The Supreme Court of Alabama ruled in favor of Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) director John Cooper in his case, appealing a preliminary injunction halting the construction of a bridge in south Baldwin County.
The Court ordered on August 25 that the lower court reverse the preliminary injunction.
The Supreme Court ruled the lower court did not have jurisdiction over the bad faith claim made by the Baldwin County Bridge Company (BCBC) against Cooper. The Court concluded that the claim by BCBC is barred by State immunity.
"Because the trial court did not have subject-matter jurisdiction to enter the preliminary injunction against Cooper, it follows that Cooper was 'wrongfully enjoined' from continuing construction on the third bridge," the Court said in its ruling. "In fact, he 'had the right all along to do what [he] was enjoined from doing."
The bridge company previously tried to stop the building of the third bridge over the Intercoastal Waterway. BCBC claimed Cooper wanted to put them out of business because he disliked the original deal between the state and the toll bridge owner in 1996.
BCBC also requested that communications about the decision to build a new bridge be released to prove that Cooper acted in bad faith. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the request was moot because the bad faith claim was dismissed.
The Court also ruled against Cooper's request to increase the injunction bond, which was capped at $100,000.
In a third aspect of the Supreme Court decision, the dismissal of Scott Bridge Company from the case was affirmed. Scott Bridge Company had asked to be added back to the case to recoup damages from the injunction bond. However, since the lower court dismissed it from the case, the company will not be entitled to the protection of an injunction bond.
"This rationale also compels us to reject Scott Bridge's argument that it should be allowed to recover its damages for being wrongfully enjoined," the ruling stated. "A preliminary-injunction bond is a contract whereby the party providing the bond agrees to compensate the enjoined party if it is later determined that the preliminary injunction was wrongful."
Cooper will now be able to recover damages, but BCBC cannot be held liable for any amount exceeding the $100,000 bond "unless it is determined that the injunction was pursued in bad faith," the Court stated.
Supporters of the bridge say it is needed to help relieve beach traffic and to save lives during hurricane evacuations. Those who do not want the bridge say the access to the bridge on County Road 4 will not help with traffic and is inconvenient for beachgoers.
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