A construction company, Parkerson Construction LLC, sued homeowner Jeanne Lacy Oaks claiming that Oaks owed it more than $50,000 for construction work on her home. Oaks filed a counterclaim alleging that Parkerson misrepresented itself and performed deficient work. Parkerson moved to compel arbitration on Oaks’ counterclaim based on an arbitration provision in a September unauthenticated work authorization agreement that was attached to the motion. The trial court granted Parkerson’s motion and compelled arbitration.
On appeal, the Alabama Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s order, concluding that Parkerson failed to meet its evidentiary burden, akin to the evidentiary burden on a motion for summary judgment, to demonstrate that an arbitration agreement existed between it and Oaks. The Alabama high court rejected Parkerson’s reliance on federal case law that, Parkerson argued, permitted trial courts to consider, “for summary-judgment purposes, evidence that is not submitted in admissible form.” The Alabama court noted that the federal case law, which was not binding on it, also held that a challenge to the admissibility of evidence created a burden “on the proponent to show that the material is admissible as presented or to explain the admissible form that is anticipated” at trial. In this case, the court held, Oaks attacked the authenticity of the September 2015 agreement, but Parkerson did not demonstrate that the agreement was or could be admissible. Parkerson had “more than four months between Oaks’s initial assertion that the September 2015 agreement was not authenticated and the hearing on its motion to compel arbitration, during which it could have placed into evidence an authenticated copy of the September 2015 agreement. Parkerson failed to do so. Therefore, the September 2015 agreement was never properly before the trial court, leaving the court without any basis for granting Parkerson’s motion to compel arbitration.”
Oaks v. Parkerson Construction, LLC, No. 1171193 (Ala. Feb. 28, 2020).