1997 Regular Session
By: Senator(s) Robertson
Senate Bill 2565
AN ACT TO AMEND SECTION 11-46-1, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO REVISE AND ADD DEFINITIONS TO THE TORT CLAIMS ACT; TO AMEND SECTION 11-46-9, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ADD AN EXEMPTION OF GOVERNMENTAL LIABILITY; TO AMEND SECTION 11-46-11, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO CLARIFY THAT STRICT COMPLIANCE WITH THE NOTICE REQUIREMENTS IS NECESSARY TO PROCEED UNDER THE ACT AND TO CLARIFY THE TOLLING OF THE STATUTE DURING THE NOTICE PERIOD; TO AMEND SECTION 11-46-15, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO AUTHORIZE PERIODIC PAYMENT OF JUDGMENTS UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES; TO AMEND SECTION 11-46-17, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO ALLOW POLITICAL SUBDIVISIONS TO PARTICIPATE IN A PLAN OF INSURANCE OR SELF-INSURANCE ON THE SAME BASIS AS OTHER GOVERNMENTAL ENTITIES UNDER CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES; TO AMEND SECTION 11-46-19, MISSISSIPPI CODE OF 1972, TO PROVIDE THAT CONTRACTS WITH ATTORNEYS HIRED TO REPRESENT A GOVERNMENTAL ENTITY OTHER THAN A POLITICAL SUBDIVISION SHALL BE EXEMPT FROM REVIEW BY THE PERSONNEL BOARD AND TO CLARIFY THE BOARD'S AUTHORITY TO WITHHOLD ISSUANCE OF WARRANTS PAYABLE FROM FUNDS OF OR TO THE CREDIT OF A PARTICIPATING GOVERNMENTAL ENTITY; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. Section 11-46-1, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-46-1. As used in this chapter the following terms shall have the meanings herein ascribed unless the context otherwise requires:
(a) "Claim" means any demand to recover damages from a governmental entity as compensation for injuries.
(b) "Claimant" means any person seeking compensation under the provisions of this chapter, whether by administrative remedy or through the courts.
(c) "Board" means the Mississippi Tort Claims Board.
(d) "Department" means the Department of Finance and Administration.
(e) "Director" means the executive director of the department who is also the executive director of the board.
(f) "Employee" means any officer, employee or servant of the State of Mississippi or a political subdivision of the state, including interns, residents and fellows at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and all other physicians employed by the state or a political subdivision, elected or appointed officials and persons acting on behalf of the state or a political subdivision in any official capacity, temporarily or permanently, in the service of the state or a political subdivision whether with or without compensation. The term "employee" shall not mean a person or other legal entity while acting in the capacity of an independent contractor under contract to the state or a political subdivision; provided, however, that for purposes of the limits of liability provided for in Section 11-46-15, the term "employee" shall include physicians under contract to provide health services with the State Board of Health, the State Board of Mental Health or any county or municipal jail facility while rendering services under such contract.
(g) "Governmental entity" means and includes the state and political subdivisions as herein defined.
(h) "Injury" means death, injury to a person, damage to or loss of property or any other injury that a person may suffer that is actionable at law or in equity.
(i) "Political subdivision" means any body politic or body corporate other than the state responsible for governmental activities only in geographic areas smaller than that of the state, including, but not limited to, any county, municipality, school district, community hospital as defined in Section 41-13-10, Mississippi Code of 1972, airport authority or other instrumentality thereof, whether or not such body or instrumentality thereof has the authority to levy taxes or to sue or be sued in its own name.
(j) "State" means the State of Mississippi and any office, department, agency, division, bureau, commission, board, institution, hospital, college, university, airport authority or other instrumentality thereof, whether or not such body or instrumentality thereof has the authority to levy taxes or to sue or be sued in its own name.
(k) "Law" means all species of law including but not limited to any and all constitutions, statutes, case law, common law, customary law, court order, court rule, court decision, court opinion, court judgment or mandate, administrative rule or regulation, executive order, or principle or rule of equity.
(l) "Occurrence" means an unfolding sequence of events proximately flowing from a single act of negligence.
