Ex parte University of South AlabamaAnnotate this Case
On or about August 1, 2006, the University of Southern Alabama (USA) hired Azin Agah, a cell biologist, as a tenure-track employee, to teach biochemistry and to research the abnormalities in the extracellular matrix and angiogenesis associated with the pathogenesis of scleroderma. In 2010, USA did not reappoint Agah based on alleged research misconduct. In 2011, Agah sued several department members at the College of Allied Health Professions at USA and chairman of the two ad hoc committees that evaluated Agah, and other fictitiously named parties, alleging theft of electronic computer data and her research logbook and intentional and malicious interference with her contractual relationship with USA and seeking recovery of chattels in specie for the electronic data and her research logbook. On March 21, 2013, Agah amended her complaint adding USA
and others as defendants and adding various claims. The only claim in her amended complaint that specifically named USA as a defendant "[sought] a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and monetary damages against USA for the breach by USA of [her] tenure track employment contract with USA." As a state school, USA argued it was immune from civil actions and petitions the Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to dismiss it from Agah's suit. Additionally, Amber Bartlett, a student who worked under Agah's supervision in USA's research laboratory and a defendant in the same underlying action, petitioned for a writ of mandamus to direct the trial court to issue an order quashing the subpoena issued to Alabama Psychiatric Services, P.C. ("APS"), ordering production of her mental-health records. The Court granted the petitions and issued the writs. USA and Bartlett have established that they had a clear, legal right to the relief they have requested. USA was entitled to absolute sovereign immunity from Agah's civil action, and the trial court was directed to enter a judgment of dismissal for USA. Bartlett was entitled to confidentiality of
her mental-health records, and the trial court was directed to enter an order quashing Agah's subpoena for Bartlett's mental-health records from APS.