Ex parte Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc.

CourtAlabama Court of Civil Appeals
Citation865 So.2d 432
PartiesEx parte WINN-DIXIE MONTGOMERY, INC. (In re Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc. v. Barbara Nipper).
Decision Date31 January 2003

865 So.2d 432

(In re Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc.
Barbara Nipper)


Court of Civil Appeals of Alabama.

January 31, 2003.

865 So.2d 433
John R. Bradwell of Hill, Hill, Carter, Franco, Cole & Black, P.C., Montgomery, for petitioner

J. Milton Coxwell, Jr., of Coxwell & Coxwell, Monroeville, for respondent.

On Application for Rehearing

YATES, Presiding Judge.

The opinion of October 25, 2002, is withdrawn, and the following is substituted therefor.

Barbara Nipper sued her employer, Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc., on May 5, 2000, seeking to recover workers' compensation benefits for an injury to her back she sustained during the course of her employment with Winn-Dixie. Winn-Dixie answered the complaint, denying that Nipper was entitled to benefits. The parties agreed to mediate their dispute through the Ombudsman Program, pursuant to § 25-5-290 through § 25-5-294, Ala.Code 1975. On October 9, 2001, the parties entered into a settlement agreement following a benefit-review conference before Ombudsman Douglas R. Nelson. The settlement agreement provided, in part:

"All Alabama Workers' Compensation benefits are settled and closed for a lump sum of ($21,500) twenty one thousand five hundred and no/100 Dollars. This includes settlement and closure of past, present, [and] future medical, settlement and closure of vocational rehabilitation service, and settlement and closure of all compensation including temporary total disability, temporary partial disability, and permanent partial disability including medical impairment, physical impairment, and vocational disability in Section 25-5-57(a)(3)i."

Nipper signed an affidavit stating that she understood (1) that she had the right to be represented by counsel and to have the settlement reviewed by the trial court within 60 days of the date of the settlement, and (2) that, at the expiration of that 60-day period, the settlement would be final.

At the request of Winn-Dixie, Nipper, on October 22, 2001, presented the settlement agreement to the trial court for approval.1 Although the trial court did not enter an order expressly stating its reasoning for refusing to approve the settlement, Nipper alleges in her verified answer that the trial court refused to approve the settlement on October 22, 2001, because it determined that the agreement

865 So.2d 434
failed to adequately compensate her for future medical benefits.2 The trial court, on January 15, 2002, set the case for trial on March 25, 2002. On February 22, 2002, Winn-Dixie moved the court to dismiss Nipper's workers' compensation complaint, contending that the parties had entered into an enforceable settlement of Nipper's claims; in the alternative, Winn-Dixie moved to enforce the settlement agreement. Nipper responded to the motion. The trial court, on March 25, 2002, entered an order denying Winn-Dixie's motion. Winn-Dixie now petitions this court for a writ of mandamus directing the Monroe Circuit Court either to dismiss Nipper's workers' compensation claim with prejudice or to enter an order enforcing the settlement agreement reached between the parties following the benefit-review conference

Mandamus is an extraordinary writ and will issue only when (1) the petitioner has demonstrated a clear legal right to the relief sought; (2) the respondent has a duty to perform and has refused to do so; (3) the petitioner has no other adequate remedy; and (4) appellate jurisdiction is properly invoked. Ex parte Flint Constr. Co., 775 So.2d 805, 808 (Ala. 2000). Because mandamus is an extraordinary remedy, this court's standard of review on a petition for a writ of mandamus is simply to determine whether the trial court has clearly abused its discretion. Ex parte King, 776 So.2d 31 (Ala.2000).

The issue presented by Winn-Dixie is whether the trial court abused its discretion and violated § 25-5-292(b), Ala.Code 1975, when it refused to dismiss Nipper's complaint, or, in the alternative, to enforce the settlement agreement. This court has stated:

"The court's fundamental duty in interpreting a statute is to determine the legislative intent by examining the language used in the statute, as well as the policy to be promoted and the ends sought by the application of the statute. Ex parte Holladay, 466 So.2d 956 (Ala. 1985). The court must interpret provisions of the workers' compensation statute liberally to accomplish its `[beneficent] purposes, and all reasonable doubts should be resolved in favor of the [worker].' American Tennis Courts, Inc. v. Hinton, 378 So.2d 235, 237 (Ala. Civ.App.), cert. den., 378 So.2d 239 (Ala. 1979)."

Ross v. Ellard Constr. Co., 686 So.2d 1190, 1192 (Ala.Civ.App.1996). Section 25-5-292(a), Ala.Code 1975, provides, in part: "A settlement reached hereunder shall, unless otherwise provided herein, be effective on the date the settlement is signed unless one of the parties submits the settlement to the court for approval as provided in this article." (Emphasis added.) Section 25-5-292(b), provides:

"(b) An agreement signed pursuant to this section shall be binding on all parties through the final conclusion of all matters relating to the claim, unless within 60 days after the agreement is signed or approved the court on a finding of fraud, newly discovered evidence, or other good cause, shall relieve all parties of the effect of the agreement."

(Emphasis added.)

Relying upon Ex parte Ford, 782 So.2d 185 (Ala.2000), Winn-Dixie argues that Nipper did not move to set the agreement

865 So.2d 435
aside within 60 days of the settlement and that the trial court did not enter an order setting the agreement aside based on "fraud, newly discovered evidence, or other good cause" within 60 days of the settlement. Therefore, it says, the settlement agreement is enforceable. In Ex parte Ford, the employee and the employer agreed to participate in a benefit-review conference pursuant to the Ombudsman Program. The parties agreed to a settlement of the employee's workers' compensation claim and reduced that agreement to writing on January 20, 1998. The employee later changed her mind about the agreement. On March 19, 1998, the employer moved the court to enforce the settlement agreement. On April 8,...

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3 cases
  • Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Bush, 2130178.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • 22 Agosto 2014
    ...court,3 the settlement becomes final and binding only once approved by the circuit court. See Ex parte Winn–Dixie Montgomery, Inc., 865 So.2d 432, 435 (Ala.Civ.App.2003) (Per Yates, P.J., with three Judges concurring in the result). In that event, the circuit court does not conduct a hearin......
  • Green v. Estate of Nance, 2050833.
    • United States
    • Alabama Court of Civil Appeals
    • 4 Mayo 2007
    ...writ of mandamus is simply to determine whether the trial court has clearly abused its discretion." Ex parte Winn-Dixie Montgomery, Inc., 865 So.2d 432, 434 In the present case, the circuit court construed the language in the third and sixth paragraphs of the will to mean that the executor ......
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • 16 Mayo 2003
    ...for petitioner. J. Milton Coxwell, Jr., of Coxwell & Coxwell, Monroeville, for respondent. Report of prior proceeding: Ala.Civ. App., 865 So.2d 432. 865 So.2d 432 BROWN, The petition for the writ of certiorari is denied. In denying the petition for the writ of certiorari, this Court does no......

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