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Castleberry v. Angie's List, Inc.

Supreme Court of Alabama

May 17, 2019

Jessie CASTLEBERRY and Rickey Castleberry
v.
ANGIE'S LIST, INC.

Page 38

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 39

         Appeal from Montgomery Circuit Court (CV-18-900500)

         H. Arthur Edge III , Ethan D. Hiatt , and Hunter C. Sartin of Arthur Edge, P.C., Birmingham, for appellants.

          E. Travis Ramey and Michelle McClafferty of Burr & Forman LLP, Birmingham, for appellee.

         SELLERS, Justice.

         Jessie Castleberry and Rickey Castleberry appeal from an order of the Montgomery Circuit Court dismissing the Castleberrys' claims against Angie's List, Inc., based on a forum-selection clause in a contract between Angie's List and the Castleberrys. We affirm the trial court's order.

         Angie's List operates a paid membership service that enables its members to search for local service providers and to submit and consider reviews and ratings relating to those service providers. The Castleberrys, who are father and son, became members of Angie's List in 2014. They claim that they used their membership with Angie's List to locate a contractor, Dream Baths of Alabama, LLC ("Dream Baths"), which the Castleberrys hired to renovate a bathroom in Jessie Castleberry's house to make it handicapped accessible. According to the Castleberrys, Dream Baths was not properly licensed and poorly performed the work it contracted to do.

         The Castleberrys sued Dream Baths, asserting various claims related to the renovation. They also named Angie's List as a defendant in the action, alleging that it had misrepresented Dream Baths' qualifications. Against Angie's List, the Castleberrys alleged breach of contract, breach of a duty of good faith and fair dealing, fraud, unjust enrichment, and deceptive trade practices.

         Pursuant to Rule 12(b)(3), Ala. R. Civ. P., Angie's List filed a motion to dismiss the Castleberrys' claims against it based on a forum-selection clause set out in the membership agreement between Angie's List and the Castleberrys. That clause provides:

"This Agreement and the relationship between You [the Castleberrys] and Angie's List will be governed by the laws of the State of Indiana, notwithstanding the choice of law provisions of the venue where any action is brought, where the violation occurred, where You may be located or any other Jurisdiction. You agree and consent to the exclusive Jurisdiction of the state or federal courts located in Marion County, Indiana and waive any defense of lack of personal jurisdiction or improper venue or forum non conveniens to a claim brought in such court, except that Angie's List may elect, in its sole discretion, to litigate the action in the county or state where any breach by You occurred or where You can be found. You agree that regardless of any statute or law to the contrary, any claim or cause of action arising out [sic] or related to Your use of the Service or this Agreement shall be filed within one (1) year after such claim or cause of action arose or will forever be barred."

Page 40

          The trial court determined that the quoted clause is "a valid and enforceable forum-selection clause that provides for the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Marion County, Indiana." Accordingly, the trial court granted Angie's List's motion to dismiss. Later, the trial court denied the Castleberrys' motion to reconsider the dismissal and, pursuant to Rule 54(b), Ala. R. Civ. P., certified its order of dismissal as final for purposes of appeal. The Castleberrys timely appealed.

         The Castleberrys argue first that the trial court erred in determining that the contractual provision in question is a forum-selection clause allowing Angie's List to force its members to litigate their claims against Angie's List in the courts of Marion County, Indiana. The parties agree that, for ...


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