Articles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court

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Defendants the Colbert County Board of Education ("the Board"); and the individual members of the Board and members of the Colbert County High School appealed a trial court's judgment that granted Plaintiff Felecia James's motion for a preliminary injunction. On or about May 21, 2010, an incident occurred at Colbert County High School (CCHS) involving J.H., Plaintiff's minor child, and another minor enrolled in CCHS. The details of the incident were disputed, but they led the assistant principal of the school to suspend both students for three days for allegedly fighting on school property during school hours. Plaintiff appeared before the Board to discuss the situation. The Board apparently took no action, and Plaintiff "individually and as mother and guardian of J.H." sued the Board and the individually named defendants asserting state-law and federal-law claims She also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order, a preliminary injunction, and a permanent injunction. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the Board members in their official capacities were immune from the state-law claims filed against them insofar as those claims sought monetary damages. As such, the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over those state-law claims against the officials in their official capacities. However, the Board members were not immune from Plaintiff's state-law claims insofar as she sought injunctive relief based upon the Board members' alleged fraud, bad faith, or actions that were beyond the Board members' authority or that were taken under a mistaken interpretation of law. The Court noted that the Board and its members were not immune from the federal-law claims filed against them. Based on the foregoing, insofar as the Board appealed the preliminary injunction against it based upon the state-law claims filed by Plaintiff, the Supreme Court dismissed their appeal for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Because the Court reversed the preliminary injunction, the Court declined to order the trial court to vacate the preliminary injunction entered against the Board insofar as it was based on those claims. View "Colbert Cty. Bd. of Edu. v. James" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jo Ann Hood appealed a trial court's order that granted a motion for a new trial filed by Plaintiff Elizabeth McElroy as personal representative of the estate of Austin Taylor Terry (the estate). The mother of Austin Taylor Terry, who was then 12 months old, admitted him to the Children's Hospital of Alabama. A social worker at the hospital notified the county Department of Human Resources (DHR) that Terry had suffered "suspicious non-accidental injuries." Terry's father, who was divorced from Terry's mother, also contacted DHR after he learned of his son's hospitalization. He spoke with an after-hours on-call DHR service worker learned that Chris Wesson, the mother's boyfriend, had been in the house with Terry. The service worker recommended that Terry not be allowed to return home when he was discharged. A DHR supervisor who had not seen the report, assigned Defendant to investigate Terry's suspected abuse and informed the Hospital that Terry could go home with his mother when he was discharged. Based on her investigation, Defendant determined that it was safe to leave Terry in his mother's care. Subsequently, Terry died from brain injuries caused by Wesson. Terry's parents filed separate wrongful-death actions naming Wesson, Children's Hospital, Hood, and other DHR social workers as defendants. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the estate and awarded $25,000 in damages against Wesson and Hood. The estate filed a motion for a new trial, arguing among other things, that a juror's failure to respond to a voir dire question prevented the estate from using its jury strikes effectively because it would have used one to remove the juror had the juror answered the question. After Hood filed her opposition to the estate's postjudgment motion, the court granted the motion on the ground that the estate was probably prejudiced in its right to a fair and impartial trial as a result of the juror's failure to respond to the voir dire question. Upon review, the Supreme Court could not conclude that "[the juror's] failure to reveal, in response to the particular questions asked, [provided] adequate support for a finding ... so as to warrant retrying this case." The Court reversed the trial court and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Hood v. McElroy" on Justia Law