Buckner v. City of Huntsville et al
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER that the Motion for partial summary judgment on the claim of negligent training, supervision and retention is GRANTED and those claims are DISMISSED with prejudice as more fully set out in order. Signed by Judge C Lynwood Smith, Jr on 11/19/2014. (AHI)
2014 Nov-19 AM 11:52
U.S. DISTRICT COURT
N.D. OF ALABAMA
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
CITY OF HUNTSVILLE, a
Municipal Corporation d/b/a
VON BRAUN CENTER,
SERVICES, L.P., RANDSTAD
US, L.P., and RANDSTAD
STAFFING SERVICES, INC.,
Civil Action No. 5:13-CV-2218-CLS
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
Plaintiff, Candance Buckner, filed this case on December 10, 2013.1 Her
amended complaint, filed on June 23, 2014, asserts claims for race and color
discrimination (Count One); sex discrimination (Count Two); and negligent training,
supervision, and retention (Counts Three and Four),2 against the following
defendants: (1) the City of Huntsville, Alabama, a municipal corporation d/b/a Von
Doc. no. 1 (Complaint).
Count Three is a claim for negligent training, supervision, and retention against defendants
Randstad Inhouse Services, L.P., Randstad US, L.P., and Randstad Staffing Services, Inc. Doc. no.
26 (Amended Complaint), at 10-12 (Count Three). Count Four is a claim for negligent training,
supervision, and retention against defendant City of Huntsville d/b/a/ Von Braun Center. Id. at 12-13
Braun Center (“the City”); (2) Randstad, US, L.P.; (3) Randstad Inhouse Services,
L.P.; (4) and Randstad Staffing Services, Inc.3 The case currently is before the court
on the City’s motion for partial summary judgment on plaintiff’s claim against it for
negligent training, supervision, and retention (Count Four).4 Upon consideration of
the motion, briefs, and evidentiary submissions, the court concludes the motion is due
to be granted.
I. SUMMARY JUDGMENT STANDARD
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56 provides that a court “shall grant summary
judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact
and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a). In
other words, summary judgment is proper “after adequate time for discovery and
upon motion, against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the
existence of an element essential to that party’s case, and on which that party will
bear the burden of proof at trial.” Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 322 (1986).
“In making this determination, the court must review all evidence and make all
reasonable inferences in favor of the party opposing summary judgment.” Chapman
v. AI Transport, 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000) (en banc) (quoting Haves v.
See id. ¶¶ 5-9. The amended complaint also named Von Braun Center Board of Control
as a defendant, id. ¶ 6, but all claims against that defendant were dismissed on July 17, 2014. See
doc. no. 34.
Doc. no. 31.
City of Miami, 52 F.3d 918, 921 (11th Cir. 1995)). Inferences in favor of the nonmoving party are not unqualified, however. “[A]n inference is not reasonable if it is
only a guess or a possibility, for such an inference is not based on the evidence, but
is pure conjecture and speculation.” Daniels v. Twin Oaks Nursing Home, 692 F.2d
1321, 1324 (11th Cir. 1983) (alteration supplied). Moreover,
[t]he mere existence of some factual dispute will not defeat summary
judgment unless that factual dispute is material to an issue affecting the
outcome of the case. The relevant rules of substantive law dictate the
materiality of a disputed fact. A genuine issue of material fact does not
exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party
for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor.
Chapman, 229 F.3d at 1023 (quoting Haves, 52 F.3d at 921) (emphasis and alteration
supplied). See also Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-52 (1986)
(asking “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require
submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a
matter of law”).
The City argues that summary judgment should be granted on plaintiff’s state
law claim against it for negligent training, supervision, and retention because plaintiff
failed to properly and timely provide notice of the claim under Alabama law, which
All claims against the municipality (except bonds and interest
coupons and claims for damages) shall be presented to the clerk for
payment within two years from the accrual of said claim or shall be
barred. Claims for damages growing out of torts shall be presented
within six months from the accrual thereof or shall be barred.
Ala. Code § 11-47-23 (1975) (emphasis supplied). Additionally, Alabama Code § 1147-192 provides:
No recovery shall be had against any city or town on a claim for
personal injury received, unless a sworn statement be filed with the clerk
by the party injured or his personal representative in case of his death
stating substantially the manner in which the injury was received, the
day and time and the place where the accident occurred and the damages
claimed. [emphasis supplied].
