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01/27/95 V. PAUL STEIGER v. HUNTSVILLE CITY BOARD

January 27, 1995

V. PAUL STEIGER
v.
HUNTSVILLE CITY BOARD OF EDUCATION



Appeal from Madison Circuit Court. (CV-93-1797). Joseph L. Battle, Trial Judge.

Released for Publication April 25, 1995.

Shores, Maddox, Kennedy, Ingram, and Cook, JJ., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Shores

SHORES, JUSTICE.

V. Paul Steiger appeals from a summary judgment for the defendant, the Huntsville City Board of Education, in Steiger's action seeking damages based on an assault and battery. Steiger was employed as a teacher at Davis Hills Middle School, operated by the defendant Board. He was assaulted by four students and one nonstudent, on October 9, 1992, while on his way to the school cafeteria for lunchroom duty. He sustained injuries to his left eye and to his neck, shoulders, and back. He sued the Board and its members, *fn1 alleging that the Board 1) had violated an express contractual duty to provide him with a safe workplace; 2) had violated an implied contractual duty to provide him with a safe workplace; and 3) had violated its own policies.

On January 24, 1994, the Board moved for a summary judgment, contending, among other things, that Steiger's claims were barred by § 16-24-10(c), Ala. Code 1975. The court entered a summary judgment for the Board, stating that Steiger's "claims are barred by the plain language of ... § 16-24-10(c)." Steiger appeals.

Although we conclude that the Court's reason was incorrect, we affirm the summary judgment in favor of the Board. A judgment properly entered will not be disturbed, even if it is not supported by the reasons stated by the trial court. Boykin v. Magnolia Bay, Inc., 570 So. 2d 639, 642 (Ala. 1990).

Rule 56, A. R. Civ. P., sets forth a two-tiered standard for determining whether to enter a summary judgment. In order to enter a summary judgment, the trial court must determine: l) that there is no genuine issue of material fact and 2) that the moving party is entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. In determining whether a summary judgment was properly entered, the reviewing court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmovant. See Turner v. Systems Fuel, Inc., 475 So. 2d 539, 541 (Ala. 1985); Ryan v. Charles Townsend Ford, Inc., 409 So. 2d 784 (Ala. 1981). Rule 56 is read in conjunction with the "substantial evidence rule" ( § 12-21-12, Ala. Code 1975), for actions filed after June 11, 1987. See Bass v. SouthTrust Bank of Baldwin County, 538 So. 2d 794, 797-98 (Ala. 1989).

We have carefully considered the applicable law and the record in this case. We conclude, first, that the trial court erred in holding that Steiger's contract claims are barred by the plain language of § 16-24-10(c). That section provides: "No action shall lie for the recovery of damages for the breach of any employment contract of a teacher in the public schools." The Board concedes in its brief that "there is no case law to support a contention that the statute bars Steiger's claim." In Tipton v. Board of Education of Blount County, 276 Ala. 571, 165 So. 2d 120 (1962), this Court considered Title 52, § 358, Code of Ala. 1940, the statutory predecessor to § 16-24-10(c), and held that the Legislature had enacted that provision to prevent teachers from suing under contract theories for review of termination or transfer decisions by their employing boards:

"Since the original Act of 1939 limited a review by a bill in equity for specific performance, we think the purpose of this inhibition against an action at law to recover damages was inserted to preclude any aggrieved teacher from employing a suit for damages as an alternate method of obtaining a review, and also from recovering punitive damages for wrongful prosecution of charges as grounds for his or her discharge. We do not think it was the intention of the legislature to deny a teacher compensatory damages, lawfully pursued, for his or her wrongful discharge. . . ."

276 Ala. at 573, 165 So. 2d at 122. Thus, the purpose of § 16-24-10(c) is to require teachers to make full use of the administrative procedures set out in the Teacher Tenure Act, Title 16, Chapter 24, Ala. Code 1975, if their employing boards attempt to terminate or transfer them; the purpose is not to bar an otherwise valid contract claim.

Steiger argues that the Board's adoption of its Policies 101-3 and 102-4 created an express or implied contract to protect him and that the attack at Davis Hills Middle School was reasonably foreseeable, because of previous incidents at the school. The relevant portion of Policy 101-3, "Safety Program," reads:

"The Board strives to maintain safe buildings, grounds and equipment in order to minimize accidents or injury to students, employees and other citizens. Protection shall be provided from such dangers as fire, natural disasters, mechanical and electrical malfunction and other avoidable hazards. . . . Proper supervision of ...


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