Court: Supreme Court of Alabama
Opinion Date: July 9, 2021
Judge: Alisa Kelli Wise
Areas of Law: Civil Procedure, Personal Injury
Jane Doe (“Doe”), individually and as mother and next friend of her minor children, Judy Doe and John Doe, petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the Tuscaloosa Circuit Court to vacate it is August 18, 2020, order staying all discovery in this case. On August 25, 2019, Doe was dropping off her children to stay with a friend at the Campus Evolution Villages apartments in Tuscaloosa. Doe alleged that, while she was in the common area of the apartments, Tereza Jones assaulted her and raped her in front of her children and then fled the scene. Jones was later arrested and was being prosecuted by the State of Alabama for first-degree rape. Doe sued Jones civilly for assault and battery, invasion of privacy, and the tort of outrage; Doe sued the various property management entities for negligence and/or wantonness. Doe moved for the entry of a default against Jones. Defendants Gulf South and Pinnacle jointly moved to stay discovery pending the criminal proceedings against Jones. On August 18, 2020, the trial court granted the motion to stay. On that same date, it denied Doe’s motion for the entry of a default against Jones. The Alabama Supreme Court found Gulf South and Pinnacle, both corporations, filed the motion to stay based on speculation that Jones might later invoke his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination in response to the discovery in this civil action. Gulf South and Pinnacle did not have their own Fifth Amendment privilege to assert, and the Court found they could not assert Fifth Amendment protections on behalf of Jones. Therefore, the Court concluded the trial court exceeded its discretion in granting their motion for a stay. Thus, the Court concluded Doe established a clear right to mandamus relief. Her petition was granted and the trial court directed her to vacate its August 18, 2020 order to stay the case.
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