- October 2, 2022
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Courtlin Arrington Michael Barber
A Jefferson County Circuit Court judge denied a motion to dismiss the wrongful death lawsuit filed against former Birmingham City Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring and Huffman High School Principal Douglas Lyons by the family of Courtlin Arrington, the 17-year-old who was shot and killed by a Huffman classmate in March 2018.
Judge Marshell Jackson Hatcher ruled Friday that Tynesha Tatum, Arrington’s mother, who filed the lawsuit in 2019 in conjunction with her daughter, identified in the lawsuit as G.T., “has met her burden of establishing material issues and facts.”
On Wednesday, March 7, 2018, Arrington, then a junior, was shot by classmate Michael Barber Jr., outside a classroom at the school. In the ruling, Judge Hatcher noted that Barber brought a gun into the school through a side door that afternoon when he and a friend were allowed in by another student. Barber later said he carried the gun, a 9mm highpoint, for protection, and tucked it into his shorts.
Arrington and other students were outside a classroom when they encountered Barber. She “spotted the handgun in Barber’s shorts,” Hatcher wrote, adding. “According to Barber, Arrington was able to see the gun. When Barber took the handgun out of his shorts to show it to Arrington, the gun fired, shooting Arrington and killing her.”
In June 2019, a Jefferson County jury found Barber, 18, guilty of criminally negligent homicide, a Class A misdemeanor. He was originally charged with reckless manslaughter, a Class B felony that would have carried a sentence of up to 20 years in prison. That August, Barber was sentenced to one year in the Jefferson County Jail, the allowable maximum under the law.
In the lawsuit, filed in May 2018, attorneys Courtney French and U.W. Clemon, who are representing Tatum and her daughter, claim Herring and Lyons “willfully, maliciously, and in bad faith failed to provide adequate and reasonable safety and security of students at Huffman High School and failed to implement adequate safety precautions to guard against acts of violence.”
They also argued that Herring and Lyons “acted beyond their authority” and “thereby lost the benefit of state-aided immunity that would have otherwise been available to them.”
Arguments regarding the motion to dismiss were made before Hatcher in June 2022. In the ruling, the judge noted: “Defendants argue that they are entitled to immunity from damage claimed predicated on their alleged failure to put in place adequate plans or regulations to effectively implement statutory goals. Yet in Defendant Herring’s deposition testimony, she testified that back in March 2018 there were no policies related to school safety, security or emergency preparedness, only practices, regulations and procedures.”
The defendants also argued, Hatcher wrote “that educators cannot be held liable for the criminal acts of third persons,” citing the 1991 Alabama case W.L.O. v Smith.
Hatcher, however, cited two Alabama cases involving criminal acts by a student against another student that “found that educators were not entitled to state-agent immunity at the summary judgment stage.”
In the ruling, Hatcher ordered the parties to meet with her this upcoming Thursday to determine a trial date.
Arrington Motion Denied Order by Roy S. Johnson on Scribd
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