State-Agent Immunity Defense Not Properly Resolved on the Pleadings

Zinn v. Till, [Ms. SC-2022-0463, Jan. 13, 2023] __ So. 3d __ (Ala. 2023). The Court (Bryan, J.; Wise, Sellers, Mendheim, and Stewart, JJ., concur; Shaw, J., concurs in the result; Mitchell, J., concurs in the result, which Parker, C.J., and Bolin, J., join) reverses the Montgomery Circuit Court’s order dismissing claims asserted by Jennie Zinn and Christopher Zinn against Ashley Till, an employee of the Alabama Department of Human Resources. In connection with an adoption sought by the Zinns, Till had submitted an acknowledgment letter to the probate court stating that there was no entry relating to the child in the putative-father registry. Ms. *2. Till sent a corrected letter five weeks later stating there was an entry related to the child in the registry and that the prior erroneous information was submitted as a result of “oversight and neglect.” Ms. **2-3.

The circuit court dismissed the claims against Till “based on the pleadings and applicable law” and cited State immunity and State-agent immunity. Ms. **4-5. On appeal, Till conceded that State-immunity does not apply to individual capacity claims in light of Barnhart v. Ingalls, 275 So. 3d 1112 (Ala. 2018). She also conceded that the defense of State-agent immunity is not properly decided on the pleadings. Citing these concessions, the Court reverses the dismissal order. Ms. *8.

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