Immunity: Foster Parents - Ex Parte Carol Spurgeon
In Ex parte Carol Spurgeon, [Ms. 1101198, Oct. 14, 2011] So. 3d (Ala. 2011), a seven-year-old child was placed at the Spurgeons' home in foster care. Two weeks after the placement, the child drowned in the Spurgeons' swimming pool. A wrongful death action alleging negligence and wantonness claims was brought by the Administrator of the child's estate. The Spurgeons filed a motion for summary judgment, alleging that the plaintiff's claims were barred by the doctrines of parental, state-, and state-agent immunity. The circuit court denied the Spurgeons' motion. The Spurgeons then petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus. The Court held that the plaintiff's negligence claims were barred by the doctrine of parental immunity, reiterating that in Alabama foster parents are immune from claims of simple negligence by children properly in their custody. However, the Court denied the petition relative to the wantonness claims, and the Court determined that the Spurgeons had failed to demonstrate how as foster parents they were entitled to immunity as state officers, agents or employees.