Plaintiff’s claim against the City for negligent training, supervision, and
retention clearly is a tort. Accordingly, plaintiff was required to provide notice of the
claim to the City Clerk within six months of its accrual. Plaintiff alleges in her
amended complaint that she was notified of her termination on January 22, 2013.5
Therefore, she should have notified the City of her claim by July 22, 2013, at the
latest.6 It is undisputed that she never filed a formal Notice of Claim with the City
Doc. no. 26 (Amended Complaint) ¶ 21.
Defendant’s brief states that “[s]ix months after January 22, 2013, was June 22, 2013.”
Doc. no. 31, at 5 (alteration supplied). That was either a mathematical mistake or a typographical
error, because six months from January 22 would clearly fall on July 22, not June 22.
See doc. no. 11, Exhibit A (Affidavit of Charles E. Hagood) ¶ 5 (“I am not aware of any
notice of claim being filed with the COH by, or [on] behalf of, Candance Buckner regarding the
matters at issue in the above-styled action. Furthermore, to the best of my knowledge and according
Even so, plaintiff asserts that the City received “actual notice” of the claim on
one or more of the following dates: (1) March 11, 2013, when plaintiff initiated a
charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”);8 (2) March 27, 2013, when the EEOC notified the City of the charge
through Paul Yant, “the current human resources executive at the Von Braun
Center”;9 (3) April 10, 2013, when plaintiff filed a formal charge of discrimination
with the EEOC, “declaring under penalty of perjury that the statements made in the
charge of discrimination were true and correct”;10 (4) April 16, 2013, when the formal
charge of discrimination was transmitted to Paul Yant;11 (5) May 15, 2013, when Erin
Dunagan, Assistant City Attorney, “replied to the EEOC acknowledging receipt of
the formal charge of discrimination”;12 or (6) May 21, 2013, when Dunagan provided
the City’s position statement to the EEOC.13 According to plaintiff, all of those dates
are within six months of the accrual of her claims on January 22, 2013, and,
consequently, the City had timely notice of the claim.
to the records on file in my office, no such notice of claim has ever been filed with the COH by, or
on behalf of, Candance Buckner.”) (alteration supplied). See also doc. no. 35 (plaintiff’s response
brief) (never actually disputing that plaintiff failed to file a Notice of Claim).
See doc. no. 35 (plaintiff’s response brief) ¶ 3.
Id. ¶ 4.
Id. ¶ 5.
Id. ¶ 6.
Id. ¶ 7.
It is true that actual notice of the claim can suffice under Alabama law, even
if the plaintiff has not filed a formal Notice of Claim with the City Clerk or other
designated official. Even so, all the cases cited by plaintiff in support of that
proposition discussed the filing of suit as “actual notice.” See Hill v. City of
Huntsville, 590 So. 2d 876 (Ala. 1991); Frazier v. City of Mobile, 577 So. 2d 439
(Ala. 1991); Diemert v. City of Mobile, 474 So. 2d 663 (Ala. 1985). Here, plaintiff
did not file this case until December 10, 2013, which was well after the six-month
deadline had expired.14 There is no authority — much less binding authority — to
support the argument that plaintiff’s EEOC charge should be considered to have
imputed “actual notice” to the City in the same way a judicial complaint would have.
Moreover, even if the EEOC charge could have imputed “actual notice,” plaintiff’s
charge discussed only federal claims under Title VII; it did not mention any state law
claims for negligent training, supervision, and retention. The City cannot have had
notice of tort claims that were not even mentioned by plaintiff.
III. CONCLUSION AND ORDER
In accordance with the foregoing, the court concludes that plaintiff failed to
provide adequate notice of her claim for negligent training, supervision, and retention
against the City. Accordingly, the City’s motion for partial summary judgment on
See doc. no. 1 (Complaint).
that claim is GRANTED, and plaintiff’s claim for negligent training, supervision, and
retention against the City is DISMISSED with prejudice.
DONE and ORDERED this 19th day of November, 2014.
United States District Judge
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?