Galbreath v. Hale County Alabama Commission et al
ORDER ON REQUEST TO RECONSIDER, 48 Order & Memorandum Opinion is SUPPLEMENTED to GRANT, in full, Dft's 25 MOTION for Summary Judgment as to Plf's defamation claim (Count 6) as set out. Signed by Senior Judge Callie V. S. Granade on 2/17/2017. (tot)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF ALABAMA
HALE COUNTY, ALABAMA
COMMISSION, et al.,
) CIVIL ACTION NO. 15-308-CG-N
ORDER ON REQUEST TO RECONSIDER
This matter is before the Court on the request of the parties, made at the
pretrial conference, to reconsider the Court’s ruling on Defendants’ Motion for
Summary Judgment on Plaintiff’s claim of defamation (Count 6). (Doc. 50, p. 2).
Given the following, Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment as to Count 6 is
GRANTED, in full.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
Within Count 6 of her complaint, Plaintiff Tricia Galbreath (“Plaintiff”)
alleged that Defendant Judge Arthur Crawford (“Judge Crawford”) made
defamatory statements about Plaintiff. (Doc. 1, p. 12). Although the complaint does
not expound on Judge Crawford’s defamatory statements, Plaintiff’s answers to
Defendants’ interrogatories do. Judge Crawford’s defamatory statements can be
broken down into three categories: (1) his statements during the June 18, 2013,
Hale County Commission meeting executive session; (2) his statements to Mary Pon
and Sonny Brasfield on or about June 18, 2013; and (3) his statements to Peggy
King around October 2013. (Doc. 35-11, p. 4). In the Court’s Order and
Memorandum Opinion on Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 48), the
Court granted summary judgment as to categories one and three but denied
summary judgment as to category two, concluding that the hearsay statements of
Sonny Brasfield and Mary Pon could be reduced to an admissible form at trial if
they testified. (Doc. 48, p. 55–56). At the pretrial conference, the parties made the
Court aware that neither party intends to call Mary Pon or Sonny Brasfield as a
witness at trial. (Doc. 45; Doc. 44). Thus, the parties request the Court reconsider
Defendants’ motion as it relates to Judge Crawford’s statements to Mary Pon and
Sonny Brasfield. (Doc. 50, p. 2).
Defendants contend that any testimony by Plaintiff as to what Sonny
Brasfield or Mary Pon told Plaintiff Judge Crawford said about Plaintiff is
inadmissible hearsay. (Doc. 26, p. 26). Thus, Plaintiff does not survive summary
judgment. Id. Plaintiff, however, argues that Judge Crawford’s statements to
Sonny Brasfield and Mary Pon are “not hearsay because it is not being offered for
the truth of the matter asserted—indeed, [Plaintiff’s] defamation claim is premised
on the statements being false—but rather that [ ] the publication was made to
them.” (Doc. 34, p. 50).
The publication of a false statement is an operative fact of legal consequence
in a defamation case. Bush v. Bank of Pinellas Cnty., 916 F. Supp. 1244, 1255 (M.D.
Fla. 1996). “Because Plaintiff may introduce a defamatory statement to prove it
was made, rather than to prove the truth of the matter asserted, the statement is
not hearsay.” Id. In other words, Plaintiff’s deposition testimony regarding any
defamatory statements she heard Judge Crawford publish are not hearsay. But
Plaintiff does not contend she heard Judge Crawford publish any of the statements
to Sonny Brasfield and Mary Pon. Instead, Plaintiff attempts to introduce Judge
Crawford’s alleged publication through her own testimony regarding the out-ofcourt assertions of Sonny Brasfield and Mary Pon to herself. The out-of-court
assertions of Sonny Brasfield and Mary Pon “do not fall into any nonhearsay or
exception to hearsay category and thus are inadmissible.” Id. at 1256; see also
Marshall v. Planz, 13 F. Supp. 2d 1246, 1256 (M.D. Ala. 1998) (finding the
plaintiff’s own deposition testimony as to a third-person’s out-of-court assertion
regarding the defendant’s alleged defamatory statement was inadmissible hearsay
that could not be considered in deciding a motion for summary judgment). As the
Court explained in its earlier order, hearsay statements may be relied upon to
overcome summary judgment if the statement “could be ‘reduced to admissible
evidence at trial or reduced to admissible form.’” (Doc. 48, p. 55) (quoting Macuba v.
Deboer, 193 F.3d 1316, 1323 (11th Cir. 1999)). Since Sonny Brasfield’s and Mary
Pon’s statement regarding what Judge Crawford said cannot be reduced to an
admissible form, neither is a basis upon which Plaintiff may overcome summary
judgment. Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment for the defamatory
statements made by Judge Crawford to Sonny Brasfield and Mary Pon is
Upon the reconsideration above, the Court SUPPLEMENTS its previous
Order and Memorandum Opinion (Doc. 48) to GRANT, in full, Defendants’ Motion
for Summary Judgment as to Plaintiff’s defamation claim (Count 6).
DONE and ORDERED this 17th day of February, 2017.
/s/ Callie V. S. Granade
SENIOR 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?