Tuscaloosa Circuit Court, CV-12-901151
PETITION FOR WRIT OF MANDAMUS
Blunt, a teacher in the Tuscaloosa City Schools system
("TCS"),  petitions this Court for a writ of
mandamus directing the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to enter a
summary judgment in her favor on the basis of State-agent
immunity as to claims asserted against her by Keith Langston,
as next friend and father of Joshua Langston and Matthew
Langston, minors at the time the action was
filed. We grant the petition.
28, 2010, Marcus Crawford was a student in Blunt's
"credit-recovery" class offered by TCS at
Northridge High School ("Northridge") during the
summer of 2010. According to TCS's 2009-2010
"Student/Parent Resource Guide and Code of Student
Conduct" ("resource guide"), the
credit-recovery program "is a course-specific,
skill-based extended learning opportunity for students who
have been unsuccessful in mastering content or skills
required to have received course credit or earn promotion.
Credit recovery courses are based on deficiencies rather than
a repeat of the entire course or courses failed."
Students had to meet certain qualifications to be eligible
for the credit-recovery program, but the program was
voluntary, not a requirement, for eligible students.
28, 2010, at approximately 11:14 a.m., Crawford informed
Blunt that he had completed his course work for that day.
According to Blunt, she did not speak to Crawford and when he
left the classroom she did not know where he was going.
Crawford's version of events is markedly different. In an
affidavit, Crawford stated: "When I finished my work, I
told Ms. Blunt that I was leaving class. She told me to go to
McDonald's [fast-food restaurant] to get her lunch and to
be back in no more than five to ten minutes. I wasn't
going to get anything. She asked me to go." During his
criminal trial stemming from the accident that underlies this
case, Crawford expanded on this testimony:
"Q. How much time did y'all have for lunch?
"A. Well, class was over. She just asked me to get her
something. And they --"Q. Okay. Who asked you to go get
"A. The teacher.
"Q. The teacher. Okay. So the teacher, as y'all were
going to McDonald's, I guess said, 'Well, as long as
you're going, would you pick me up something too?' Is
that about right?
"A. No. She asked me. I didn't want nothing. They --
the teacher asked me to get her something. She gave me her
money to get her something.
"Q. And you said she told you to be back when?
"A. No later than five or ten minutes."
adamantly denies that she asked Crawford to pick up lunch for
her at McDonald's. She notes that Crawford's
testimony was contrary to testimony at Crawford's
criminal trial from fellow students Jestin White and Jessica
White, who stated that Jestin White was the one who asked
Crawford to go to McDonald's to get lunch. Blunt adds
that, in his statement to police two days after the accident,
Crawford made no mention of being asked by Blunt to go to
undisputed that Crawford went to his vehicle in the
Northridge parking lot along with several companions and that
he drove to McDonald's and ordered food. According to
Crawford and Jessica White, Crawford then drove his vehicle
back in the direction of Northridge. Crawford testified that
it took longer to get the food from McDonald's than he
thought it would and that he was in a hurry to get back to
the school campus because Blunt had told him to be gone no
more than 5 or 10 minutes. Approximately one mile from the
Northridge campus, on a two-lane public road, Crawford
attempted to pass a vehicle in front of him by crossing a
double-yellow center line and driving in the oncoming lane of
traffic. In doing so, Crawford collided with a vehicle driven
by Susan Kines Langston, a TCS teacher, in which Matthew
Langston and Joshua Langston were passengers. Susan Langston
was killed in the accident, and Matthew and Joshua were
seriously injured and eventually had to be life-flighted to
Children's Hospital in Birmingham.
was charged, tried, and convicted of reckless manslaughter
for his actions in causing Susan Langston's death. He was
sentenced to five years and nine months in prison.
December 5, 2012, Keith Langston, as father and next friend
of Matthew and Joshua, filed the present action in the
Tuscaloosa Circuit Court against Blunt and Patsy Lowry,
another TCS teacher who was an instructor at Northridge
during the summer of 2010. Langston asserted claims of
negligence and wantonness against Blunt and Lowry for failing
to follow the "policies and procedures" of TCS,
which failure allegedly proximately caused the injuries
sustained by Matthew and Joshua Langston.
November 16, 2016, Blunt and Lowry filed a summary-judgment
motion and supporting evidentiary materials in which they
asserted that they were entitled to State-agent immunity for
all claims asserted against them in their individual
capacities. On November 30, 2016, Langston filed a response
in opposition to the summary-judgment motion. In that
response, Langston contended, among other things, that Blunt
and Lowry were not entitled to State-agent immunity because,
he argued, they had violated detailed rules and regulations
of TCS. On December 1, 2016, Blunt and Lowry filed a reply to
same date, Lowry and Blunt filed a "Motion to Strike
Portions of [Langston's] Evidentiary Submissions."
