Parties May Not Divest Alabama Courts of Jurisdiction Over Workers' Compensation Claim Arising From Injury In Alabama


Sellers v. Venture Express, Inc., [Ms. 2190165, Feb. 12, 2021], ___ So. 3d ___ (Ala. Civ. App. 2021). The court (Hanson, J.; Thompson, P.J., and Moore, Edwards, and Fridy, JJ., concur) reverses the Cullman Circuit Court’s dismissal without prejudice of Sellers’s action seeking workers’ compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury occurring in Alabama. The employment contract stipulated that Sellers’s employment was localized in Tennessee and that Tennessee would have exclusive jurisdiction over any claim seeking workers’ compensation benefits. Ms. *3. The court holds “notwithstanding the parties’ agreement that Sellers’s employment was to be principally localized in Tennessee, § 25-5-35(g) gave Sellers the right to seek compensation benefits under the Act for injuries sustained in Alabama, and such jurisdiction could not be divested by agreement of the parties.” Ms. *19.

Also of note is the court’s explanation that

“Typically, the dismissal of an action without prejudice lacks sufficient finality to support an appeal.” Edwards v. Hanger, 197 So. 3d 993, 995 (Ala. Civ. App. 2015). Nevertheless, “when the applicable statue of limitations would bar a subsequent action, the dismissal becomes, in effect, a dismissal with prejudice.” Edwards, 197 So. 3d at 995 (quoting Guthrie v. Alabama Dep’t of Labor, 160 So. 3d 815, 816-17 n. 2 (Ala. Civ. App. 2014)). At the time Sellers’s claim against Venture Express was dismissed, any subsequent workers’ compensation action, whether filed under Alabama or Tennessee law, would have been barred by the corresponding applicable statute of limitations.”

Ms. *4 n.1.

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