or about November 23, 2011, that stated that Wiggins had been cleared to return to his usual work duties on November 14, 2011. That doctor's release is included in the appellate record. However, it is undisputed that Wiggins did not contact Emanuelsen or attempt to report for work after the October 24, 2011, meeting.

Wiggins filed a claim for unemployment-compensation benefits on October 30, 2011; his claim was initially approved. The record indicates that Wiggins filed four eligible weekly certification claims in conjunction with his claim. Regional appealed the decision to award Wiggins unemployment-compensation benefits to an administrative hearing officer (" AHO" ) on the basis that he had not returned to work with a doctor's release clearing him to operate an automobile. A hearing was held via telephone on December 14, 2011. The AHO reversed the original determination, finding that Wiggins had left his employment without good cause and that Wiggins was ineligible to receive unemployment-compensation benefits. Wiggins timely filed an application to appeal to the department's board of appeals; the board of appeals denied Wiggins's application on January 20, 2012.

Wiggins filed an appeal of the board's decision in the trial court on February 7, 2012; the department answered on February 15, 2012. A trial was held on September 30, 2013, at which the trial court heard evidence ore tenus. On October 1, 2013, the trial court entered a judgment that stated, in its entirety: " This cause coming before the court on the complaint of [Wiggins] and upon proof ore tenus it is ordered, adjudged and decreed as follows: Judgment in favor of [Wiggins]."

On March 28, 2014, Wiggins filed a motion styled as a " motion for relief from judgment or order pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5)& (6) of the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure." In the motion, Wiggins asserted that the department had failed to pay him the unemployment-compensation benefits that he had been awarded by the trial court's October 1, 2013, judgment. Although Wiggins purported to file the motion pursuant to Rule 60(b)(5)& (6), Ala. R. Civ. P., ...


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