Ex parte Richard Talbott et al.Annotate this Case
Before 2010, Azin Agah was employed at the University of South Alabama ("USA") as a professor engaged in scientific research. Agah's position was a tenure-track professorship. In early 2010, USA's vice president for Health Sciences, Ronald Franks, notified Agah that she would not be reappointed to her professorship because of alleged research misconduct. Agah sued Amber Bartlett and Julio Turrens. Bartlett was a student of Agah's, and she reported her concerns regarding Agah's research to Turrens, who was a professor and associate dean at USA. Agah sought compensatory and punitive damages against the defendants for the alleged theft and conversion of her computerized electronic-research data and the alleged theft and conversion of her animal-research logbook and intentional interference with a contractual property right arising out of the termination of her employment by USA. Agah also sued "R.T., W.B.D., R.F.," whose names were "known and unknown" and who, according to Agah, played a role in the theft of her research, "the defamation of the Plaintiff's character, and the intentional interference with the Plaintiff's property right of employment." After the lawsuit had been filed, and after a period of discovery, Agah gave names to the initials previously listed in her original complaint: Richard Talbott, William Brad Davis, and Ronald Franks. She would also add Dusty Layton and others who were involved in the review of Agah's research. The petitioners (Talbott, Ballard, and Layton) each filed a motion to dismiss. Each argued, among other things, that, with the exception of the conversion and detinue claim, Agah's remaining claims accrued in February 2010 when her employment was terminated, that Agah's amended complaint did not relate back to the original complaint, and that the remaining claims asserted in the amended complaint were time-barred. They also argued that they were entitled to immunity with respect to Agah's claims alleging tortious interference with contractual rights, tortious violations of her procedural and substantive due-process rights, and conversion and detinue, because, they argued, they were sued in their individual capacity and lacked the authority to grant Agah her requested injunctive relief. Following a hearing, the trial court denied all three motions. The Supreme Court reversed, finding that petitioners demonstrated a clear legal right to the dismissal of Agah's amended complaint against them. Agah's amended complaint did not relate back to her original complaint; thus, all of her claims against the petitioners, with the exclusion of her conversion and detinue claim, were barred by the statute of limitations. Furthermore, Agah's conversion and detinue claim against the petitioners in their individual capacities sought relief that the petitioners could not provide. Therefore, the trial court was directed to vacate its order denying the petitioners' motion seeking dismissal of the claims against them.