(m) "Solid wastes" has the same meaning as that found in Section 41-13-10, Mississippi Code of 1972.
(n) "Hazardous substances" has the same meaning as that found in Section 101(4) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980, 42 USC 9601(14).
SECTION 2. Section 11-46-9, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-46-9. (1) A governmental entity and its employees acting within the course and scope of their employment or duties shall not be liable for any claim:
(a) Arising out of a legislative or judicial action or inaction, or administrative action or inaction of a legislative or judicial nature;
(b) Arising out of any act or omission of an employee of a governmental entity exercising ordinary care in reliance upon, or in the execution or performance of, or in the failure to execute or perform, a statute, ordinance or regulation, whether or not the statute, ordinance or regulation be valid;
(c) Arising out of any act or omission of an employee of a governmental entity engaged in the performance or execution of duties or activities relating to police or fire protection unless the employee acted in reckless disregard of the safety and well-being of any person not engaged in criminal activity at the time of injury;
(d) Based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a governmental entity or employee thereof, whether or not the discretion be abused;
(e) Arising out of an injury caused by adopting or failing to adopt a statute, ordinance or regulation;
(f) Which is limited or barred by the provisions of any other law;
(g) Arising out of the exercise of discretion in determining whether or not to seek or provide the resources necessary for the purchase of equipment, the construction or maintenance of facilities, the hiring of personnel and, in general, the provision of adequate governmental services;
(h) Arising out of the issuance, denial, suspension or revocation of, or the failure or refusal to issue, deny, suspend or revoke any privilege, ticket, pass, permit, license, certificate, approval, order or similar authorization where the governmental entity or its employee is authorized by law to determine whether or not such authorization should be issued, denied, suspended or revoked unless such issuance, denial, suspension or revocation, or failure or refusal thereof, is of a malicious or arbitrary and capricious nature;
(i) Arising out of the assessment or collection of any tax or fee;
(j) Arising out of the detention of any goods or merchandise by any law enforcement officer, unless such detention is of a malicious or arbitrary and capricious nature;
(k) Arising out of the imposition or establishment of a quarantine, whether such quarantine relates to persons or property;
(l) Of any claimant who is an employee of a governmental entity and whose injury is covered by the Workers' Compensation Law of this state by benefits furnished by the governmental entity by which he is employed;
(m) Of any claimant who at the time the claim arises is an inmate of any detention center, jail, workhouse, penal farm, penitentiary or other such institution, regardless of whether such claimant is or is not an inmate of any detention center, jail, workhouse, penal farm, penitentiary or other such institution when the claim is filed;
(n) Arising out of any work performed by a person convicted of a crime when the work is performed pursuant to any sentence or order of any court or pursuant to laws of the State of Mississippi authorizing or requiring such work;
(o) Under circumstances where liability has been or is hereafter assumed by the United States, to the extent of such assumption of liability, including, but not limited to, any claim based on activities of the Mississippi National Guard when such claim is cognizable under the National Guard Tort Claims Act of the United States, 32 USC 715 (32 USCS 715), or when such claim accrues as a result of active federal service or state service at the call of the Governor for quelling riots and civil disturbances;
(p) Arising out of a plan or design for construction or improvements to public property, including, but not limited to, public buildings, highways, roads, streets, bridges, levees, dikes, dams, impoundments, drainage channels, diversion channels, harbors, ports, wharfs or docks, where such plan or design has been approved in advance of the construction or improvement by the legislative body or governing authority of a governmental entity or by some other body or administrative agency, exercising discretion by authority to give such approval, and where such plan or design is in conformity with engineering or design standards in effect at the time of preparation of the plan or design;
(q) Arising out of an injury caused solely by the effect of weather conditions on the use of streets and highways;
(r) Arising out of the lack of adequate personnel or facilities at a state hospital or state corrections facility if reasonable use of available appropriations has been made to provide such personnel or facilities;
(s) Arising out of loss, damage or destruction of property of a patient or inmate of a state institution;
(t) Arising out of any loss of benefits or compensation due under a program of public assistance or public welfare;
(u) Arising out of or resulting from riots, unlawful assemblies, unlawful public demonstrations, mob violence or civil disturbances;
(v) Arising out of an injury caused by a dangerous condition on property of the governmental entity that was not caused by the negligent or other wrongful conduct of an employee of the governmental entity or of which the governmental entity did not have notice, either actual or constructive, and adequate opportunity to protect or warn against; provided, however, that a governmental entity shall not be liable for the failure to warn of a dangerous condition which is obvious to one exercising due care; * * *
(w) Arising out of the absence, condition, malfunction or removal by third parties of any sign, signal, warning device, illumination device, guardrail or median barrier, unless the absence, condition, malfunction or removal is not corrected by the governmental entity responsible for its maintenance within a reasonable time after actual or constructive notice; or
(x) Arising out of the discharge, seepage, migration, dispersal, release or escape of smoke, vapors, soot, fumes, acids, alkalis, toxic chemicals, liquids, gases, waste materials or other irritants, contaminants or pollutants into or upon land, the atmosphere, any water course or any body of water, or arising out of testing for, monitoring, cleaning up, removing, containing, treating, detoxifying, neutralizing, responding to or assessing the effects of such irritants, contaminants or pollutants; provided, however, that this provision shall not limit the authority of the Department of Environmental Quality concerning governmental entities.
