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Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan ("PEEHIP") and Venue

Ex Parte Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, [Ms. 1190232, Sept. 4, 2020] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. 2020). The Court (Stewart, J.; Parker, C.J., and Bolin, Shaw, Wise, Bryan, Sellers, and Mendheim, JJ, concur; Mitchell, J., recuses) grants a petition for a writ of mandamus and orders the Macon Circuit Court to transfer a case asserting claims of breach of contract and bad faith against Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama to the Montgomery Circuit Court as required by § 16-25A-7(e), Ala. Code 1975, the venue provision of the Public Education Employees Health Insurance Plan (“PEEHIP”) Legislation § 16-25-A-1 et seq., Ala. Code 1975. Section 16-25A-7(e), concerning denial of claims, provides: “Review of a final decision by the claims administrator shall be by the Circuit Court of Montgomery County as provided for the review of contested cases under the Alabama Administrative Procedure Act, Section 41-22-20.” (Emphasis added.) The Court holds that the use of the word “shall” in the statute is “clear and unambiguous and is imperative and mandatory” such that “the Legislature affirmatively determined that proper venue for all cases concerning review of a claims administrator’s final decision in Montgomery County.” Ms. *6. Further, under “well settled case law,” Alabama’s courts are required to “follow the mandate of a specific-venue provision when that provision conflicts with general-venue statutes.” Ms. *7, citing Ex parte Fontaine Trailer Co., 854 So. 2d 71, 81 (Ala. 2003). Accordingly, the Circuit Court of Macon County erred in denying a motion to transfer venue to Montgomery County for this case which alleges claims of breach of contract and bad faith in the denial of a claim for pre-approval and then reimbursement of expenses related to the purchase of insulin for treatment of diabetes.

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