Calhoun Circuit Court, CV-14-900086
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
petition for a writ of mandamus results from an appeal of an
arbitration award. We ordered answer and briefs to review
whether the Calhoun Circuit Court, by setting the case for a
jury trial before a judgment had been entered on the
arbitration award, had improperly deviated from the procedure
for the appeal of an arbitration award established by Rule
71B, Ala. R. Civ. P. Because the issue raised in the mandamus
petition is now moot, we deny the petition.
February 12, 2014, Jeremy J. Gowan filed this action in the
Calhoun Circuit Court against Cavalier Home Builders, LLC,
d/b/a Buccaneer Homes ("Buccaneer"),  Minton
Industries, Inc. ("Minton"), Monster Movers, LLC
("Monster Movers"), Jerry Dudley, and Britt
Richards. Buccaneer, Dudley, Richards, and Minton moved to
compel arbitration based on an arbitration agreement Gowan
had signed relating to the sale of a manufactured home.
Although Monster Movers was not a party to the arbitration
agreement, Gowan's claims against Monster Movers were
submitted to arbitration by consent of the parties. While the
arbitration proceeding was pending, Monster Movers entered
into a joint dismissal with Gowan. The case proceeded to
arbitration against the remaining defendants.
2, 2017, the arbitrator issued an award in favor of Gowan and
against Buccaneer in the amount of $10, 000. As to
Gowan's claims against all other remaining defendants,
the award was adverse to Gowan.
29, 2017, Gowan filed an appeal in the Calhoun Circuit Court,
pursuant to Rule 71B, of the arbitration award, including the
$10, 000 award against Buccaneer, apparently on the basis
that the award was insufficient. Rule 71B(f) provides the
following procedure to be followed once an appeal of an
arbitration award is filed:
"(f) Procedure After Filing. The clerk of the
circuit court promptly shall enter the award as the final
judgment of the court. Thereafter, as a condition precedent
to further review by any appellate court, any party opposed
to the award may file, in accordance with Rule 59, a motion
to set aside or vacate the judgment based upon one or more of
the grounds specified in Ala. Code 1975, 6-6-14, or other
applicable law. ... The disposition of any such motion is
subject to civil and appellate rules applicable to orders and
judgments in civil actions."
circuit clerk did not immediately enter the arbitration award
as the final judgment of the court. Buccaneer filed a motion
to dismiss the appeal on the basis that Gowan had not filed
with the circuit court a complete copy of the record in the
arbitration proceeding. The circuit court, on July 20, 2017,
entered an order, among other things, directing Gowan to file
the necessary record within 15 days. On August 21, 2017,
Gowan filed a postjudgment motion to set aside or vacate the
arbitration award pursuant to Rule 59(e), Ala. R. Civ. P.
Gowan's motion noted that the clerk had yet to record the
award as the final judgment but requested that, "[w]hen
the clerk does so, [Gowan] prays that this Court will treat
and regard this Rule 59(e) motion as filed in accordance with
... the language of Rule 71B, Ala. R. Civ. P." Indeed,
this Court has held that a postjudgment motion filed before
the entry of a final judgment "becomes effective when
the judgment is entered." New Addition Club, Inc. v.
Vaughn, 903 So.2d 68, 72 (Ala. 2004).
4, 2018, the circuit court, before the arbitration award had
been entered as a judgment of the court and without ruling on
Gowan's Rule 59(e) motion, set the case for a September
24, 2018, jury trial. That jury-trial setting prompted
Buccaneer to file this petition for a writ of mandamus on
June 15, 2018.
9, 2018, the clerk of the circuit court entered the
arbitration award as a final judgment of the court. Thus,
although Gowan's Rule 59(e) motion was initially
premature, that motion "'quickened on the day that
judgment was entered.'" Jakeman v. Lawrence Grp.
Mgmt. Co., 82 So.3d 655, 658 (Ala. 2011) (quoting
Miller v. Miller, 10 So.3d 570, 572 (Ala. Civ. App.
2008)). Under Rule 59.1, Ala. R. Civ. P., the circuit court
had 90 days to rule on Gowan's Rule 59
motion.Because it did not do so, Gowan's
motion was denied by operation of law on August 7, 2018.
Gowan's postjudgment motion has been denied by operation
of law, the circuit court has no jurisdiction to enter any
further orders in this case. Honea v. Raymond James Fin.
Servs., Inc., 240 So.3d 550, 558 (Ala. 2017) ("When
a postjudgment motion is denied by operation of law, the
trial court 'is "without jurisdiction to enter any
further order in [the] case after that
date."'")(quoting Ex parte Limerick,
66 So.3d 755, 757 (Ala. 2011), quoting in turn Ex parte
Davidson, 782 So.2d 237, 241 (Ala. 2000)). Here, a final
judgment has been entered and postjudgment relief has been
denied by operation of law. There is nothing further for the
circuit court to do in this matter, and it has no
jurisdiction to reset the case for a jury trial. Accordingly,
the question whether Rule 71B permits a jury trial under the
circumstances as presented in this petition for a writ of
mandamus is now moot.
will not issue in a case where the underlying issue has
become moot." Ex parte Talladega Little League,
Inc., 556 So.2d 386, 387 (Ala. 1990). Accordingly, the
petition for a writ of mandamus is due to be denied.
Stuart, C.J., and Bolin, Parker, Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Sellers,