Compulsory Counterclaim – Contribution Among Joint Tortfeasors

Harris v. Dubai Truck Lines, Inc., [Ms. 1200426, Aug. 20, 2021] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2021). The Court (Sellers, J.; Bolin and Stewart, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., concurs in part and concurs in the result; Wise, J., concurs in the result) reverses the Jefferson Circuit Court’s 12(b)(6) dismissal of Harris’s counterclaim against Dubai Truck Lines, Inc. The Court first explains that

The counterclaim is unquestionably compulsory because the same operative facts, i.e., the circumstances of the February 2018 accident, serve as the basis of both the third-party complaint and the counterclaim. Under Alabama law, “[c]ompulsory counterclaims for money damages are not subject to statutes of limitations [defenses].” Romar Dev. Co. v. Gulf View Mgmt. Corp., 644 So. 2d 462, 473 (Ala. 1994). Thus, to the extent that the circuit court dismissed the counterclaim based on statute-of-limitations grounds, it erred in doing so.

Ms. *5.

While the Court reiterated that Rule 14 is entirely procedural and that “Alabama law does not permit contribution among joint tortfeasors,” Ms. *6, the Court rejects Dubai’s argument that the counterclaim sought contribution or indemnity. “[T]here was nothing in Dubai’s third-party complaint indicating that it was seeking contribution or indemnity from Harris.” Ms. *9.

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