State Immunity – Ministerial-Act Exception

Ohio Valley Conference v. Jones, etc., et al., [Ms. SC-2022-0930, May 19, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Mendheim, J.; Wise, Bryan, Sellers, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Shaw, J., concurs specially, which Cook, J., joins; Mitchell, J., concurs specially; Parkers, C.J., concurs in part and concurs in the result) reverses the Calhoun Circuit Court’s dismissal on grounds of state immunity official capacity claims asserted by the Ohio Valley Conference against Randall Jones, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of Jacksonville State University, and JSU President, Don Killingsworth. The OVC sought to recover a $1,000,000 conference-resignation fee and $15,000 for tickets received from the OVC for the OVC’s 2021 conference championship basketball tournament.

The Court notes “the issue whether the conference-resignation fee constitutes a liquidated-damages provision or a penalty … is not before us in this appeal because it concerns the merits of the OVC’s claim,” Ms. *27, and holds “[a]ny confusion Jones and Killingsworth might have had regarding whether the conference-resignation fee was a penalty rather than a liquidated-damages provision is immaterial to whether paying the fee is a legal duty or a ministerial act.” Ms. **31-32. Likewise, the claim involving payment for the basketball tickets is not barred by State immunity because the claim is “in the nature of contracted-for goods that JSU accepted.” Ms. *32.

The Court affirms the dismissal of the individual capacity claims because the defendants “were acting in their official capacities with respect to their alleged conduct, they could not also be liable for the same conduct in their individual capacities.” Ms. *42.

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