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Double B Country Store, LLC v. Alabama Department of Transportation

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

January 9, 2015

Double B Country Store, LLC
v.
Alabama Department of Transportation

Released for Publication August 5, 2015.

Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court. (CV-13-901219). Johnny Hardwick, Trial Judge.

For Appellant: Dayna R. Burnett, Montgomery.

For Appellee: Luther Strange, atty. gen., Andrew Brasher, deputy atty. gen., Jim R. Ippolito, Jr., chief counsel and asst. atty. gen., Jason A. Trippe, asst. counsel and asst. atty. gen., Alabama Department of Transportation.

THOMPSON, Presiding Judge. Pittman, Thomas, Moore, and Donaldson, JJ., concur.

OPINION

Page 29

THOMPSON, Presiding Judge.

Double B Country Store, LLC (" Double B" ), appeals from the dismissal of its complaint against the Alabama Department of Transportation (" ADOT" ) by the Montgomery Circuit Court (" the trial court" ).

On July 3, 2013, a representative of ADOT arrived at the store operated by Double B (" the store" ) and stated that ADOT had received complaints that vehicles parked at the store were blocking a right-of-way owned by the state. According to Deborah E. Beck, the sole owner of Double B, the conversation between Beck and the ADOT representative became " loud and heated before the representative left the store." Approximately one week later, ADOT representatives returned to the store and indicated that they would again return as soon as possible to begin marking off the right-of-way and placing " No Parking" signs in the marked areas. That same day, Double B retained legal counsel because of its " extreme concerns about the impact of the proposal on its flow of vehicles ... in and out of its business."

Page 30

On July 15, 2013, ADOT representatives arrived at the store and began marking off the right-of-way; they completed the work on July 16, 2013. On July 17, 2013, Double B filed in the trial court a complaint naming ADOT as the defendant and seeking a preliminary injunction and a judgment declaring that ADOT marked the right-of-way in an " arbitrary and capricious" manner that interfered with Double B's business.

On July 25, 2013, ADOT filed a motion requesting that the trial court dismiss Double B's complaint on the ground that ADOT was entitled to immunity from suit under Ala. Const. 1901, Art. I, § 14. On July 29, 2013, Double B attempted to amend its complaint, naming as defendants ADOT and John R. Cooper, the director of ADOT, along with fictitiously named defendants. Substantively, Double B's amended complaint was nearly identical to its original complaint, with the only exception being that Double B added an allegation that ADOT and Cooper had acted in bad faith.

On July 31, 2013, ADOT filed a motion to dismiss Double B's amended complaint. ADOT argued that, given ADOT's immunity, Double B's original complaint failed to invoke the trial court's subject-matter jurisdiction, and, as a result, ADOT claimed that Double B could not amend a complaint over which the trial court had not yet obtained jurisdiction.

At a hearing held on November 21, 2013, the parties informed the trial court that they were involved in settlement negotiations. The trial court scheduled a status conference for January 13, 2014. At the January 13, 2014, conference, the parties again informed the trial court of a potential settlement. However, after settlement negotiations proved to be unsuccessful, ADOT filed a ...


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