Alabama Supreme Court determines that the statute of limitations for wantonness claims is two years, not six.

In Ex parte Capstone Building Corp., ___ So. 3d ___, 2011 WL 2164027 (Ala. June 3, 2011), the Supreme Court of Alabama made clear that the limitations period for wantonness claims in Alabama is two years.  In doing so, the Court overruled Ex parte McKenzie v. Killian, 887 So. 2d 861 (Ala. 2004) and Carr v. International Refining & Manufacturing Co., 13 So. 3d 947 (Ala. 2009), in which the Court had disposed of wantonness claims by applying the six-year statute of limitations for actions alleging “trespass to person or liberty.”  After McKenzie was released, litigants and trial courts struggled with the issue, uncertain what McKenzie stood for.  Indeed, the highest court itself didn’t always follow what appeared to be McKenzie’s holding.  For example, in Boyce v. Cassese, 941 So. 2d 932, 946 (Ala. 2006), the Court “readily dispose[d]” of the plaintiffs’ wantonness claims based on a two year statute of limitations.  The confusion was cleared up somewhat in Carr, in which four justices concurred in a detailed opinion discussing McKenzie and applying the six-year limitations period to a wantonness claim.  But four other justices concurred only in the result in Carr and another dissented outright.  Capstone overrules McKenzie and Carr and expressly holds (at least on a going-forward basis) that the statute of limitations for wantonness claims in Alabama is two years.  Unfortunately for defendants in some cases (and fortunately for their adversaries), the Court in Capstone decided against applying its holding retroactively.