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Lewis v. Mitchell

Alabama Court of Civil Appeals

May 22, 2015

Melissa Lewis, as mother and next friend of P.L., a minor
v.
Stuart Mitchell

Appeal from DeKalb Circuit Court (CV-13-900364)

MOORE, Judge.

Melissa Lewis, as mother and next friend of P.L., a minor, appeals from a summary judgment entered by the DeKalb Circuit Court ("the trial court") in favor of Stuart Mitchell. We reverse and remand.

Procedural History

On December 18, 2013, Lewis filed an amended complaint against Mitchell, a teacher at Plainview School, alleging that Mitchell had committed assault and battery against her son, P.L., who was a student at Plainview School, and that Mitchell had negligently and wantonly injured P.L. On January 21, 2014, Mitchell answered Lewis's amended complaint, asserting, among other things, that he was entitled to state-agent immunity for his actions in using corporal punishment to discipline P.L.

Mitchell filed a motion for a summary judgment, along with a brief and evidentiary materials in support thereof. Mitchell argued, among other things, that he was entitled to state-agent immunity. See Ex parte Cranman, 792 So.2d 392 (Ala. 2000).[1] Thereafter, Lewis filed a brief, along with evidentiary materials in support thereof, in opposition to Mitchell's summary-judgment motion. Subsequently, Mitchell filed a reply in further support of his summary-judgment motion.

On October 2, 2014, the trial court entered a summary judgment in favor of Mitchell, specifically finding that Mitchell was entitled to state-agent immunity. On October 21, 2014, Lewis filed her notice of appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court; that court transferred the appeal to this court pursuant to § 12-2-7(6), Ala. Code 1975.

Standard of Review

"Our standard of review for a summary judgment is as follows:
"'We review the trial court's grant or denial of a summary-judgment motion de novo, and we use the same standard used by the trial court to determine whether the evidence presented to the trial court presents a genuine issue of material fact. Bockman v. WCH, L.L.C., 943 So.2d 789 (Ala. 2006). Once the summary-judgment movant shows there is no genuine issue of material fact, the nonmovant must then present substantial evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact. Id. "We review the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmovant." 943 So.2d at 795. We review questions of law de novo. Davis v. Hanson Aggregates Southeast, Inc., 952 So.2d 330 (Ala. 2006).'"

Lloyd Noland Found., Inc. v. HealthSouth Corp., 979 So.2d 784, 793 (Ala. 2007) (quoting Smith v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 952 So.2d 342, 346 (Ala. 2006)).

Discussion

On appeal, Lewis argues that Mitchell exceeded the scope of his authority in administering corporal punishment to P.L. and, therefore, that he was not entitled to state-agent immunity. She specifically argues that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether Mitchell acted in accordance with the policy set forth by the DeKalb County Board of Education ("the board").

"'A State agent shall be immune from civil liability in his or her personal capacity when the conduct made the basis of the claim against ...

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