United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Southern Division
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Apriyl Whatley was sexually abused by Larry Chapman, a man
who the State of Alabama selected to provide in-home
counseling to her. Ms. Whatley sued Mr. Chapman, his company,
and the Alabama Depart of Human Resources, the state agency
that authorized Mr. Chapman to provide counseling. The other
defendants in this case, Laura Chambliss and Robin King,
are current or former state employees who vetted Mr. Chapman
to provide in-home counseling services on behalf of the
Department of Human Resources. Ms. Whatley asserts claims
against Ms. Chambliss and Ms. King under 42 U.S.C. §
1983 and Alabama tort law. (Doc. 83).
the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment. Ms.
Chambliss and Ms. King ask the Court to enter judgment in
their favor on Ms. Whatley's claims. (Docs. 101, 103).
Ms. Whatley asks for partial summary judgment on Ms.
Chambliss's and Ms. King's defenses of qualified and
state-agent immunity. (Doc. 107). This opinion resolves these
STANDARD OF REVIEW
court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). To demonstrate that there is a genuine
dispute as to a material fact that precludes summary
judgment, a party opposing a motion for summary judgment must
cite “to particular parts of materials in the record,
including depositions, documents, electronically stored
information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations
(including those made for purposes of the motion only),
admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(1)(A). When considering a summary judgment
motion, the Court must view the evidence in the record and
draw reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the
non-moving party. White v. Beltram Edge Tool Supply,
Inc., 789 F.3d 1188, 1191 (11th Cir. 2015). “The
court need consider only the cited materials, but it may
consider other materials in the record.” Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(c)(3). Because the Court resolves the claims against Ms.
Chambliss and Ms. King on their summary judgment motions, the
Court presents the facts in the light most favorable to Ms.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2005, on behalf of his company, Chapman & White, Larry
Chapman submitted an “agency application” to
Jefferson County DHR, a local branch of the Alabama DHR.
(Doc. 105-2, p. 7). In his application, Mr. Chapman
represented that Chapman & White could provide a variety
of counseling services on behalf of DHR. (Doc. 105-2, p. 29).
In support of the application, Mr. Chapman included his
credentials and the credentials of his wife, Nyshetia White,
who was the only other counselor associated with the company.
(Doc. 105-2, p. 7). As employees of Jefferson County DHR, Ms.
Chambliss and Ms. King evaluated Mr. Chapman's
application. (Doc. 102-1, pp. 21-20, 31; Doc. 105-2, p. 7).
At the time, Ms. King was a “Resource Development
Social Worker, ” and Ms. Chambliss was the supervisor
of JCDHR's resource development program. (Doc. 102-1, p.
15; Doc. 105-2, p. 4).
application, Mr. Chapman certified that both he and his wife
met the Medicaid guidelines for rendering rehabilitative
services. (Doc. 105-2, p. 28). Per state policy, JCDHR
resource officers Chambliss and King could approve an
individual to provide counseling only if the individual met
the minimum qualifications set forth in the Alabama Medicaid
Provider Manual. (Doc. 102-1, p. 39; Doc. 105-2, p. 9). The
Medicaid Provider Manual required individuals seeking
approval to submit at least one of the following credentials
to meet the minimum qualifications: a psychologist's
license, a professional counselor's license, a social
worker's license, a physician's license, a
nurse's license with a master's degree in psychiatric
nursing (MSN, Psychiatric), or documentation showing that the
applicant completed a qualifying master's program and had
six months of clinical experience. (Doc. 105-4, p. 17; Doc.
108-3, pp. 41-42). All of the qualifying licenses had to be
issued by the State of Alabama.
White met the minimum qualifications because she was licensed
by the State of Alabama as a social worker. (Doc. 105-2, pp.
43-44). Mr. Chapman submitted documentation indicating that
he was a “licensed Christian Counselor” and a
licensed domestic violence counselor. (Doc. 105-2, pp.
40-41). Mr. Chapman also submitted records that indicated
that he had earned a master's degree in “Christian
Counseling Psychology” from Carolina University of
Theology. (Doc. 105-2, pp. 35-36; Doc. 108-5, p. 9). Although
Mr. Chapman had a background in counseling, none of his
application materials qualified him as a licensed
professional counselor because he was not licensed by the
State of Alabama as required by the Medicaid Provider Manual,
and he did not have a master's degree from a university
with an accredited program in a relevant discipline. (Doc.
105-2, pp. 11 - 12).
Ms. Chambliss and Ms. King saw the service provider
application from Chapman & White, but they dispute who
was responsible for verifying that both of the counselors
associated with Chapman & White met the minimum Medicaid
Standards. (Doc. 102-1, p. 27; Doc. 105-2, p. 7). An internal
memo sent from Ms. King to other JCDHR employees including
Ms. Chambliss indicated Ms. King's understanding that Mr.
