Smith et al v. City of Montgomery et al
OPINION. Signed by Honorable Judge Myron H. Thompson on 7/22/2014. (wcl, )
THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE UNITED STATES FOR THE
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF ALABAMA, NORTHERN DIVISION
CAROLYN SMITH; ISAIAH
SMITH; ANTONIO HAIGLER;
and KANESHIA HAIGLER, as
guardian and next friend
of the minor, S.M.,
FERDERDAR FANNIN, in his
individual capacity et al., )
CIVIL ACTION NO.
Plaintiff Kaneshia Haigler, as guardian and next
friend of S.M., a minor, seeks to dismiss with prejudice
her state-law battery claim against defendant Federdar
Fannin, who allegedly exposed S.M. to mace spray during
a law-enforcement action at S.M.’s grandparents’ home.
discomfort, pain and suffering, mental anguish, and loss
of personal dignity.
Fannin has responded that he is
immunity doctrine. See
1975 Ala. Code § 6-5-338; Ex
Parte Cranman, 792 So. 2d 392, 405 (Ala. 2000).
court’s jurisdiction is invoked pursuant to
citizenship. 28 U.S.C. § 1332.
On July 17, 2014, Haigler and Fannin filed a joint
prejudice of the claim brought by Haigler, as guardian
and next friend of S.M., a minor.
(And the day before,
on July 16, 2014, the parties notified the court of a
settlement of claims brought by three plaintiffs, other
Fannin.) On July 21, 2014, the court held an on-therecord hearing to determine whether a fairness hearing
was necessary prior to dismissal-with-prejudice of the
claim brought by Haigler on behalf of S.M.
entered into by a minor or on a minor's behalf is not
binding and is voidable once the minor reaches the age of
S.B. v. Saint James School, 959 So.2d 72, 96
This rule applies to a release of claims on
behalf of the minor, whether that release is executed
before injury, see, e.g., J.T. ex rel. Thode v. Monster
Mountain, LLC, 754 F. Supp. 2d 1323, 1326 (M.D. Ala.
2010) (Albritton, J.) (liability waiver is not binding),
or after injury.
As the Alabama Supreme Court has
“‘(The next friend) cannot release the
cause of action, nor compromise it, nor
submit it to an arbitration the result
of which will bind the infant. ... The
court may, upon being advised of the
facts, upon hearing the evidence, enter
up a valid and binding judgment for [an]
amount so attempted to be agreed upon,
but this not because of the agreement at
all--that should exert no influence--but
because it appears from the evidence
that the amount is just and fair, and a
judgment therefor will be conservative
of the minor's interests.’”
Abernathy v. Colbert County Hospital Board, 388 So. 2d
Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co. v. Hayes, 12 So. 98, 103
See also 42 Am. Jur. 2d Infants § 52
("Agreements of discharge made by infants, such as a
compromise [or] a release of a claim upon a contract or
for a tort ... are voidable and subject to disaffirmance.
... In fact, a parent has no legal right, by virtue of
the parental relationship, to settle a minor's cause of
action, and court review and approval of a settlement
reached by a parent is mandatory.").
This is a rule of
substantive law, which must be applied by federal courts
sitting in diversity.
Burke v. Smith, 252 F.3d 1260,
1266 (11th Cir. 2001).
To the extent that Fannin and Haigler seek to bind
prejudice, Alabama law does not permit them to do so.
Any such agreement would be voidable by S.M., soon after
she reaches the age of majority.
Cf. 1975 Ala. Code
§ 6-2-8 (tolling the statute of limitations for torts
committed against minors until the minor reaches the age
However, Haigler can bind herself and her
own ability to bring future litigation on S.M.’s behalf.
Therefore, the court will dismiss Haigler's claim
with prejudice as to her only (that is, her own ability
to bring future litigation on S.M.'s behalf), but without
prejudice as to S.M. (that is, S.M. own ability to bring
future litigation herself).
Nevertheless, if either
party seeks a dismissal that would bind S.M., he or she
may file a motion for reconsideration within seven days
from the date of this opinion, asking that the court set
aside the dismissal in this case and hold a fairness
hearing to determine whether the dismissal that would
bind S.M. would be in the best interest of S.M.
An appropriate judgment will be issued.
DONE, this the 22nd day of July, 2014.
/s/ Myron H. Thompson
UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
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