Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

Alabama Supreme Court Upholds Exemption for DOC Driver’s Liability

The Supreme Court of Alabama ruled in June 2006 for the state in a lawsuit that arose out of a state prisoner, Warren R. Robinson, on work-release and driving a Department of Corrections (DOC) van, backing into the vehicle of Plaintiff Gail Munnerlyn. Robinson was uninsured and was not covered by the State Employee’s General Liability Trust Fund (the Fund) since he was not a state employee.

Munnerlyn sued Robinson and the DOC in May 2004 alleging both individual and class claims. Her individual claim was based on Robinson’s incompetence and the DOC’s incompetence in entrusting the van to Robinson. Her class claims were based on her allegation that all citizens of Alabama were at person and property risk with the DOC’s violation of §32-7A-4(a), Ala. Code 1975, which prohibits operating one’s vehicle or allowing others to operate one’s vehicle without automobile liability insurance. Defendants moved to dismiss in that they were entitled to immunity and that Plaintiff could not meet Ala. R. Civ. P. requirements for certification of a class.

Trial court held a hearing on Defendants' motion, at which time Defendants pointed out that subsection 5(2) of the same statute exempts motor vehicles owned by, among others, state agencies. Trial court granted Defendant’s motion to dismiss. Munnerlyn appealed, even though Defendants had pointed out at argument that her proper mode of obtaining financial redress under her circumstances was the Alabama Board of Adjustments.

At appeal, Munnerlyn argued that it was outside of legislative intent in enacting §32-7A-5(2) of the Alabama Code to create an instance wherein uninsured and unbonded drivers had legal access to the state’s throughways. The court cited the plain-meaning rule of Art. II §42 of the Alabama Constitution, 1901, and declared §32-7A-4(a) & 5(2) to be unambiguous in both wording and meaning, that Robinson and the DOC were exempted from Munnerlyn’s action. The court affirmed the lower court’s order dismissing her claims. See: Munnerlyn v. Alabama DOC, 946 So.2d 436 (Ala. 2006).

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login

Related legal case

Munnerlyn v. Alabama DOC