Zinn v. TillAnnotate this Case
Jennie and Christopher Zinn appealed a circuit court's dismissal of their complaint against Ashley Till. In October 2017, the Zinns filed an adoption petition with the probate court concerning an unborn child. The child was born later that month, and the probate court subsequently entered an interlocutory adoption decree. In November 2017, the Zinns filed an amended adoption petition, listing the child's name and providing the consent of the child's mother and purported father to the child's adoption. On December 18, 2017, Till, an employee of the Alabama Department of Human Resources, submitted an acknowledgment letter to the probate court stating that there was no entry in the putative-father registry relating to the child. The next day, the probate court entered a final decree of adoption. On January 25, 2018, Till submitted a corrected acknowledgment letter to the probate court, identifying an individual who was, in fact, listed in the putative-father registry regarding the child and stating that incomplete information had previously been provided "due to oversight and neglect." The next day, the probate court vacated the final decree of adoption based on the corrected acknowledgment letter. In June 2019, the Zinns filed suit against Till alleging: (1) negligence; (2) wantonness; and (3) that the defendants had "acted willfully, maliciously, in bad faith, beyond their authority or under a mistaken interpretation of the law ...." The Zinns' complaint sought awards of compensatory and punitive damages. On appeal, the Zinns argue that the circuit court erred by dismissing their claims on immunity grounds. Till moved to dismiss count one of the Zinns' complaint based on State-agent immunity, and the circuit court cited State-agent immunity as an alternative ground for dismissing counts two and three of the complaint. Insofar as the circuit court's judgment dismissing each count of the complaint was based on the doctrine of State-agent immunity, the parties appeared to agree that the judgment should have been reversed regarding each count. The judgment was reversed and the case remanded for further proceedings.