Ex parte City of Homewood et al.
City of Homewood et al. In re: Bria Mines
Circuit Court, CV-15-904768
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
J.C. Clifton and Officer Jason Davis, law-enforcement
officers for the City of Homewood, and the City of Homewood
petition this Court for a writ of mandamus directing the
Jefferson Circuit Court to enter a summary judgment in their
favor on the ground of immunity. We grant the petition and
issue the writ.
and Procedural History
December 14, 2013, Officer Clifton and Officer Davis were
dispatched to the Babies "R" Us specialty retail
store located in the Wildwood Shopping Center in response to
a shoplifting incident involving Bristinia Fuller and Bria
Mines. When the officers arrived, they learned that Fuller
and Mines were leaving the parking lot of the store in a
vehicle being driven by Fuller. Officer Clifton and Officer
Davis, driving separate patrol cars, attempted to stop the
vehicle. Instead of stopping, Fuller eluded the officers by
speeding through the parking area and onto Lakeshore Drive.
The officers pursued. Fuller continued speeding on Lakeshore
Drive and ran through multiple red traffic lights before
losing control of her vehicle while attempting to turn onto
Oxmoor Road. Fuller's vehicle struck a light pole and a
vehicle stopped at the intersection. Fuller was killed and
Mines was seriously injured.
December 13, 2015, Mines sued Officer Clifton and Officer
Davis, both in their official and individual capacities;
Homewood; and others not before this Court in the
petition. Mines alleged that she was injured as a
result of the negligent, reckless, and/or wanton conduct of
the officers and Homewood during the officers' pursuit of
Fuller's vehicle. She also alleged that Homewood was
vicariously liable for the officers' conduct and was
negligent in hiring and supervising the officers. Mines
served interrogatories with the complaint.
March 11, 2016, Homewood, Officer Clifton, and Officer Davis
moved to dismiss the claims against them on the bases that
Homewood was statutorily immune from the wantonness claim,
see § 11-47-190, Ala. Code 1975; that the claim alleging
negligent training and supervision against Homewood was not a
cognizable claim, see Ott v. City of Mobile, 169
F.Supp.2d 1301 (S.D. Ala. 2001); that Alabama does not
recognize an independent cause of action for liability
arising out of a law-enforcement officer's pursuit of a
criminal suspect, see Ex parte Brown, 182 So.3d 495
(Ala. 2015), Gooden v. City of Talladega, 966 So.2d
232 (Ala. 2007), and Doran v. City of Madison, 519
So.2d 1308 (Ala. 1988); that the officers are entitled to
peace-officer immunity (§ 6-5-640, Ala. Code 1975); that
the officers are entitled to State-agent immunity, see Ex
parte Hayles, 852 So.2d 117 (Ala. 2002), and Hollis
v. City of Brighton, 950 So.2d 300 (Ala. 2006); and that
all of Mines's claims are barred by Fuller's
intervening criminal acts, see Gooden, supra, and
Prill v. Marrone, 23 So.3d 1 (Ala. 2009).
Officer Clifton, and Officer Davis attached to the motion to
dismiss a copy of a video recording of the pursuit and
Fuller's accident made by the dashboard camera in Officer
Clifton's vehicle. The video recording indicates that the
officers were engaged in a high-speed pursuit of Fuller's
vehicle, that Officer Clifton was driving the lead vehicle in
pursuit of Fuller's vehicle, that Fuller was driving
recklessly, and that, as Mines stated in her complaint,
"Fuller lost control of the vehicle while attempting to
turn onto Oxmoor Road [and] struck a pole and another
vehicle." The video recording shows Officer Clifton
slowing his vehicle at times during the pursuit to safely
negotiate the traffic and shows that, although
law-enforcement vehicles were pursuing Fuller's vehicle,
no law-enforcement vehicle made contact with Fuller's
vehicle during the pursuit. Indeed, the video recording
establishes unequivocally that no law-enforcement vehicle was
near Fuller's vehicle when Fuller attempted to turn onto
Oxmoor Road and struck a light pole and another vehicle.
9, 2016, Mines filed her opposition to the motion to dismiss,
maintaining that because Homewood, Officer Clifton, and
Officer Davis had relied on matters outside the pleadings in
their motion, the motion to dismiss had been converted to a
summary-judgment motion. She argued that because the motion
had been converted to a summary-judgment motion she needed a
reasonable opportunity to discover evidence and to respond.
Mines did not attach an affidavit proffering what she
expected discovery to reveal, and she did not challenge the
authenticity of the video recording.
6, 2016, the trial court conducted a hearing on the motion to
August 4, 2016, Mines moved the trial court to order
Homewood, Officer Clifton, and Officer Davis to answer the
interrogatories she had served with her
On August 10, 2016, the trial court ordered:
"This matter comes before the court on the
defendants' motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the
Ala. R. Civ. P. Since the defendants request that this court
consider matters outside the pleadings, the court will treat
this motion as a motion for summary judgment under Rule 56 of
the Ala. R. Civ. P..
"Is therefore ORDERED, ADJUDGED, and DECREED that the
defendants' motion for summary judgment is hereby DENIED.
"Both parties are hereby informed that the court will
again entertain those issues presented in the defendants'
motion after the discovery phase of this litigation, upon the
filing of a properly crafted motion."
August 19, 2016, Homewood, Officer Clifton, and Officer Davis
moved the trial court to alter, amend, or vacate the order
denying their motion, arguing that the trial court erred in
not entering a summary judgment in their favor because, they
said, they were entitled to immunity from liability as a
matter of law and that, in light of the video recording,
discovery would not establish otherwise. They pointed out
that Mines did not identify what specific discovery was
necessary to respond to any of the grounds asserted in their
motion. On September 13, 2016, the trial court conducted a
hearing on the motion to alter, amend, or vacate. Mines
argued that additional discovery was needed but again did not
state what evidence she expected discovery to reveal that
would create a genuine issue of material fact with regard to
the issue of immunity.
September 21, 2016, Homewood, Officer Clifton, and Officer
Davis timely petitioned this Court for a writ of mandamus
directing the trial court to vacate its order denying their
motion for a summary judgment and to enter a summary judgment
in their favor. On January 8, 2017, Mines filed her response
to the petition.
"'"This Court has stated:
"'"'"While the general rule is that
the denial of a motion for summary judgment is not
reviewable, the exception is that the denial of a motion
grounded on a claim of immunity is reviewable by
petition for writ of mandamus. Ex ...