Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Nick Saban's Daughter's Sorority Catfight Lawsuit Victory
The Alabama Supreme Court just kick sixed the Saban family. In a ruling published today the Alabama Supreme Court, potentially unaware that Nick Saban has been named supreme ruler of the state, reversed summary judgment granted in a sorority catfight lawsuit naming Saban's daughter Kristen as the defendant.
Perhaps I am the only man who finds it hysterical to read the legal reasoning analyzing a sorority catfight involving the daughter of the most famous coach in the country. If so, you can refrain from reading further.
But if you find the idea of Alabama's most esteemed legal minds analyzing a sorority catfight to be hysterical, read on for their penetrating judgment. Here you go: (note, after a while I got tired of trying to fix the spacing, so deal with it).
"The circuit court determined that Grimes "sought out [Saban] and initiated the confrontation"; that Saban "was justified in using physical force to defend herself from what she reasonably believed to be the use of unlawful physical force by [Grimes]"; and "that [Saban's] actions were justified and necessary to repel the use of physical force against her."
These conclusions were apparently based on the circuit court's findings that, after she saw Saban's Facebook post about her, Grimes "became angry, went to [Saban's] bedroom and began yelling and pounding on the locked door, demanding the post be removed. When [Saban] opened the door to her bedroom and attempted to show [Grimes] her phone and that the post had been removed, [Grimes] advanced toward [Saban], got within inches of [Saban's] face, and continued yelling. As [Saban] pushed [Grimes] away, [Grimes] grabbed [Saban] by the throat, and the physical altercation began."
These findings are supported by Saban's deposition testimony and by the affidavits of Reigel, Moultrie, Muncher, Terry, and Williams, which she attached to her motion for a summary judgment. However, they are disputed by Grimes's deposition testimony, which was attached to Grimes's brief
filed in opposition to Saban's summary-judgment motion. As noted previously, "[i]n determining whether the movant has carried that burden [of showing that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law], the court is to view the evidence in a light most favorable to the nonmoving party and to draw all reasonable inferences in favor of that party." Capital Alliance Ins., 639 So. 2d at 1350 (emphasis added).
Grimes testified in her deposition that after she banged on Saban's door, insisting that Saban take down the Facebook post, Saban opened the door and came out of her bedroom to show Grimes that the post had been removed. Grimes testified that Saban was in the hall when she showed Grimes her telephone and that "[Grimes] had backed away from [Saban's] door when [Saban] came out of her room." Grimes also testified that she and Saban were "in close proximity" and "[c]loser than [arms' length]," but her testimony does not indicate that she was "within inches of [Saban's] face" or that she continued yelling or threatening Saban once Saban told her the post had been removed.2 Grimes also testified in her deposition that, after Saban told her that the Facebook post had been removed, she said to Saban "something to the effect of 'I don't care, okay, but we're done,' and I called her crazy." Grimes testified that Saban then "used both of her hands and shoved [Grimes] into [Reigel's] open door frame." Grimes testified that, after Saban pushed her, she grabbed Saban, putting one hand on her throat and one hand on her chest "and threw [Saban] back ...toward the door to get her away." According to Grimes, when she put her hands on Saban's throat and chest to push her away, Saban started punching her and hit her in the face "[m]ore than five times."
Grimes testified that, after the first punch, she told Saban that "[she] was calling the cops." Grimes stated: "I'm not sure how many blows were after that. I did not swing back. I know I had my arm up to defend myself. She had a grip on my hair. And we were somehow moving along the wall .... [Muncher] at this point ... tried to pull her off, and it wasn't working. the living room, [Terry], who was asleep, got up out of bed and they somehow managed to pull [Saban] off of me."
Grimes also testified in her deposition that she may have
scratched Saban and pulled her hair to "get away from her and
get her off of me."
When viewed in the light most favorable to Grimes and
when all reasonable inferences are drawn in favor of Grimes,
see Pritchett, supra, Grimes's deposition testimony raises
genuine issues of material fact as to whether Saban reasonably
believed the use of force was necessary to defend herself
against Grimes, whether Saban used a degree of force she
"And at some point, the closer we got towards
reasonably believed was necessary, and whether Saban was the
initial aggressor in the altercation. See Â§ 13A-3-23(a) and
(c)(2), supra. Thus, Saban was not entitled to a summary
judgment pursuant to Â§ 13A-3-23 on the ground that she acted
Saban argues that Grimes's deposition testimony alone is
not "substantial evidence" creating a genuine issue of
material fact as to whether Saban acted in self-defense. She
cites Blackburn v. State Farm Automobile Insurance Co., 652
So. 2d 1140 (Ala. 1994), Mitchell v. Torrence Cablevision USA,
Inc., 806 So. 2d 1254 (Ala. Civ. App. 2000), and Walsh v.
Douglas, 717 So. 2d 807 (Ala. Civ. App. 1998), in support of
that argument. Her reliance on those cases is misplaced.
In Blackburn, this Court noted that the undisputed
evidence in the record disproved the plaintiff's claim that
the defendant had acted in bad faith. In Mitchell, the Court
of Civil Appeals determined that the plaintiff's own testimony
supported the defendants' claim that there was no genuine
issue of material fact as to their affirmative defenses.
Here, the evidence related to Grimes's assault and battery
claims and Saban's claim that she acted in self-defense is
highly disputed and raises genuine issues of material fact as
to whether Saban is entitled to protection under Â§ 13A-3-23.
In Walsh, the Court of Civil Appeals concluded that the
"unsupported allegations" in the testimony of one of the
defendants "[did] not constitute substantial evidence" and
that that testimony "was insufficient to create a factual
issue precluding summary judgment." 717 So. 2d at 810. The
Court of Civil Appeals stated: "Mere conclusory allegations
that a fact exists will not defeat a properly supported
summary judgment motion." Id. Grimes's deposition testimony,
however, is not composed of "[m]ere conclusory allegations."
Instead, she sets forth specific facts that, when viewed in
the light most favorable to Grimes, as they must be, see
Pritchett, supra, constitute substantial evidence of genuine
issues of fact as to whether Saban acted in self-defense,
pursuant to Â§ 13A-3-23, see Rule 56, Ala. R. Civ. P., i.e.,
evidence from which "fair-minded persons in the exercise of
impartial judgment can reasonably infer the existence of the
fact sought to be proved." Pritchett, supra. Thus, the
circuit court erred in entering a summary judgment in Saban's
favor based on Â§ 13A-3-23. In so holding, we should not be
understood as expressing a view as to the merits of the
underlying claims or affirmative defenses; we merely hold that
there remain genuine issues of material fact for resolution by
the fact-finder so as to preclude the entry of a summary
In light of the foregoing, we reverse the circuit court's
judgment and remand the cause for further proceedings
consistent with this opinion.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
Moore, C.J., and Bolin, Parker, and Main, JJ., concur.
No word yet on whether the state of Alabama has begun the necessary and proper process of removing these justices from their positions of authority.