Contempt - Enforcement of Workers' Compensation Benefit Payment


Ex parte Standard Furniture Mfg. Co., LLC, [Ms. 2200251, 2200252, and 2200253, Feb. 26, 2021], ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2021). The court (Fridy, J.; 2200251 – Edwards and Hanson, JJ., concur; Thompson, P.J., and Moore, J., concur in the result; 2200252 – Edwards and Hanson, JJ., concur; Moore, J., concurs in part and concurs in the result; Thompson, P.J., concurs in the result; 2200253 – Moore, Edwards, and Hanson, JJ., concur; Thompson, P.J., concurs in the result) denies three petitions for writs of mandamus challenging various orders of the Conecuh Circuit Court in consolidated actions involving Plaintiff DeFee’s effort to enforce Standard Furniture’s obligation to pay him permanent total disability benefits pursuant to a judgment entered in a 2012 action. Plaintiff filed a motion for contempt in the original 2012 workers’ compensation action and also initiated an independent action in the Conecuh Circuit Court designated by the original 2012 case number and .01. Citing Hicks v. Hicks, 130 So. 3d 184 (Ala. Civ. App. 2012)(a boundary line dispute where an enforcement action was dismissed for failure to pay a filing fee), Ms. **7-8, the court rejects Standard Furniture’s argument that “the initiation of new actions with .01 designations and the payment of additional filing fees are required only in postjudgment contempt proceedings arising from domestic-relations cases.” Ms. *7.

The court also rejects Standard Furniture’s alternative contention that the .01 action should have been transferred to Baldwin County where Standard Furniture is located. The court explains

Standard Furniture’s challenge to venue is premised on its contention that the .01 action initiated by the postjudgment motion should be treated as a court would treat a new tort action or a new workers’ compensation action and not as a court would treat a motion seeking relief based on a party’s alleged failure to abide by the terms of a judgment that the trial court has already entered against it. However, a trial court has inherent authority to interpret, clarify, and enforce its own final judgments. Helms v. Helms’ Kennels, Inc., 646 So. 2d 1343, 1347 (Ala.1994) (noting that “a trial court does have residual jurisdiction or authority to take certain actions necessary to enforce or interpret a final judgment”). In Ex parte N.M., 132 So. 3d 1088, 1092 (Ala. Civ. App. 2013) (quoting 17 C.J.S. Contempt § 105 (2011)), this court explained that “‘a contempt proceeding ordinarily can be instituted in the court that issued the order which allegedly was violated. Such a proceeding normally cannot be entertained by any other court.’” See also 17 Am. Jur. 2d Contempt § 151 (2014) (“[Venue] is fixed and remains with the court in which contempt is committed or whose authority is defied.”)

Ms. *11.

Judge Moore’s concurrence notes that in his “opinion, the Act limits an employee solely to the remedies set forth in §§ 25-5-59 (15% added to payment more than 30 days late) and 25-5-86 (providing for acceleration of award with penalty and the employer’s posting of a bond to avoid acceleration) and does not authorize an employee to use contempt proceedings as a supplemental remedy for a delay in payments of court-ordered compensation.” Ms. **17-18. Standard Furniture failed to raise an argument that this provision barred the contempt proceedings filed by DeFee. Ms. *19.

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