(2) A governmental entity shall also not be liable for any claim where the governmental entity:
(a) Is inactive and dormant;
(b) Receives no revenue;
(c) Has no employees; and
(d) Owns no property.
(3) If a governmental entity exempt from liability by subsection (2) becomes active, receives income, hires employees or acquires any property, such governmental entity shall no longer be exempt from liability as provided in subsection (2) and shall be subject to the provisions of this chapter.
SECTION 3. Section 11-46-11, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-46-11. (1) After all procedures within a governmental entity have been exhausted, any person having a claim for injury arising under the provisions of this chapter against a governmental entity or its employee shall proceed as he might in any action at law or in equity; provided, however, that ninety (90) days prior to maintaining an action thereon, such person shall file a notice of claim with the chief executive officer of the governmental entity, and, if the governmental entity is participating in a plan administered by the board pursuant to Section 11-46-7(3), such chief executive officer shall notify the board of any claims filed within five (5) days after the receipt thereof.
(2) The notice of claim required by subsection (1) of this section shall be in writing, delivered in person or by registered or certified United States mail. Every notice of claim shall contain a short and plain statement of the facts upon which the claim is based, including the circumstances which brought about the injury, the extent of the injury, the time and place the injury occurred, the names of all persons known to be involved, the amount of money damages sought and the residence of the person making the claim at the time of the injury and at the time of filing the notice. The notice of claim shall be filed separately from and prior to the filing of any action under this chapter. Strict compliance by the claimant with the notice of claim requirements of this section shall be jurisdictional and a condition precedent to instituting legal action for recovery under this chapter. Failure by the claimant to comply strictly with such notice of claim requirements shall be a valid and complete defense by the governmental entity and its employees in any action under this chapter. The notice of claim requirements are required herein to afford the governmental entity or employee concerned adequate time to:
(a) Investigate the claim properly;
(b) Determine liability;
(c) Correct any dangerous or defective conditions;
(d) Make early settlement of meritorious claims;
(e) Prepare a defense;
(f) Locate witnesses and other evidence while still available;
(g) Budget for potential fiscal liabilities; and
(h) Avoid the expense of needless litigation.
(3) All actions brought under the provisions of this chapter shall be commenced within one (1) year next after the date of the tortious, wrongful or otherwise actionable conduct on which the liability phase of the action is based, and not after; provided, however, that the filing of a notice of claim as required by subsection (1) of this section shall serve to toll the statute of limitations for a period of ninety-five (95) days from the date the chief executive officer of the governmental entity receives the notice of claim. The limitations period provided herein shall control and shall be exclusive in all actions subject to and brought under the provisions of this chapter, notwithstanding the nature of the claim, the label or other characterization the claimant may use to describe it, or the provisions of any other statute of limitations or savings statute which would otherwise govern the type of claim or legal theory if it were not subject to or brought under the provisions of this chapter.
