Lee v. Minute Stop, Inc.

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Citation874 So.2d 505
PartiesDouglas LEE v. MINUTE STOP, INC., et al.
Decision Date20 June 2003

874 So.2d 505

Douglas LEE


Supreme Court of Alabama.

June 20, 2003.

Rehearing Denied August 15, 2003.

874 So.2d 506
L. Daniel Mims, Mobile, for appellant

Lawrence M. Wettermark and Andrew J. Rutens of Galloway, Smith, Wettermark & Everest, L.L.P., Mobile, for appellee Minute Stop, Inc.

874 So.2d 507
Christopher G. Hume III and David F. Walker of Miller, Hamilton, Snider & Odom, L.L.C., Mobile, for appellee Twanda Nobles

James G. House III of Atchison, Crosby, Saad & Beebe, Mobile, for appellee City of Mobile.

James B. Rossler, Mobile, for appellees James Stabler, Kevin Rodgers, David Walker, and Michael Williams.

MADDOX, Retired Justice.

The primary issue presented on this appeal is whether the trial court erred in entering summary judgments for the defendants in an action in which the plaintiff, Douglas Lee, alleged malicious prosecution, false arrest, defamation, and/or negligence in failing to properly train and supervise employees. This appeal also presents a question whether, based on the particular facts of this case, the doctrine of discretionary immunity for police officers set out at § 6-5-338, Ala.Code 1975, is applicable.

Many of the facts are not seriously disputed. Lee, a suspect in an alleged robbery, was arrested on a charge of robbery in the first degree and remained in jail until the date of his preliminary hearing. At the preliminary hearing the district judge dismissed the charge against Lee based on a finding that the officers lacked probable cause to arrest him.

Lee subsequently filed this action, and in his third and final amended complaint he asserted several claims against several defendants. In count one he alleged malicious prosecution against several defendants: Twanda Nobles, the alleged victim of the robbery; Herndon Oil Corporation, d/b/a Ministop Herndon Oil, d/b/a Conoco Station; Minute Stop, Inc.; FB & R Investment, Inc. (the corporate defendants are hereinafter referred to collectively as "Minute Stop"); and Mobile police officers K.N. Rodgers, David Walker,1 James Stabler, and Michael Williams. In count two he alleged false arrest against all the defendants, in their individual and corporate capacities, as applicable. In count three he alleged negligence against Minute Stop, claiming that it failed to adequately train and supervise Twanda Nobles in how to properly report and handle an alleged criminal offense, or how to properly identify persons alleged to be responsible for an alleged crime. In count four Lee alleged negligent supervision and training on the part of the City of Mobile of the four police officers named as defendants in count one. In count five he alleged defamation against Twanda Nobles for allegedly falsely accusing him of robbery, knowing that the allegations were not true. In count six he alleged negligence against the City of Mobile and also alleged that the four officers failed to properly determine that there was no probable cause for his arrest. In count seven he alleged that the officers were guilty of wanton misconduct because, he alleged, they failed to properly and thoroughly investigate the events leading up to his arrest, detention, and prosecution. In count eight he alleged negligence against Twanda Nobles and Minute Stop in identifying and/or accusing Lee of robbery or attempting to rob the store. In count nine he alleged that Twanda Nobles and Minute Stop were guilty of wantonness for incorrectly identifying him as a robber and for accusing him of robbing or attempting to rob Twanda Nobles. In count ten Lee asserted a claim of abuse of

874 So.2d 508
process against the City of Mobile and the four police officers

Each of the defendants filed a motion for a summary judgment, asserting that there were no genuine issues of material fact in the claims made against them in the case and that each of them was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. Several items of documentary evidence, including depositions, or excerpts of depositions, and affidavits, were filed in support of and in opposition to the motions for a summary judgment. The trial court granted the defendants' summary-judgment motions.


On the evening of January 21, 1999, Lee had dinner with his mother; he later walked down the street and saw that the door to the house occupied by Bobby and Laurie McLaughlin was open. The McLaughlins were acquaintances of Lee's. Lee went into the house and visited with the McLaughlins, whom he described as being on "some prescription medicine, or something." When the couple's two teenage children came home later, an argument between the parents and the children ensued; Lee claimed that he helped diffuse the verbal confrontation. He then went back to his mother's house, had a glass of iced tea, and walked down the street again. He saw that the McLaughlin children were still up, and that there was a lot of yelling and screaming going on, so he went in and again separated the family. He stayed and visited with the McLaughlins for a good while until one of the McLaughlins suggested that the three adults go get some cigarettes.

