Section 9-16-95

Citizens' actions; attorneys, etc., fees allowed as damages.

(a) Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, any person having an interest which is or may be adversely affected, (or any citizen of this state having knowledge that any of the provisions of this article are willfully or deliberately not being enforced and who files a statement with the regulatory authority in writing and under oath with facts set forth specifically stating the nature of the failure to enforce the provisions of this article), may commence a civil action on his own behalf to compel compliance with this article:

(1) Against any other governmental instrumentality or agency to the extent permitted by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which is alleged to be in violation of the provisions of this article or of any rule, regulation, order or permit issued pursuant thereto, or against any other person who is alleged to be in violation of any rule, regulation, order or permit issued pursuant to this article; or

(2) Against the regulatory authority to the extent permitted by the Eleventh Amendment to the Constitution of the United States where there is alleged a failure of the regulatory authority to perform any act or duty under this article which is not discretionary with the regulatory authority.

In a civil action brought pursuant to this subsection, the cause shall be tried in the circuit court with jurisdiction over the location of the regulatory authority's principal office, except that in a civil action brought against any person pursuant to subdivision (1) of this subsection, the cause shall be tried in the circuit court of the county where the alleged violation occurred and the action in either case shall be prosecuted in the name of the real party in interest.

(b) No action may be commenced:

(1) Under subdivision (a) (1) of this section:

a. Prior to 60 days after the plaintiff has given notice in writing of the violation (i) to the regulatory authority, (ii) to the Secretary of the Interior, and (iii) to any alleged violator; or

b. If the Secretary of the Interior, or the regulatory authority, has commenced and is diligently prosecuting a civil action to require compliance with the provisions of this article, or any rule, regulation, order, or permit issued pursuant to this article. In any such action in a court of the United States any person may intervene as a matter of right; or

(2) Under subdivision (a) (2) of this section prior to 60 days after the plaintiff has given notice in writing of such action to the regulatory authority in such manner as the regulatory authority by regulation shall prescribe except that such action may be brought immediately after such notification in the case where the violation or order complained of constitutes an imminent threat to the health or safety of the plaintiff or would immediately affect a legal interest of the plaintiff.

(c) In such action under this section, the regulatory authority or the Secretary of the Interior if not parties, may intervene as a matter of right.

(d) The court, in issuing any final order in any action brought pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, may award costs of litigation (including attorney and expert witness fees) to any party, whenever the court determines such award is appropriate. The court shall, if a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction is sought require the filing of a bond or equivalent security in accordance with the Alabama Rules of Civil Procedure.

(e) Nothing in this section shall restrict any right which any person (or class of persons) may have under any statute or common law to seek enforcement of any of the provisions of this article and the regulations thereunder, or to seek any other relief, including relief against the regulatory authority, as permitted by the Constitution and laws of this state.

(f) Any person who is injured in his person or property through the violation by any operator of any rule, regulation, order, or permit issued pursuant to this article may bring an action for damages in the venue available under Alabama law. The court may award reasonable attorney and expert witness fees to the prevailing party. Nothing in this subsection shall affect the rights established by or limits imposed under state workers' compensation laws.

(Acts 1981, No. 81-435, p. 682, §27; Acts 1983, No. 83-774, p. 1415, §3.)