SECTION 4. Section 11-46-15, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-46-15. (1) In any claim or suit for damages against a governmental entity or its employee brought under the provisions of this chapter, the liability shall not exceed the following for all claims arising out of a single occurrence for all damages permitted under this chapter:
(a) For claims or causes of action arising from acts or omissions occurring on or after July 1, 1993, but before July 1, 1997, the sum of Fifty Thousand Dollars ($50,000.00);
(b) For claims or causes of action arising from acts or omissions occurring on or after July 1, 1997, but before July 1, 2001, the sum of Two Hundred Fifty Thousand Dollars ($250,000.00);
(c) For claims or causes of action arising from acts or omissions occurring on or after July 1, 2001, the sum of Five Hundred Thousand Dollars ($500,000.00).
(2) No judgment against a governmental entity or its employee for any act or omission for which immunity is waived under this chapter shall include an award for exemplary or punitive damages or for interest prior to judgment, or an award of attorney's fees unless attorney's fees are specifically authorized by law.
(3) Except as otherwise provided in Section 11-46-17(4), in any suit brought under the provisions of this chapter, if the verdict which is returned, when added to costs and any attorney's fees authorized by law, would exceed the maximum dollar amount of liability provided in subsection (1) of this section, the court shall reduce the verdict accordingly and enter judgment in an amount not to exceed the maximum dollar amount of liability provided in subsection (1) of this section.
(4)(a) Upon motion of a political subdivision against which final judgment has been rendered for a claim within the scope of this chapter, the court, in accordance with paragraph (b) of this subsection, may include in such judgment a requirement that the judgment be paid in whole or in part by periodic payments. Periodic payments may be ordered paid over a period of time not exceeding ten (10) years. Any judgment ordering any such payments shall specify the total amount awarded, the amount of each payment, the interval between payments and the number of payments to be paid under the judgment. Judgments paid pursuant to this subsection shall bear interest accruing from the date final judgment is entered at the interest rate as specified in accordance with Section 75-17-7. For good cause shown, the court may modify such judgment with respect to the amount of such payments and the number of payments, but the total amount of damages awarded by such judgment shall not be subject to modification in any event and periodic payments shall not be ordered paid over a period in excess of ten (10) years.
(b) A court may order periodic payment only upon finding that:
(i) Payment of the judgment is not totally covered by insurance; and
(ii) Funds for the current budget year and other funds of the political subdivision which lawfully may be utilized to pay judgments are insufficient to finance both the adopted budget of expenditures for the year and the payment of that portion of the judgment not covered by insurance.
SECTION 5. Section 11-46-17, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-46-17. (1) There is hereby created in the State Treasury a special fund to be known as the "Tort Claims Fund."
All such monies as the Department of Finance and Administration shall receive and collect under the provisions of subsection (2) of this section and all such funds as the Legislature may appropriate for use by the board in administering the provisions of this chapter shall be deposited in such fund. All monies in the fund may be expended by the board for any and all purposes for which the board is authorized to expend funds under the provisions of this chapter. All interest earned from the investment of monies in the fund shall be credited to the fund. Monies remaining in such fund at the end of a fiscal year shall not lapse into the State General Fund.
(2) From and after July 1, 1993, each governmental entity other than political subdivisions shall participate in a comprehensive plan of self-insurance and/or one or more policies of liability insurance administered by the Department of Finance and Administration. Such plan shall provide coverage to each of such governmental entities for every risk for which the board determines the respective governmental entities to be liable in the event of a claim or suit for injuries under the provisions of this chapter, including claims or suits for injuries from the use or operation of motor vehicles; provided, however, that the board may allow such plan to contain any reasonable limitations or exclusions not contrary to Mississippi state statutes or case law as are normally included in commercial liability insurance policies generally available to governmental entities. In addition to the coverage authorized in the preceding sentence, the plan may provide coverage for liabilities outside the provisions of this chapter, including, but not limited to, liabilities arising from Sections 1983 through 1987 of Title 42 of the United States Code and liabilities from actions brought in foreign jurisdictions, and the board shall establish limits of coverage for such liabilities. Each governmental entity participating in the plan shall make payments to the board in such amounts, times and manner determined by the board as the board deems necessary to provide sufficient funds to be available for payment by the board of such costs as it incurs in providing coverage for the governmental entity. Each governmental entity of the state other than the political subdivisions thereof participating in the plan procured by the board shall be issued by the board a certificate of coverage whose form and content shall be determined by the board but which shall have the effect of certifying that in the opinion of the board each of such governmental entities is adequately insured.
