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Slamen v. Slamen

Supreme Court of Alabama

September 22, 2017

Darlene Slamen, Charles Martin, Wilhelmina Martin, and Harris Partnership, LLP
Herbert A. Slamen

         Appeal from Jefferson Circuit Court (CV-16-904003)

          BRYAN, Justice.

         Darlene Slamen ("Darlene"), Charles Martin ("Charles"), Wilhelmina Martin ("Wilhelmina"), and Harris Partnership, LLP ("Harris LLP") (hereinafter collectively referred to as "the defendants"), appeal from an order of the Jefferson Circuit Court ("the trial court") granting a motion for a preliminary injunction filed by Herbert A. Slamen ("Herbert"). For the reasons set forth herein, we reverse and remand.

         Facts and Procedural History

         Herbert and Darlene married in 1981 and later formed Harris LLP, of which Herbert, Darlene, Charles, and Wilhelmina each own a 25% share. In 2008, Herbert was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and, in 2010, he moved to Thailand because, Darlene said, he wanted "to enjoy what remained of his life." After moving to Thailand, Herbert was dependent upon Darlene to send him the proceeds generated from his assets so that he could pay for living expenses and medical treatment. Payments in an agreed amount were deposited in a checking account in Thailand set up in Herbert's name. In addition to his interest in Harris LLP, Herbert's assets include a house in Alabama, a house in Florida, and an interest in the dental practice from which Herbert had retired. In 2013, Herbert, via his attorney in fact, established the Herbert A. Slamen Revocable Living Trust ("the trust") to facilitate the management of his assets, and he thereafter transferred his assets, including his interest in Harris LLP, to the trust. Herbert was the beneficiary of the trust, and both he and Darlene were the appointed cotrustees.

         On October 27, 2016, Herbert sued the defendants, alleging that he had revoked the trust but that Darlene, purportedly under her authority as cotrustee, had nevertheless transferred the assets of the trust to herself. As a result, Herbert alleged, the defendants had "failed to distribute proceeds from [Harris LLP] to [Herbert] and instead made all payments directly to Darlene." Herbert also alleged that Darlene had sold the Alabama and Florida houses and that she had "benefitted financially" from the operation of the dental practice, but, the allegation continued, Herbert had "realized no proceeds" from those assets. According to Herbert, Darlene's allegedly unauthorized transfer of his assets to herself and her alleged refusal to send him the proceeds generated from his assets were part of "an illicit scheme to gather all of [his] assets for herself." Given those allegations, Herbert asserted claims of breach of a fiduciary duty, negligence, fraud, conversion, conspiracy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, identity theft, and tortious interference with a business relationship. As relief, Herbert sought compensatory and punitive damages and, for the breach-of-a-fiduciary-duty claim, specifically sought "damages in an amount equal to the proceeds properly due from [his] business interests."

         On February 9, 2017, Herbert filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in which he requested that the trial court enjoin the defendants "from disbursing funds and profits from [Harris LLP] and requiring [the defendants] to keep all funds and profits in the regular business account of [Harris LLP] until the resolution of this case."[1] In his motion, Herbert alleged that he would suffer irreparable injury in the absence of an injunction because, he said, "[s]hould [the defendants] be allowed to distribute profits [of Harris LLP] among themselves, those funds, some or all of which rightfully belong to [Herbert], will instantly become unreachable" and "would no longer be attainable to satisfy any judgment [he] may receive." Following a hearing, the trial court entered an order enjoining the defendants "from disbursing funds and profits of [Harris LLP], " except as necessary for ordinary business expenses, pending resolution of Herbert's claims. The defendants timely appealed. See Rule 4(a)(1)(A), Ala. R. App. P. (providing for an appeal from an interlocutory order granting injunctive relief).

         Standard of Review

"When this Court reviews the grant or denial of a preliminary injunction, '"[w]e review the ... [c]ourt's legal rulings de novo and its ultimate decision to issue the preliminary injunction for [an excess] of discretion."' Holiday Isle, LLC v. Adkins, 12 So.3d 1173, 1176 (Ala. 2008) (quoting Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal, 546 U.S. 418, 428, 126 S.Ct. 1211, 163 L.Ed.2d 1017 (2006)).
"'A preliminary injunction should be issued only when the party seeking an injunction demonstrates:
"'"'(1) that without the injunction the [party] would suffer irreparable injury; (2) that the [party] has no adequate remedy at law; (3) that the [party] has at least a reasonable chance of success on the ultimate merits of his case; and (4) that the hardship imposed on the [party opposing the preliminary injunction] by the injunction would not unreasonably outweigh the benefit accruing to the [party s ee king the injunction].'"'
"Holiday Isle, 12 So.3d at 1176 (quoting Ormco Corp. v. Johns, 869 So.2d 1109, 1113 (Ala. 2003), quoting in turn Perley v. Tapscan, Inc., 646 So.2d 585, 587 (Ala. 1994) (alterations in Holiday Isle)).

Monte Sano Research Corp. v. Kratos Defense & Sec. Sols., Inc., 99 So.3d 855, 861-62 (Ala. ...

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