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Ballard v. Lee A. McWilliams Construction, Inc.

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

February 2, 2018

Angel Ballard
v.
Lee A. McWilliams Construction, Inc. Lee A. McWilliams Construction, Inc.
v.
Angel Ballard

         Appeals from Baldwin Circuit Court (CV-15-900871)

          THOMAS, JUDGE.

         In January 2010, Lee A. McWilliams Construction, Inc. ("the company"), began renovation work on a house owned by Angel Ballard. Ballard and the company had agreed, per the estimate provided to Ballard, that she would pay for the costs of materials plus 18%; the parties had no written contract. Although Ballard had paid the first three invoices provided to her, she did not pay the entire amount owed according to the May 2010 invoice, which totaled $42, 947.33. Ballard made partial payments over the next few years.

         In July 2015, Lee A. McWilliams, the principal owner of the company, sued Ballard in the Baldwin Circuit Court ("the trial court"), seeking $27, 612.52 in damages based on several legal theories, including breach of contract, work and labor done, and account stated. In the complaint, McWilliams requested prejudgment interest from July 1, 2010. Ballard answered, generally denying the allegations of the complaint and asserting numerous affirmative defenses. McWilliams later amended the complaint to seek recovery of $26, 953.75 based on what he described as a personal guarantee executed by Ballard. Ballard, in her answer to the amended complaint, asserted counterclaims alleging breach of implied warranty and fraudulent representation. Ballard also moved for a summary judgment based, in part, on the fact that McWilliams was not the proper plaintiff. McWilliams amended the complaint to add the company as a plaintiff.

         The company also moved for a summary judgment. The parties agreed to a judgment in favor of Ballard and against McWilliams, individually, on the claims in the complaint. The trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Ballard on the company's account-stated claim and in favor of the company on Ballard's breach-of-implied-warranty counterclaim.

         After a trial held on August 29, 2016, and October 24, 2016, the trial court entered, on October 26, 2016, a judgment in favor of the company for $25, 953.75. The company filed a timely postjudgment motion on November 22, 2016, in which it argued that it was entitled to prejudgment interest. The trial court failed to rule on the motion within 90 days, and it was deemed denied on February 21, 2017. See Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P. (providing that a postjudgment motion will be denied by operation of law on the 90th day after its filing if not ruled upon before that date).[1] Ballard timely appealed the judgment on March 23, 2017; her appeal was assigned appeal number 2160469. The company filed its cross-appeal on March 30, 2017; its appeal was assigned appeal number 2160509. We transferred the appeals to our supreme court, which transferred the appeals back to this court, pursuant to Ala. Code 1975, § 12-2-7(6).

         Ballard's Appeal

         On appeal, Ballard argues that the trial court erred in awarding the company damages when, she says, those same damages were recovered in an "Emergency Advance Payment" of $75, 000 from the BP/Gulf Coast Claims Facility, which handled claims made against British Petroleum stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Ballard argued in the trial court that the company had received the $75, 000 payment, in part, as compensation for her failure to pay the balance of the costs of the renovation. Her argument on appeal challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court's judgment in favor of the company. However, the trial court's judgment contains no findings of fact. Therefore, in order for Ballard to have preserved a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal, she was required to have filed a postjudgment motion raising that issue. See New Props., L.L.C. v. Stewart, 905 So.2d 797, 801-02 (Ala. 2004) (explaining that, "in a nonjury case in which the trial court makes no specific findings of fact, a party must move for a new trial or otherwise properly raise before the trial court the question relating to the sufficiency or weight of the evidence in order to preserve that question for appellate review"). Ballard's failure to file a postjudgment motion precludes our consideration of this issue, see Boyington v. Bryan, 174 So.3d 347, 359 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014), and the judgment, insofar as the award of damages to the company is challenged by Ballard in appeal number 2160469, is affirmed.

         The Company's Cross-Appeal

         The company's cross-appeal concerns the trial court's failure to award prejudgment interest on the damages award, which it contends is due under Ala. Code 1975, § 8-8-8. As noted above, the company sought prejudgment interest from July 1, 2010, on the amount due under the parties' oral contract, and the company filed a postjudgment motion raising the failure of the trial court to award prejudgment interest. Section 8-8-8 provides:

"All contracts, express or implied, for the payment of money, or other thing, or for the performance of any act or duty bear interest from the day such money, or thing, estimating it at its money value, should have been paid, or such act, estimating the compensation therefor in money, performed."

         We note that "the trial court's interpretation and application of ... § 8-8-8 ... is a question of law, and, as such, on appeal is not entitled to any presumption of correctness." Miller & Co. v. McCown, 531 So.2d 888, 889 (Ala. 1988).

         We discussed the application of § ...


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