It is undisputed that Lee went with the McLaughlins, at approximately 4:30 a.m. on January 22, to the Conoco service station on Navco Road in Mobile where the

Minute Stop was located, and that Twanda Nobles was the only clerk on duty at the time. According to Lee's own deposition testimony filed in opposition to the motions for a summary judgment, Laurie McLaughlin entered the store first; she was immediately followed by Bobby McLaughlin and Lee. Laurie McLaughlin asked for cigarettes and told Nobles, who was separated from the customers by safety glass, that she often purchased cigarettes from that Conoco service station and paid for them later. Nobles testified that she was not familiar with any credit arrangement Laurie might have had, and when she told Laurie McLaughlin that she was not going to give her the cigarettes, Bobby McLaughlin told Nobles, "I'll take those damn cigarettes from you.... I'll make you give them to me."2 Although Lee did not say anything at that time, he did not disclaim involvement with the McLaughlins or attempt to separate himself from the McLaughlins. Both McLaughlins used profanity toward Nobles and used a racial slur. In her deposition, Nobles testified that all three individuals appeared to be either intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, and that she feared for her safety, because "I didn't know what they were going to do to me," and "[i]t was three against one to my knowledge." She testified that they were sweating and that she could smell alcohol.

There was evidence indicating that Laurie McLaughlin struck the safety glass between her and Nobles with her hands and indicated to Nobles that she would be coming back for cigarettes and that she then turned to Bobby McLaughlin and Lee and stated that she could handle the situation. The record shows that both Bobby

874 So.2d 509
McLaughlin and Lee then left the store, but that Laurie McLaughlin remained in the store and told Nobles that she would come back behind the glass. While this was happening, Bobby McLaughlin, who was outside the building at this time, banged on the glass window next to Nobles and then went to his automobile and reached inside, toward the floorboard. Nobles testified that she saw the butt of a handgun at that time. According to Nobles, Laurie McLaughlin yelled at Bobby McLaughlin to "put that gun down, ... she's calling the police." Nobles further testified that Laurie McLaughlin told Bobby McLaughlin to back up so that Nobles could not get the license number of the vehicle, and that the three drove off rapidly. Nobles telephoned emergency 911 and informed the dispatcher that three individuals had entered the store and had created a disturbance.

Shortly after the call, City of Mobile police officers arrived, and Nobles told them about the incident. The evidence shows that the three were apprehended by Mobile police officers and brought back to the store and that Nobles identified them as the three who had come into the store and that Nobles cooperated in answering the officers' questions. Officer James Stabler told Nobles that she should remain in the store and that officers would take the suspects out of the car one at a time and ask her if that person was one of the three persons who had created the disturbance in the store. Nobles was instructed to nod if the person taken out of the car was one of the three who had been in the store. Nobles identified all three. The police officers did not ask her any further questions.

The next morning, at the request of police, Nobles delivered the store's surveillance tape to detectives with the Mobile Police Department. They asked her at that time what had happened, and she gave them a narrative statement, which was tape-recorded. Officer Rodgers testified that the only proof he had that Lee had committed a crime was that Lee was "a party to the incident" and he had been with the McLaughlins throughout the disturbance.

The next time Nobles was asked about the incident was when she testified at the preliminary hearing. She was asked what each one of the three individuals had done in the store the night of the disturbance, and when she was asked what Lee had done, she said that he had done nothing. She testified that the reason she telephoned 911 was to ensure that she would be protected by the police that night; she said: "I—my intention wasn't for the police to arrest anybody. I don't know how that operated. I was calling for help and aid for me. Now, whatever they do, I don't know how they do it. I was just calling for help." Based on Nobles's testimony that Lee had done nothing, the district judge dismissed the charges against Lee.

Standard of Review

In view of the fact that the trial court entered a summary judgment for each defendant, we begin our analysis by first setting out the scope of our review of...

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  • Thompson v. City of Birmingham, Case No. 2:12–CV–00623–TMP.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Alabama
    • March 14, 2014
    ...of the plaintiff, and (5) damage.’ ” [5 F.Supp.3d 1333]Moon v. Pillion, 2 So.3d 842, 845–46 (Ala.2008), quoting Lee v. Minute Stop, Inc., 874 So.2d 505, 512 (Ala.2003) (quoting Cutts v. American United Life Ins. Co., 505 So.2d 1211, 1214 (Ala.1987)). Malicious prosecution is “an action disf......
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    ...summary-judgment motion is sufficient for Wampol, as the summary-judgment movant, to meet his burden. In Lee v. Minute Stop, Inc., 874 So.2d 505 (Ala.2003), a convenience-store clerk placed a "911" emergency telephone call to the police reporting a robbery. The convenience-store clerk ident......
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