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Circuit Court Has Jurisdiction To Consider Rule 37(a)(4) Motion For Sanctions Filed More Than 30 Days After Entry of Final Judgment

Duncan v. Duncan, [Ms. 2190594, Apr. 16, 2021] ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2021). The court (Fridy, J.; Thompson, P.J., and Moore, Edwards, and Hanson, JJ., concur) reverses the Montgomery Circuit Court’s order awarding husband attorney’s fees against the wife as a discovery sanction. Although the husband’s Rule 37(a)(4) motion for sanctions was filed nearly six months after entry of the divorce judgment, the court concludes the circuit court retained jurisdiction to consider the husband’s Rule 37 motion. The court explains “[b]ased on our supreme court’s holding in SMM Gulf Coast [LLC, v. Dade Capital Corp., 311 So. 3d 736 (Ala. 2020)] and what we view as the better reasoned authorities from other jurisdictions …, we hold that the husband’s motion seeking attorney’s fees under Rule 37(a)(4) for work performed in connection with the parties’ discovery disputes falls under the general rule that permits a trial court to entertain such a motion after the entry of a final judgment.” Ms. *15.

However, the court reverses the award of sanctions to the husband because

The trial court did not explicitly “grant” the wife’s motion to compel; however, its directives to the husband from the bench and in the June 2018 order compelled the husband to respond to the discovery that the wife had propounded to him, as the wife had sought in her motion to compel. The husband clearly did not prevail against the wife in their discovery disputes; therefore, he was not entitled to attorney’s fees pursuant to Rule 37(a)(4). Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion in awarding the husband attorney’s fees, and its order of March 18, 2020, is reversed.

Ms. **17-18.

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