State Immunity - Ex Parte Fielding

In Ex parte Fielding, [Ms. 1101327, Dec. 9, 2011] __ So. 3d __(Ala. 2011), the Supreme Court of Alabama held that a deputy sheriff who entered plaintiffs' property and shot their dog was entitled to the State's immunity under ¤14 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Fielding, a deputy sheriff, while on duty with the sheriff's department, received a telephone call informing him that his wife and their dog had been attacked in front of the Jacksons' home by a large dog. Fielding then drove to his residence to check on his wife and their dog, and to assist a police officer in locating and restraining the dog that had attacked them. Fielding explained that he and the police officer found an unrestrained, agitated dog matching his wife's description of the dog that had attacked them. According to Fielding, when he and the police officer entered the Jacksons' yard to approach the house to speak with the Jacksons about the unrestrained dog, the dog attacked them. When the dog leapt at Fielding's neck, he shot at it. The Jacksons filed suit against Fielding arguing that Fielding was not acting in his official capacity as a deputy sheriff and that Fielding's actions were willful, malicious and exceeded the scope of his authority. The circuit court denied immunity. Fielding petitioned the Supreme Court for review. The Supreme Court held that sheriffs and their deputies enjoy State immunity under ¤14 of the Alabama Constitution of 1901, and that the Jacksons had not satisfied their burden of establishing that a genuine issue of material fact existed as to whether Fielding was entitled to State immunity. The Court expressly noted that sheriffs and their deputies enjoy State immunity under ¤14 and not State agent immunity under Ex parte Cranman, 792 So. 2d 392 (Ala. 2000) and its progeny.

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