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Liberty County School District v. Halliburton

Court of Appeals of Georgia

July 16, 2014

LIBERTY COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT et al.
v.
HALLIBURTON

Page 139

Sovereign immunity. Liberty Superior Court. Before Judge Russell.

Gannam, Gnann & Steinmetz, Christian J. Steinmetz III , Harben, Hartley & Hawkins, Phillip L. Hartley, for appellants.

Maurice L. King, Jr., for appellee.

BRANCH, Judge. Barnes, P. J., and Boggs, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 140

Branch, Judge.

After Laverne Halliburton's contract as a school principal in the Liberty County School District was not renewed for the 2011-2012 academic year, Halliburton sued the District and a number of its officers, including Superintendent Dr. Judy Burton Scherer and seven members of the county school board (collectively, " defendants" ), for racial discrimination. Halliburton sought a writ of mandamus, other injunctive relief, damages, and attorney fees. Defendants moved to dismiss on grounds including that defendants were entitled to sovereign and/or qualified immunity. On appeal from the trial court's denial of the motion to dismiss, defendants argue that their motion [328 Ga.App. 423] should have been granted because Halliburton had no right to a renewed contract and because her claims are barred by sovereign and qualified immunity. We conclude that although the District itself is exempt from suit under sovereign immunity, due to the very early stage of this litigation, it is conceivable that Halliburton could produce facts consistent with her claim that Scherer and/or one or more board members acted with actual malice such that they would not be entitled to qualified immunity. We therefore affirm in part and reverse in part.

The Supreme Court of Georgia has recently reiterated how a trial court should treat a motion to dismiss:

" A motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted should not be sustained unless (1) the allegations of the complaint disclose with certainty that the claimant would not be entitled to relief under any state of provable facts asserted in support thereof; and (2) the movant establishes that the claimant could not possibly introduce evidence within the framework of the complaint sufficient to warrant a grant of the relief sought. In deciding a motion to dismiss, all pleadings are to be construed most favorably to the party who filed them, and all doubts regarding such pleadings must be resolved in the filing party's favor."

Austin v. Clark, 294 Ga. 773, 774-775 (755 S.E.2d 796) (2014), quoting Anderson v. Flake, 267 Ga. 498, 501 (2) (480 S.E.2d 10) (1997). In other words,

a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim should not be granted unless it appears to a certainty that the plaintiff would be entitled to no relief under any state of facts which could be proved in support of

Page 141

his claim. If, within the framework of the complaint, evidence may be introduced which will sustain a grant of relief to the ...

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