STATE OF MISSOURI ex rel. CARLOS D. ALSUP, Relator,
THE HONORABLE JAMES F. KANATZAR, Respondent.
ORIGINAL PROCEEDING IN PROHIBITION
C. WILSON, JUDGE
Mariano ("Mariano"), a student at Independence
Academy, filed a negligence suit against Relator, Carlos
Alsup ("Alsup"), an in-school suspension teacher.
Mariano sued Alsup in his individual capacity for the
personal injuries Mariano sustained when Alsup physically
restrained him and broke his arm. Alsup filed a motion for
summary judgment, claiming he was entitled to official
immunity, but the circuit court overruled the motion. Alsup
now seeks a writ of prohibition barring the circuit court
from taking any further action other than to vacate its order
overruling Alsup's motion for summary judgment and to
enter judgment for Alsup. This Court has the authority to
"issue and determine original remedial writs[, ]"
Mo. Const. art. V, § 4.1, and this Court's
preliminary writ of prohibition is now made permanent.
April 28, 2016, Mariano was reluctant to go to school and
refused to get on the school bus at his home. Mariano's
mother called Independence Academy to inform them that
Mariano refused to get on the bus and that she would bring
him to school in her own vehicle. When she arrived at
Independence Academy, Mariano's mother physically
struggled to get him into the school. Once inside the school,
Mariano's mother turned him over to Alsup and another
staff member, who took hold of him. In the course of
physically restraining him, Alsup broke Mariano's arm. At
the time of this incident, Alsup was employed as an in-school
suspension teacher at Independence Academy, an alternative
school operated by the Independence School District
statute, school districts are required to adopt a written
policy addressing the use of restrictive behavioral
interventions. See § 160.263.2. As a result, the
District adopted District Board Policy 2770 ("Policy
2770"). Pursuant to Policy 2770, an in-school suspension
teacher is permitted to physically restrain students in three
situations: (1) "[i]n an emergency
situation;" (2) "[w]hen less restrictive measures
[have] not effectively deescalated the situation;" and
(3) when otherwise specified by various types of
plans. Policy 2770 also provides physical
restraint shall "[o]nly be used for as long as necessary
to resolve the actual risk of danger or harm that warranted
the physical restraint." And the school personnel using
physical restraint shall "[u]se no more than the degree
of force necessary to protect the student or other persons
from imminent physical harm." Further, Policy 2770
permits the school personnel using physical restraint to only
"[u]se methods of restraint in which the personnel has
received district approved training."
addition to the guidelines set forth in Policy 2770, the
District also provides its employees with training through
the Crisis Prevention Institute ("CPI"). Alsup
attended this training program as required by his employment.
Generally, the CPI training program provides District
employees with guidelines, strategies, and methods for
deescalating emergency situations. The program also provides
training for multiple methods of physically restraining a
filed suit alleging Alsup was negligent in physically
restraining Mariano and seeking damages for his injuries.
Alsup filed two motions to dismiss, both of which were
overruled. Alsup later filed a motion for summary judgment,
arguing he was entitled to official immunity. The circuit
court overruled Alsup's motion. Alsup sought a writ of
prohibition in the court of appeals, which was denied, and
now seeks the same relief in this Court.
connotes not only immunity from judgment but also immunity
from suit." State ex rel. Mo. Dep't of Agric. v.
McHenry, 687 S.W.2d 178, 181 (Mo. banc 1985). When a
defendant is entitled to immunity as a matter of law,
"prohibition is an appropriate remedy." State
ex rel. Twiehaus v. Adolf, 706 S.W.2d 443, 444 (Mo. banc
types of immunity often are confused when suit is brought
against a governmental official. Southers v. City of
Farmington, 263 S.W.3d 603, 610 (Mo. banc 2008). Broadly
speaking, sovereign immunity protects governmental entities
from tort liability and can be invoked when a governmental
official is sued only in his or her official capacity.
See id. Official immunity, on the other hand,
protects public officials sued in their individual capacities
"from liability for alleged acts of negligence committed
during the course of their official duties for the
performance of discretionary acts."
issue here is the doctrine of official immunity, which this
Court has long held protects a public official from liability
if that official acts within the course of his official
duties and without malice. Id. at 610 & n.7 (citing
Reed v. Conway, 20 Mo. 22, 52 (1854)). The purpose
of this doctrine is to allow public officials to "make
judgments affecting the public safety and welfare"
without "[t]he fear of personal liability."
Green v. Denison, 738 S.W.2d 861, 865 (Mo. banc
1987), overruled on other grounds by Davis v. Lambert-St.
Louis Int'l Airport, 193 S.W.3d 760, 765 n.8 (Mo.
banc 2006). This is because, "[i]f an officer is to be
put in fear of financial loss at every exercise of his
official functions, … the interest of the public will
inevitably suffer …." Smith v. Berryman,
199 S.W. 165, 167 (Mo. banc 1917).
"[c]ourts and legal commentators have long agreed that
society's compelling interest in vigorous and effective
administration of public affairs requires that the law
protect those individuals who, in the face of imperfect
information and limited resources, must daily exercise their
best judgment in conducting the public's business."
Kanagawa v. State ex rel. Freeman, 685 S.W.2d 831,
836 (Mo. banc 1985). Therefore, when a public official
asserts the affirmative defense of official immunity, she
should be afforded such immunity so long as she was acting
within the scope of her authority and without malice.
Green v. Lebanon R-III Sch. Dist., 13 S.W.3d 278,
284 (Mo. banc 2000) ("Under the doctrine of official
immunity, a public official is not liable to members of the
public for negligence that is strictly related to the
performance of discretionary duties.") (citing
Green, 738 S.W.2d at 865).
applying the doctrine of official immunity must be cautious
not to construe it "too narrowly lest they frustrate the
need for relieving public servants of the threat of
burdensome litigation." Kanagawa, 685 S.W.2d at
836 (quotation marks omitted). There is, however, a narrow
exception to the application of the official immunity
doctrine - i.e., when a public officer fails to perform a
ministerial duty required of him by law, he may be
personally liable for the damages caused. Knox ...