Chapman qualified as a “licensed professional
counselor.” (Doc. 105-2, p. 61). Both Ms. Chambliss and
Ms. King now concede that Mr. Chapman did not meet the
Medicaid minimum qualifications. (Doc. 102-1, p. 21; Doc.
105-2, p. 11). Nonetheless, DHR entered into a vendor
agreement with Chapman & White and listed the company as
an authorized provider of counseling services. (Doc. 105-2,
pp. 24, 61).
Whatley first came into contact with the JCDHR late in 2009
after she filed a petition in county court seeking protection
from the father of her child. (Doc. 105-1, pp. 4-6). The
county court instructed JCDHR, “to investigate the
safety and welfare of [Ms. Whatley's] child.” (Doc.
105-1, pp. 44, 48). Monique Lewis, a DHR social worker, began
to work with Ms. Whatley shortly after Ms. Whatley filed her
petition for protection. (Doc. 105-1, pp. 8, 14). Ms. Lewis,
in consultation with a doctor who conducted a psychological
evaluation of Ms. Whatley, developed an individualized
service plan which stated that Ms. Whatley must participate
in counseling. (Doc. 105-1, p. 53). DHR remained involved
with Ms. Whatley and her child after the Department of
Education reported Ms. Whatley for truancy. (Doc. 105-1, pp.
10, 65). The service plan resulting from the truancy report
contained a renewed recommendation that Ms. Whatley undergo
counseling. (Doc. 105-1, pp. 66, 71).
of 2010, Ms. Whatley began receiving in-home counseling from
Mr. Chapman. (Doc. 105-1, p. 24; Doc. 110-4, p. 27). Ms.
Whatley told Ms. Lewis that her initial in-home counseling
session with Mr. Chapman went well. (Doc. 105-1, p. 16). Not
long after, the counseling arrangement deteriorated. Mr.
Chapman began questioning Ms. Whatley about her sexual
proclivities. (Doc. 105-1, p. 24). Mr. Chapman even asked Ms.
Whatley what she thought about having sexual relations with
him. (Doc. 83, ¶ 14). By the third counseling session,
Mr. Chapman became physically abusive, forcing Ms. Whatley to
kiss him and perform oral sex on him. (Doc. 105-1, pp.
26-27). Mr. Chapman threatened Ms. Whatley with the loss of
her child if she did not comply with his demands. (Doc. 83,
¶ 15; Doc. 105-1, p. 24).
Ms. Whatley did not tell Ms. Lewis about Mr. Chapman's
behavior. Ms. Whatley called Ms. Lewis before Mr.
Chapman's visits in the hope that Ms. Lewis would attend
the “counseling” session “[t]o prevent any
further interaction from [Mr. Chapman] negatively.”
(Doc. 105-1, p. 17). Ms. Whatley did not discuss the abuse
with Ms. Lewis over the phone. (Doc. 105-1, p. 17).
Whatley made DHR aware of Mr. Chapman's misconduct on
July 13, 2010. (Doc. 105-1, p. 18; Doc. 110-4, p. 32). Ms.
Whatley reported Mr. Chapman to local law enforcement. By
this time, Anita Scott-Smith had replaced Ms. Chambliss as
Ms. King's supervisor within the JCDHR resource
department. (Doc. 105-2, p. 4). Ms. King states that her
supervisor, Ms. Scott-Smith, made her aware of the
allegations and asked her to examine the credentials on file
for Mr. Chapman. (Doc. 105-2, p. 12). When Ms. King reviewed
Mr. Chapman's qualifications, she determined that he did
not qualify under the Medicaid guidelines. (Doc. 105-2, p.
12). After learning of Ms. Whatley's allegations, DHR
removed Mr. Chapman from the approved provider list. (Doc.
105-2, p. 12).
first amended complaint, Ms. Whatley named Mr. Chapman,
Chapman & White Family Wellness, and DHR as defendants.
The Court stayed this case for nearly a year while state
criminal charges were pending against Mr. Chapman. (Docs. 16,
19). In the interim, the Court dismissed DHR as a defendant.
activity in this case resumed, Ms. Whatley filed two amended
complaints in which she added as defendants Ms. Chambliss;
Ms. King; and social workers Yolanda Mathews, Ingrid
Honeycutt, and Monique Lewis. (Docs. 37, 83). Ms. Whatley
stipulated to the dismissal of Mr. Chapman, Chapman &
White Family Wellness, Ms. Matthews, Ms. Honeycutt, and Ms.
Lewis as defendants. (Docs. 47, 99). Only Ms. Whatley's
claims against Ms. King and Ms. Chambliss remain pending.
Ms. Whatley's ...