The Supreme Court of Alabama recently issued a significant ruling in the area of Real Estate law, in regards to Riparian rights or the rights of landowners whose property borders on a body of water or watercourse. As a Real Estate Lawyer located in Mobile, I always take an interest in cases dealing with coastal real estate law. Mobile is known as the port city after all. In a case that originated in Baldwin County and involved an owner’s construction of a pier that would possibly conflict with regulations of the Department of Conservation and Natural resources, the department issued a pier permit to the landowner because applying the regulatory set-back requirement would encroach on the general common-law right possessed by all owners of riparian or waterfront property that allows the owners to “wharf out” to waters of a reasonable navigational depth. Schramm v. Spotswood, No. 1110794 (Ala. Oct. 19, 2012). The dispute concerned the boundaries between three lots located on the eastern shore of Mobile bay about one mile south of the Grand Hotel at Point Clear. The construction of the new pier caused the neighbors some concern their view of the sunsets and the Grand Hotel would be obstructed. The court held in this case that this common-law right was previously recognized in Alabama and many other jurisdictions. Cove Properties, Inc. v. Walter Trent Marina, Inc., 796 So.2d 322, 326-27 (Ala. Civ. App. 1999), reversed in part on other grounds, 796 So.2d 331 (Ala. 2000). The court held that the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources decision to allow the pier was not clearly unreasonable.
In a significant decision regarding banking law, the Supreme Court of Alabama issued a ruling this past October. In Braden Furniture v. Union State Bank, No. 1110943 (Ala. Oct. 19, 2012) the issue was whether the provisions in the Alabama Uniform Commercial Code (more commonly referred to as simply “the UCC”) supersede common-law claims of negligence and wantonness in the event that a drawer seeks to recover from a depository bank any loss of payment for unauthorized checks. The background of this case dealt with an employee of Braden’s furniture who misappropriated funds from Braden accounts and then wrote checks from the company and subsequently deposited those checks into her own USB account. The Supreme Court held that common law claims of negligence and wantonness are in fact displaced by Alabama UCC Article 3 under these circumstances. The court offered the following explanation “Braden Furniture’s common-law claims based upon Union State Bank’s alleged acceptance of unauthorized checks and Union State Bank’s presentment of those improperly payable checks to Braden Furniture’s bank for payment. Because the UCC provides that transactions such as these are governed by the relationship between the drawee bank and its customer, and between the drawee bank and the depository/collecting bank, to allow Braden Furniture’s common-law claims of negligence and wantonness to proceed would create rights, duties and liabilities inconsistent with those set forth in the UCC.” This case was brought before the Alabama Supreme Court on appeal from a summary judgment for Union State Bank and the Supreme Court affirmed the summary judgment.