This is an appeal by Kid's Care, Inc., and Rainbow Daycare Center, Inc. ("the plaintiffs"), from a summary judgment in favor of the defendants Alabama Department of Human Resources ("DHR") and its commissioner, Bill Fuller, and DHR employees Frances Arnold and Margaret Bonham, individually, and in their official capacities, on all claims. In their brief, the plaintiffs claim that they are "seeking a reversal and remand of the case only upon those portions of the complaint seeking to compel the defendants to perform the statutorily required annual market rate study surveys for the years 1998, 1999, 2000." (Emphasis added.)
The plaintiffs operate day-care centers and receive federal and state subsidies for some of the children in their centers to help offset the cost of day care for those children. In their brief to this Court, the plaintiffs state the following facts:
(Appellants' brief at pp. 9-10.)
Act No. 98-496, Act No. 99-441, and Act No. 2000-408 contain the same provision regarding the reimbursement to child-care
The plaintiffs allege that they are child-care providers. They do not state whether they have been reimbursed for child-care services at "their published rate for the particular category of care" or at "the 75th percentile of the local market rate." Because they are entitled to only the lesser sum of those two rates, we cannot ascertain how they could be injured by the failure of the DHR or its employees to establish the local market rate.
The plaintiffs' standing is an essential component of justiciability:
Ex parte State ex rel. James, 711 So.2d 952, 960 (Ala.1998).
Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411, 421, 89 S.Ct. 1843, 23 L.Ed.2d 404 (1969) (citation omitted).
Standing requires injury in fact. This Court stated in State v. Property at 2018 Rainbow Drive, 740 So.2d 1025 (Ala. 1999):
740 So.2d at 1027-28.
"If a named plaintiff has not been injured by the wrong alleged in the complaint, then no case or controversy is presented and the plaintiff has no standing to sue either on his own behalf or on behalf of a class." Ex parte Prudential Ins. Co. of America, 721 So.2d 1135, 1137 (Ala.1998); see also Ex parte Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama, 582 So.2d 469, 474 (Ala.1991). A party's injury must be "tangible," see Reid v. City of Birmingham, 274 Ala. 629, 639, 150 So.2d 735, 744 (1963); and a party must have "a concrete stake in the outcome of the court's decision." Brown Mech. Contractors, Inc. v. Centennial Ins. Co., 431 So.2d 932, 937 (Ala.1983).
We fail to see how the plaintiffs have been injured. The DHR was to establish the local market rate for child-care services either annually or every two years (depending upon which of the three appropriation acts is involved); it failed to do so. What tangible, concrete injury did this failure afflict on the plaintiffs?
For all that appears in the record, the plaintiffs were reimbursed by DHR at their published rates for child-care services. If 75% of the local market rate was above their published rates, then their rates would remain the same. If 75% of the local market rate was below their published rates, then their reimbursement would decrease, because they can be paid only the lesser of the two rates. Nothing in the record shows that the local market rate survey specified in the budget acts had anything to do with the published rates of the plaintiffs or any child-care provider.
Because we resolve this action on the plaintiffs' lack of standing and the trial court's resultant lack of jurisdiction, there is no need for us to discuss the immunity issue.
The trial court lacked jurisdiction to enter its summary judgment, and that judgment is void. A void judgment will not support an appeal.
MOORE, C.J., and SEE, LYONS, BROWN, HARWOOD, and STUART, JJ., concur.
JOHNSTONE and WOODALL, JJ., dissent.
JOHNSTONE, Justice (dissenting).
For two reasons, I respectfully dissent.
First, the main opinion contravenes our law that a complaint will be construed most favorably to the pleader. Poff v. Hayes, 763 So.2d 234, 241 (Ala.2000); Waters v. Jolly, 582 So.2d 1048, 1055 (Ala. 1991) ("In order to do substantial justice, pleadings are to be construed liberally in favor of the pleader."). See also Nance v. Matthews, 622 So.2d 297, 299 (Ala.1993) (In reviewing the dismissal of a plaintiff's complaint pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6), Ala. R. Civ. P., this Court must determine "whether, when the allegations of the complaint are viewed most strongly in the pleader's favor, it appears that the pleader could prove any set of circumstances that would entitle her to relief.... In making this determination, this Court does not consider whether the plaintiff will ultimately prevail, but only whether he may possibly prevail.... We note that a Rule 12(b)(6) dismissal is proper only when it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of the claim that would entitle the plaintiff to relief."). Implicit in the complaint is that the local market rate, which the defendants
Second, the main opinion exceeds the scope of our Smith v. Equifax, 537 So.2d 463 (Ala.1988), rule that we will sustain the trial court for any right reason supported by the record. The plaintiffs have never received any notice that an issue in this case would be the absence of an express allegation that the local market rate limits the plaintiffs' reimbursement.