State-Agent Immunity - DHR Employees - Failure to Submit Evidence in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment: Ex Parte Angela Mcclintock
Ex parte Angela McClintock, [Ms. 1160782, Dec. 1, 2017] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2017). This decision by Justice Wise (Stuart, C.J., and Bolin, Main, Bryan, and Sellers, JJ., concur; Murdock, J., concurs in the result; and Parker and Shaw, JJ., dissent) issues a writ of mandamus to the Jefferson Circuit Court directing it to dismiss this action against petitioners/employees of the Jefferson County Department of Human Resources.
Plaintiff’s infant decedent died while in foster care allegedly as a result of the foster parents’ placing the baby face down on a sheet that was allegedly too large for the crib. Ms. *4-5. Plaintiff sued the DHR employees responsible for removing the child from her custody and placing the child in foster care. The defendants moved for summary judgment based upon state-agent immunity, and the Jefferson Circuit Court denied the motion. Ms. *5.
In the Supreme Court, the plaintiff conceded that the acts of the defendants were within category three of Cranman immunity protecting employees discharging duties “imposed ... by statute, rule, or regulation ....” Ms. *7. The Court held that the plaintiff did not carry her burden to establish by substantial evidence the applicability of “‘one of the two categories of exceptions to state-agent immunity recognized in Cranman ....’” Ms. *10, quoting Ex parte City of Montgomery, 99 So. 3d 282, 283 (Ala. 2012)(some internal quote marks omitted).
The plaintiff argued that the defendants were not entitled to immunity because they allegedly violated mandatory relative placement policies of the Alabama Department of Human Resources (ADHR) and also failed to ensure that the non-relative foster parent complied with ADHR’s “Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes.” Ms. *11. The Court noted that although the plaintiff cited guidelines regarding relative placements, they “did not present any actual evidence to support those allegations.” Ibid., emphasis in the original. Likewise, with regard to plaintiff’s reliance on DHR’s “Minimum Standards for Foster Family Homes,” the plaintiff failed to present any evidence to support the applicability of those guidelines to the circumstances which led to the infant’s death. Ms. *12. The Court concluded “that because K.H. and T.H. did not demonstrate that one of the exceptions to the State-agent immunity under Ex parte Cranman applies under the facts of this case, the petitioners are entitled to state-agent immunity.” Ms. *13.