Yeager v. Hurt

CourtSupreme Court of Alabama
Writing for the CourtFAULKNER; TORBERT
Citation433 So.2d 1176
Decision Date03 June 1983
PartiesH.F. YEAGER v. James W. HURT. 81-898.

Page 1176

433 So.2d 1176
H.F. YEAGER
v.
James W. HURT.
81-898.
Supreme Court of Alabama.
June 3, 1983.

Page 1178

Sidney Gene Landreau of Faulk & Landreau, Phenix City, for appellant.

Robert P. Lane of Phillips & Funderburk, Phenix City, for appellee.

FAULKNER, Justice.

This action arose out of a seizure by H.F. Yeager, an auto theft investigator for the Alabama Department of Public Safety, of a motorcycle belonging to James Hurt. The seizure took place during an investigation into a motorcycle theft ring in the Columbus-Phenix City area involving primarily Kawasaki motorcycles similar to the one in question.

As a part of the investigation Sergeant Yeager asked for and received a computer printout of stolen motor vehicles from the Columbus, Georgia, police department. In comparing the printout to a list of motorcycles registered in Russell County, Yeager noticed that a motorcycle belonging to the plaintiff bore a serial number just one digit different from a motorcycle listed on the printout as having been stolen.

Yeager went to the Hurt residence and found no one home. He noticed that the motorcycle in question was located in Hurt's carport. Upon examination of the motorcycle, which had a tarpaulin on it, he observed that the area around the serial number appeared to be smooth, whereas the

Page 1179

area around the serial numbers on that type of motorcycle typically have a rough appearance.

One of Hurt's neighbors saw Yeager in the carport and, realizing that the Hurts were not home, went over and inquired of Yeager his purpose for being there. Yeager told her that he was a state investigator, gave her his card, and asked her to have the Hurts contact him.

Yeager returned to the Hurt residence on two other occasions and on the last occasion found Mrs. Hurt at home. When she came to the door Sergeant Yeager asked her permission to examine the motorcycle to determine whether the serial number had been altered. He explained to her that neither she nor her husband was a suspect in the case, because he had traced the motorcycle back to the prior owner. After a telephone call to her attorney, Mrs. Hurt denied Sergeant Yeager permission to examine the motorcycle.

Yeager left the Hurt residence and went to the Russell County Courthouse. On advice of an assistant district attorney, Yeager swore out an affidavit stating that a motorcycle bearing an altered engine number was being stored at the premises and that Yeager had personally observed the vehicle in plain view at the Hurt residence. A district court judge issued a search warrant pursuant to which Yeager seized the motorcycle.

The motorcycle was seized on February 14, 1980. Later that month or early in March, Mr. Hurt went to the junkyard where the motorcycle was being stored. Hurt testified that on the one occasion when he saw the motorcycle it was uncovered and stored out in the weather. He stated that certain items, such as the clutch cable and luggage rack, had been changed and that a "crash bar" and "chrome chain guard" were missing. Although he seemed unsure as to the mileage on the motorcycle's odometer when it was seized, Mr. Hurt stated that he was certain that the motorcycle had been ridden extensively between the time it was seized and the time he observed it at the junkyard.

The only testimony as to the value of the motorcycle at the time it was seized was given by Floyd Elliott, who ran the House of Kawasaki. The motorcycle was a used one when it was purchased by Mr. Hurt for $2,050.00, about five years before it was seized. Mr. Elliott testified that at the time of trial the motorcycle would have been worth twelve to fourteen hundred dollars and slightly more than that in February, 1980.

A jury awarded Mr. Hurt $2,000.00 on his state law claims of trespass, conversion, interference with his right of privacy, slander of title and falsely and maliciously swearing out a search warrant. It also awarded him $20,000.00 under a civil rights claim based on 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging fourth amendment violations. On a motion for attorney's fees under 42 U.S.C. § 1988, the trial court awarded Hurt's attorneys $4,725.00, to be assessed against the State of Alabama.

