Appellate Jurisdiction - Mootness - Notice Pleading - Brazelton Properties, Inc. DBA Plush Horse v. City of Huntsville


Brazelton Properties, Inc. d/b/a Plush Horse v. City of Huntsville, [Ms. 2160043, Apr. 21, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. Civ. App. 2017). In a unanimous opinion authored by Judge Thomas, the Court of Civil Appeals dismisses Brazelton Properties, Inc.’s appeal from a summary judgment. Brazelton filed suit against the City challenging the City’s denial of its 2014 application for a lounge retail liquor license. Brazelton’s complaint sought injunctive relief and monetary damages. During the pendency of Brazelton’s appeal, the City approved Brazelton’s 2016 application for the license. Brazelton conceded in the Court of Civil Appeals that the City’s granting of the 2016 application for the liquor license mooted its claim for injunctive relief. However, Brazelton argued “its request for compensatory damages entails a controversy regarding a ‘collateral right’ that remains justiciable.” Ms. *11. While the court acknowledged an exception to the mootness doctrine applicable “where the appellate court’s failure to render a decision on an issue would leave collateral rights of the parties undetermined,” id. at 12, the court found the exception inapplicable and dismissed Brazelton’s appeal.

In an effort to avoid dismissal of its appeal, Brazelton argued that its complaint stated viable claims for violations of its right to equal protection under the United States Constitution. However, the court held that Brazelton’s complaint did not put the City on notice of a claim pursuant to § 1983 because Brazelton’s complaint alleged that the City’s actions violated the Equal Protection of the Alabama Constitution. Id. at 16. Brazelton’s claim seeking monetary damages for alleged violations of the Alabama Constitution did not present a viable controversy because of “absence of authority establishing ‘a private cause of action for monetary damages based on violations of the provisions of the Constitution of Alabama 1901.’” Id. at 17, quoting Matthews [v. Alabama Agric. & Mech. Univ.], 787 So. 2d [691][], 698 [(Ala. 2000)]. The court dismisses the appeal as moot because “expressing an opinion regarding whether the city violated Brazelton’s rights under the Alabama Constitution for that purpose would amount to contemplation of an abstract proposition – a task “‘the judiciary of Alabama is not empowered’” to perform.” Id. at 18, quoting Auburn Med. Ctr., Inc. v. East Alabama Health Care Auth., 908 So. 2d 243, 245 (Ala. Civ. App. 2003) quoting in turn, Ex parte Connors, 855 So. 2d 486, 488 (Ala. 2003).

The court also rejected Brazelton’s argument that its request for an award of attorney fees remained justiciable holding that a request for attorney’s fees does not revive an otherwise moot case. Ms. *18-19.

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