In that motion, Lowry and Blunt asked the trial court to
strike portions of testimony from various witnesses as well
as several of Langston's document submissions. One of
those documents was titled "Northridge High School
Faculty Handbook" ("the faculty handbook"). In
their December 1, 2016, motion to strike, Lowry and Blunt
contended that the faculty handbook "does not qualify as
admissible evidence under the business records exception to
the hearsay rule, has not otherwise been properly
authenticated, and [Langston has] not otherwise laid a proper
predicate for the admissibility of this document."
next submission in this case occurred on January 28, 2018,
when Langston filed a supplement to evidentiary submissions
and an amended response to the summary-judgment motion.
Langston's amended response was identical to his original
response, except that it added a contention that
Alabama's Administrative Code dictated that a school year
consisted of both the regular academic year and the
summer-school session that followed the academic year. On
January 30, 2018, Lowry and Blunt responded to Langston's
argument based on the Alabama Administrative
January 31, 2018, the trial court held a hearing on Lowry and
Blunt's summary-judgment motion. On January 7, 2019, the
trial court entered an order granting Lowry and Blunt's
motion to strike certain portions of testimony from various
witnesses but denying Lowry and Blunt's motion to strike
the faculty handbook, concluding that "[q]uestions
relating to the Faculty Handbook go to weight to be given the
document rather than its admissibility." The trial court
also entered a summary judgment in favor of Lowry as to all
claims asserted against her. With respect to Blunt, the trial
"Based upon the record before the Court, based upon
the written submissions of the parties, based upon the
arguments of counsel and based upon the Court's own
research into the issues in this case, the Court hereby
"2. That genuine issues of material fact do exist
regarding the claims as they relate to Defendant Sonia
Blunt and said Defendant is not entitled to a judgment as a
matter of law. Blunt's Motion for Summary Judgment is
(Capitalization in original.)
timely petitioned this Court for a writ of mandamus
challenging the trial court's denial of her motion for a
Standard of Review
"'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 parte Purvis, 689 So.2d 794 (Ala. 1996)....
judgment is appropriate only when "there is no genuine
issue as to any material fact and ... the moving party is
entitled to a judgment as a matter of law." Rule
56(c)(3), Ala. R. Civ. P., Young v. La Quinta Inns,
Inc., 682 So.2d 402 (Ala. 1996). A court considering a
motion for summary judgment will view the record in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party, Hurst v.
Alabama Power Co., 675 So.2d 397 (Ala. 1996),
Fugua v. Ingersoll-Rand Co., 591 So.2d 486 (Ala.
1991); will accord the nonmoving party all reasonable
favorable inferences from the evidence, Fugua,
supra, Aldridge v. Valley Steel Constr.,
Inc., 603 So.2d 981 (Ala. 1992); and will resolve all
reasonable doubts against the moving party, Hurst,
supra, Ex parte Brislin, 719 So.2d 185
"'An appellate court reviewing a ruling on a
motion for summary judgment will, de novo, apply
these same standards applicable in the trial court.
Fugua, supra, Brislin,
supra. Likewise, the appellate court will consider
only that factual material available of record to the trial
court for its consideration in deciding the motion.
Dynasty Corp. v. Alpha Resins Corp., 577 So.2d 1278
(Ala. 1991), Boland v. Fort Rucker Nat'l Bank,
599 So.2d 595 (Ala. 1992), Rowe v. Isbell, 599 So.2d
35 (Ala. 1992).'"
Ex parte Turner, 840 So.2d 132, 135 (Ala. 2002)
(quoting Ex parte Rizk, 791 So.2d 911, 912-13 (Ala.
2000)). A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy
available only when the petitioner can demonstrate:
"'(1) a clear legal right to the order sought; (2)
an imperative duty upon the respondent to perform,
accompanied by a refusal to do so; (3) the lack of another
adequate remedy; and (4) the properly invoked jurisdiction of
the court.'" Ex parte Nall, 879 So.2d 541,
543 (Ala. 2003) (quoting Ex parte BOC Grp., Inc.,
823 So.2d 1270, 1272 (Ala. 2001)).
contends that she is entitled to State-agent immunity and
that, therefore, the trial court erred in denying her motion
for a summary judgment.
"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 the agent is based upon
"(5) exercising judgment in the discharge of
duties imposed by statute, rule, or regulation in
releasing prisoners, counseling or releasing persons of
unsound mind, or educating students.
"Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in the
foregoing statement of the rule, a State agent shall
not be immune from civil liability in his or her
"(2) when the State agent acts willfully, ...