Substantive Municipal Immunity - Negligent Inspection


Ex parte City of Tuskegee, [Ms. 1180474, Sept. 27, 2019] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2019). In a plurality opinion, the Court (Wise, J.; Bolin, Bryan, and Mendheim, JJ., concur; Parker, C.J., and Shaw, Sellers, and Mitchell, JJ., concur in the result; Stewart, J., dissents) issues a writ of mandamus directing the Macon Circuit Court to dismiss a wrongful-death action against the City of Tuskegee. Plaintiff, as administratrix of her mother’s estate, alleged that her mother died in a fire as a result of the City’s negligent failure to inspect the rental home prior to turning on utilities. Ms. *29-30. The Plaintiff also alleged that the City negligently failed to maintain adequate water pressure which prevented firefighters from saving the decedent from the burning rental home. Ms. *30. In regard to the negligent inspection claim, the Court concluded the City was entitled to substantive immunity because

[T]he evidence established that the City required safety inspections of rental properties before utilities could be turned on at the property. The inspection form indicates that the City inspects multiple areas of the subject property and that it goes beyond merely checking to determine whether required smoke detectors are installed. As was the case in Hilliard [v. City of Huntsville, 585 So. 2d 889 (Ala. 1991)], although individual residents of the City derive a benefit from the inspections, the inspections are designed to protect the public by ensuring that municipal standards are met....

Thus, the City is entitled to substantive immunity as to Nyasha’s claim that the City was negligent in inspecting the house before allowing utilities to be turned on at the house.

Ms. *40-41.

In regard to the alleged negligent failure to maintain adequate water pressure, “the City presented a prima facie case that its actions were not negligent and that it was entitled to municipal immunity under § 11-47-190.” Ms. *50. Further, Plaintiff “also did not present any evidence to contradict the City’s evidence that the Macedonia fire department had caused the water hammer that resulted in the decrease in water pressure or the City’s evidence indicating that the decrease in water pressure did not occur until after TFD [Tuskegee Fire Department] had ceased its efforts to rescue Yvonne and had moved into defensive mode.” Ms. *52.

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