Tax Sale; Redemption; Res Judicata; Litigation Accountability Act

Austill v. Prescott, [Ms. 1170709, 1170730, July 12, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). With majority, concurring and dissenting opinions totaling 121 pages, a plurality of the Court in Case No. 1170709 (Bryan, J., and Shaw, J., concurs; Parker, C.J., and Bolin and Mitchell, JJ., concur in the result; Sellers, Mendheim, and Stewart, JJ., dissent) affirms a judgment of the Baldwin Circuit Court permitting Prescott to redeem real property under §§ 40-10-82 and 40-10-83, Ala. Code 1975. In Case No. 1170730, a plurality of the Court (Bryan, J., and Shaw, J., concurs; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Sellers, Mendheim, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur in the result) concludes the Baldwin Circuit Court did not exceed its discretion in denying Prescott's motion for an award of attorney fees under the Alabama Litigation Accountability Act, § 12-19-270, et seq., Ala. Code 1975.

The plurality opinions implicate Alabama law of tax sales (§ 40-10-1, et seq., Ala. Code 1975), judicial redemption (§§ 40-10-82 and 40-10-83, Ala. Code 1975), statutory redemption (§ 40-10-120, et seq., Ala. Code 1975), tax deeds (§ 40-10-29, Ala. Code 1975), possession of land purchased at tax sale (§ 40-10-74, Ala. Code 1975), and the statute of limitations for bringing a judicial-redemption claim pursuant to the 2009 Amendment to § 40-2-82, Ala. Code 1975. See generally Ms. *2-25.

The plurality opinions also explore principles of res judicata, claim preclusion, and issue preclusion. See generally Ms. *27-41.

In the cross-appeal, the plurality examines the meaning of the phrase "without substantial justification" as used in § 12-19-272(a), Ala. Code 1975, and finds that because the appellant's attorney candidly explained in his pleadings why his client's claims were made in good faith despite the anticipated assertion of a res judicata defense, the Baldwin Circuit Court could not be found to have exceeded its discretion in declining to award attorney fees under the Litigation Accountability Act.

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