In this week's Alabama Weekly Law Update, we report on two cases. In the first case summarized below, the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals issued an opinion concerning the applicability of the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act to citizens of Alabama who work on projects exclusively outside the State. In the second case summarized below, the United States District Court Northern District of Alabama issued an opinion regarding the right of a public interest activists group to obtain a preliminary injunction without the requirement of posting a surety bond.
Ex parte Southern Erectors, Inc., No. 2130164 (Ala. Civ. App. February 21, 2014) (issuing writ of mandamus directing trial court to enter a judgment dismissing the employee's claim for Alabama workers' compensation benefits against his employer).
An employee filed a claim seeking workers' compensation benefits under the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act following an injury he received in a work-related accident which occurred in Kansas. The trial court denied the employer's motion to dismiss the employee's claim and the employer's summary judgment motion, both of which were argued on the basis that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the employee's claim. Accordingly, the employer filed a petition for a writ of mandamus in the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals to direct the trial court to rescind its order denying the employer's summary-judgment motion and to dismiss the employee's claim for Alabama Workers' compensation benefits for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.
The employee lived in Alabama at the time he began working for the employer. However, the project on which the employee worked was located in Kansas. The employee had filled out an application for employment in Kansas, he had completed tax-withholding forms for the State of Kansas, and he resided in a hotel in Kansas while working on the project. Furthermore, the employer was operating out of Kansas for the purposes of the job the employee was working. For those reasons, the Court of Civil Appeals found that the Alabama Workers' Compensation Act did not apply to the employee's claim and that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over his claim. The Court of Civil Appeals thus issued a writ of mandamus directing the trial court to enter a judgment dismissing the employee's claim for Alabama workers' compensation benefits against the employer.
Black Warrior Riverkeeper, Inc. v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 2014 WL 638014 (N.D. Ala. Feb. 18, 2014) (denied request of public interest group to issue a preliminary injunction against mining activities in the absence of the posting of a surety bond by the public interest group.
Various environmental protection groups filed an action in opposition to the issuance of permits for private companies to engage in the surface mining of coal within the watershed of the Black Warrior River. As part of their lawsuit, the environmental groups filed a motion for a preliminary injunction to stop the mining operations until a trial on the ultimate merits of the case could be held. The District Court held a hearing and set a bond in the amount of $300,000 to be required before any preliminary injunction would be issued. The bond was intended to protect the mining companies in the event a preliminary injunction was issued to stop the mining activities but the injunction was later found to be wrongfully issued.
The environmental groups were not willing to pay the funds necessary to post a bond, and thus they asked the District Court to waive the bond requirement. The District Court noted that it had never been asked to waive the bond required by Rule 65 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure which governs preliminary injunctions, which states as follows:
"The court may issue a preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order only if the movant gives security in an amount that the court considers proper to pay the costs and damages sustained by any party found to have been wrongfully enjoined or restrained. The United States, its officers, and its agencies are not required to give security."
The District Court determined that, with the exception of federal government entities, there are no exemptions to the procedural requirement that a party seeking the issuance of a preliminary injunction post a bond. It found that unless the environmental groups were ready and willing to post a surety bond in an amount sufficient to protect the mining companies, there was no reason for the court to decide whether the other factors relevant to its analysis of whether it would be appropriate to issue a preliminary injunction (e.g. substantial likelihood of the plaintiff's success on the merits, irreparable injury to the plaintiffs in the absence of an injunction, etc.) were satisfied.