Huie partners Stewart McCloud and De Martenson were successful in their petition for writ of mandamus to the Alabama Supreme Court. A summary of the featured case, Ex parte Allstate Insurance Company, is provided below.
- This case originated from a single-car accident in Perry County, involving a vehicle owned by Thomas Hobson, a resident of Bibb County, and driven by Devin Anthony Harrison. One of the passengers in the vehicle, Dylan Gardner, was killed in the crash. Gardner’s estate brought a wrongful death action against Harrison. This case involves Harrison’s breach of contract and bad faith claims against Allstate for allegedly refusing to defend or indemnify Harrison in the underlying wrongful death case. At the conclusion of trial, the jury returned a verdict against Harrison in the amount of $2,000,000. Harrison subsequently filed the present lawsuit, alleging that Allstate insured the vehicle involved in the accident, that he was a permissive user covered by the policy, and that Allstate breached its contractual duty to defend and indemnify Harrison in the underlying wrongful death action.
- Allstate filed a motion for a change of venue to Shelby County or Bibb County and filed an affidavit in support of that motion testifying that a substantial amount of the investigation, decision-making and handling of the claim occurred at Allstate’s office in Shelby County. Harrison responded claiming that because the car crash was the event giving rise to the action, venue was proper in Perry County – where the crash happened. The trial court denied the motion to change venue and Allstate filed a petition for writ of mandamus.
- Alabama code § 6-3-7 specifies that venue is proper in the county where the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred. The Court held that the “events or omissions” referenced in § 6-3-7 are the alleged wrongful acts of a defendant, rather than the injuries suffered as a result of a wrongful act. In this case, the Court found that sworn affidavits filed by Allstate showed that venue was proper in Shelby or Bibb County, but not Perry County, shifting the burden to Harrison to prove that the injury – Allstate’s alleged breach of contract – had occurred in Perry County, which he failed to do.
To access the full opinion from the Alabama Supreme Court, click here.