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McGehee v. Depoyster

March 12, 1998

MCGEHEE
v.
DEPOYSTER



Before Pittman, P.j., McRAE And Roberts, JJ.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: McRAE, Justice

Torts, McRae, J., for the Court.

CAROLYN McGEHEE v. ROBERT DEPOYSTER, INDIVIDUALLY, AND IN HIS OFFICIAL CAPACITY AS SUPERINTENDENT OF RICHTON SCHOOL DISTRICT

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 9/17/96

DISPOSITION REVERSED AND REMANDED - 03/12/98

CONSOLIDATED WITH

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 9/04/96

TRIAL JUDGE: HON. RICHARD WAYNE McKENZIE

COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PERRY COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT

NATURE OF THE CASE: CIVIL - TORTS (OTHER THAN PERSONAL INJURY AND PROPERTY DAMAGE)

¶1. This appeal arises from a series of orders entered by the Circuit Court of Perry County in September, 1996 in a defamation action brought by the Principal of the Richton Elementary School against the Superintendent of the Richton School District, both individually and in his official capacity. In both her interlocutory appeal and her direct appeal, McGehee raises the issues of whether, pursuant to Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-11 *fn1, she was required to provide DePoyster with notice of the state law claims against him in his individual capacity as well as of charges she brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. In her direct appeal, McGehee further asserts that the circuit court erred in granting DePoyster's motion to dismiss on the basis of her failure to provide him with statutory notice. Finding that the notice provisions of Miss. Code Ann. § 11-46-1(1) are not applicable to a government employee sued in his individual capacity for actions not within his scope of employment or to actions brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, we reverse the circuit court's order of dismissal and remand for further proceedings.

I.

¶2. Front page headlines in the Hattiesburg American proclaimed that sparks were flying in the small town of Richton, Mississippi when Richton School District Superindent, Dr. Robert DePoyster, raised allegations that Richton Elementary School Principal, Carolyn McGehee, used "questionable disciplinary techniques" with the youngsters. DePoyster allegedly told television station WDAM that McGehee had violated school policy and made a mistake in judgment in allegedly locking Deborah Lott's five-year old son in a storage shed for detention. It further was alleged in the press that McGehee had washed another child's mouth out with soap after he swore and suspended an eleven-year-old child for fighting, after which she took him home, where he had stayed alone on the porch for four hours until his parents returned. The incidents apparently were investigated by the Department of Human Services.

ΒΆ3. McGehee filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Perry County on March 31, 1995 against DePoyster, individually and in his official capacity as Superintendent of the Richton School District, as well as against Deborah Lott and Charles "Eddie-Boy" Woodward. She alleged that the three published false statements, defaming her and injuring her reputation, via the Hattiesburg American and WDAM television station, as well as to other third parties. She also raised allegations of civil conspiracy to defame, libel and slander, false light invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Further, McGehee charged DePoyster, individually and in his official capacity, ...


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