The same doctrine of judicial immunity which absolutely bars actions for damages against judges grants a conditional and partial immunity to officers of the peace acting in good faith within the bounds of their authority. Fowler v. Alexander, 340 F.Supp. 168, 171 (M.D.N.C.1972). A sheriff or other law enforcement officer is privileged to commit acts which would otherwise be a trespass to chattel or conversion when he acts pursuant to a court order which is valid or fair 1 on its face. Restatement (Second) of Torts § 266 (1965). To be valid the order must meet three requirements:

(1) It must be regular in form,

(2) It must be issued by a court having authority to issue the particular writ

Page 1180

and having jurisdiction over the chattels described in it, and

(3) All proceedings required for the proper issuance of the writ must have duly taken place.

Restatement (Second) of Torts § 266 (1965), comment b.

The same conditional immunity is afforded a law enforcement officer in a § 1983 action....

To continue reading

Request your trial
8 practice notes
  • Ala. River Grp., Inc. v. Conecuh Timber, Inc., 1150040
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 29, 2017
    ...offers to perform that are conditional amount to mere efforts to settle a pending claim and are thus inadmissible. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So.2d 1176 (Ala. 1983)." Super Valu Stores, Inc. v. Peterson, 506 So.2d 317, 321 (Ala. 1987) (emphasis added). In the instant case, the wood dealers' letter......
  • Belcher v. Marshall (Ex parte Marshall), 1190644
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 25, 2020
    ...injunctive relief against a judicial officer acting in her judicial capacity."6 Id. at 541-42, 104 S.Ct. 1970. Cf. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So. 2d 1176, 1179 (Ala. 1983) (noting that the "doctrine of judicial immunity ... absolutely bars actions for damages against judges"). The Attorney General......
  • Ex parte Marshall, 1190644
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 25, 2020
    ...a bar to prospective injunctive relief against a judicial officer acting in her judicial capacity."6 Id. at 541-42. Cf. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So. 2d 1176, 1179 (Ala. 1983) (noting that the "doctrine of judicial immunity ... absolutely bars actions for damages against judges"). The Attorney Ge......
  • Super Valu Stores, Inc. v. Peterson
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • March 27, 1987
    ...offers to perform that are conditional amount to mere efforts to settle a pending claim and are thus inadmissible. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So.2d 1176 After numerous telephone conversations with Super Valu representatives, Peterson's attorney, A.W. Bolt, wrote a letter to Patrick Cashin, in-hous......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
8 cases
  • Ala. River Grp., Inc. v. Conecuh Timber, Inc., 1150040
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 29, 2017
    ...offers to perform that are conditional amount to mere efforts to settle a pending claim and are thus inadmissible. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So.2d 1176 (Ala. 1983)." Super Valu Stores, Inc. v. Peterson, 506 So.2d 317, 321 (Ala. 1987) (emphasis added). In the instant case, the wood dealers' letter......
  • Belcher v. Marshall (Ex parte Marshall), 1190644
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 25, 2020
    ...injunctive relief against a judicial officer acting in her judicial capacity."6 Id. at 541-42, 104 S.Ct. 1970. Cf. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So. 2d 1176, 1179 (Ala. 1983) (noting that the "doctrine of judicial immunity ... absolutely bars actions for damages against judges"). The Attorney General......
  • Ex parte Marshall, 1190644
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • September 25, 2020
    ...a bar to prospective injunctive relief against a judicial officer acting in her judicial capacity."6 Id. at 541-42. Cf. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So. 2d 1176, 1179 (Ala. 1983) (noting that the "doctrine of judicial immunity ... absolutely bars actions for damages against judges"). The Attorney Ge......
  • Super Valu Stores, Inc. v. Peterson
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Alabama
    • March 27, 1987
    ...offers to perform that are conditional amount to mere efforts to settle a pending claim and are thus inadmissible. Yeager v. Hurt, 433 So.2d 1176 After numerous telephone conversations with Super Valu representatives, Peterson's attorney, A.W. Bolt, wrote a letter to Patrick Cashin, in-hous......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT