Ex parte Brown, 012221 ALSC, 1190962

Docket Nº1190962
Opinion JudgeSELLERS, Justice.
Party NameEx parte Michael Grayson Brown v. Michael G. Brown In re: Christopher Lendell Beamon
Judge PanelParker, C.J., and Bolin, Wise, Bryan, Mendheim, Stewart, and Mitchell, JJ., concur. Shaw, J., concurs in the result.
Case DateJanuary 22, 2021
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

Ex parte Michael Grayson Brown

In re: Christopher Lendell Beamon

v.

Michael G. Brown

No. 1190962

Supreme Court of Alabama

January 22, 2021

Lee Circuit Court, CV-19-900701

PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS

SELLERS, Justice.

Michael Grayson Brown petitions this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the Lee Circuit Court to dismiss, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., the complaint filed against him by Christopher Lendell Beamon. Brown claims that the complaint is due to be dismissed on the basis that the claims asserted in the complaint are barred by the applicable statute of limitations and that the doctrine of equitable tolling is inapplicable to suspend the running of the limitations period. We deny the petition.

Facts

On August 10, 2017, Beamon, a pedestrian, was injured when he was struck by a vehicle being driven by Brown; the accident occurred in Auburn. On May 8, 2019, Beamon filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama ("the federal court"), naming as defendants Brown and Geico Casualty Company. In that complaint, Beamon asserted state-law claims and purported to invoke the federal court's diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332.1 Despite alleging diversity jurisdiction, the complaint stated that both Beamon and Brown were citizens of Alabama. Brown answered the complaint, asserting as a defense lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

On August 15, 2019, five days after the two-year statute of limitations had expired on the state-law claims, Brown filed a motion to dismiss the complaint filed in the federal court pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), Fed.R.Civ.P. In that motion, Brown asserted that the federal court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the complaint because complete diversity of citizenship was lacking between him and Beamon. Beamon thereafter moved to amend his complaint pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1653 to assert that Brown was a citizen of Georgia.2 Alternatively, Beamon requested that, if the evidence was insufficient to support diversity jurisdiction, the court allow equitable tolling of the statute of limitations, which, he asserted, would allow him to refile his claims in a state court.

On November 22, 2019, while the federal case was pending, but after the two-year limitations period had run, Beamon filed a second complaint, this time in the Lee Circuit Court ("the circuit court"), asserting the same claims against Brown as he had asserted in the federal court.3 On February 6, 2020, the federal court dismissed the complaint before it without prejudice, on the basis that diversity of citizenship was lacking.

On April 3, 2020, Brown filed a motion to dismiss the complaint filed in the circuit court, pursuant to Rule (12)(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., alleging that Beamon had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. In his motion, Brown contended that the claims asserted in the complaint were barred by the applicable two-year statute of limitations set forth in § 6-2-38(l), Ala. Code 1975, and that the doctrine of equitable tolling was inapplicable to suspend the limitations period. After conducting a hearing, the circuit court entered an order denying the motion to dismiss. In its order, the circuit court stated that the case presented a novel issue concerning whether, under the circumstances presented, the statute of limitations could be tolled: "The novel situation at bar is that Mr. Beamon timely filed a complaint [in federal court], paid the filing fee, and properly identified Mr. Brown and served him with process, albeit in a court which, after an extended period of fierce litigation, was determined to be the 'wrong' one in which to litigate Mr. Beamon's claims."

Citing Weaver v. Firestone, 155 So.3d 952 (Ala. 2013), the circuit court explained that a statute of limitations may be...

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