Prior to July 1, 1993, the Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning may provide such liability coverage for each university, department, trustee, employee, volunteer, facility and activity as the board of trustees, in its discretion, shall determine advisable. If liability coverage, either through insurance policies or self-insurance retention is in effect, immunity from suit shall be waived only to the limit of liability established by such insurance or self-insurance program.
From and after July 1, 1993, such liability coverage established by the board of trustees must conform to the provisions of this section and must receive approval from the board. Should the board reject such plan, the board of trustees shall participate in the liability program for state agencies established by the board.
(3) All political subdivisions shall, from and after October 1, 1993, obtain such policy or policies of insurance, establish such self-insurance reserves, or provide a combination of such insurance and reserves as necessary to cover all risks of claims and suits for which political subdivisions may be liable under this chapter; provided, however, that such policy or policies of insurance or such self-insurance may contain any reasonable limitations or exclusions not contrary to Mississippi state statutes or case law as are normally included in commercial liability insurance policies generally available to political subdivisions. All such plans of insurance and/or reserves shall be submitted for approval to the board. The board shall issue a certificate of coverage to each political subdivision whose plan of insurance and/or reserves it approves in the same manner as provided in subsection (2) of this section. Whenever any political subdivision fails to obtain the board's approval of any plan of insurance and/or reserves, the political subdivision shall act in accordance with the rules and regulations of the board and obtain a satisfactory plan of insurance and/or reserves to be approved by the board.
(4) Any governmental entity of the state may purchase liability insurance to cover claims in excess of the amounts provided for in Section 11-46-15 and may be sued by anyone in excess of the amounts provided for in Section 11-46-15 to the extent of such excess insurance carried; provided, however, that the immunity from suit above the amounts provided for in Section 11-46-15 shall be waived only to the extent of such excess liability insurance carried.
(5) Any two (2) or more political subdivisions are hereby authorized to enter into agreement and to contract between and among themselves for the purpose of pooling their liabilities as a group under this chapter. Such pooling agreements and contracts may provide for the purchase of one or more policies of liability insurance and/or the establishment of self-insurance reserves and shall be subject to approval by the board in the manner provided in subsections (2) and (3) of this section.
(6) The board shall have subrogation rights against a third party for amounts paid out of any plan of self-insurance administered by such board pursuant to this section in behalf of a governmental entity as a result of damages caused under circumstances creating a cause of action in favor of such governmental entity against a third party. The board shall deposit in the Tort Claims Fund all monies received in connection with the settlement or payment of any claim, including proceeds from the sale of salvage.
(7) Any political subdivision may request permission from the board to cover any risk of claims or suits for which political subdivisions may be liable under this chapter by participating in the plan of self-insurance and/or policies of insurance or both authorized by subsection (2) of this section. The board, in its discretion, may grant such permission only after making a determination that the risk is commercially uninsurable or insurable only at a cost or subject to conditions that the board deems unreasonable. To make this determination, the board may require the political subdivision to submit such information as the board deems appropriate, and the board may also consult information from any other source. Each political subdivision granted permission to participate in the plan shall make payments to the board in such amounts, times and manner determined by the board as the board deems necessary to provide sufficient funds to be available for payment by the board of such costs as it incurs in providing coverage for the political subdivision for the risk or risks covered.
(8) The purchase of liability insurance by a governmental entity shall not waive or otherwise negate the provisions of Section 11-46-9 or of Section 11-46-11.
SECTION 6. Section 11-46-19, Mississippi Code of 1972, is amended as follows:
11-46-19. (1) The board shall have the following powers:
(a) To provide oversight over the Tort Claims Fund;
(b) To approve any award made from the Tort Claims Fund;
(c) To pay all necessary expenses attributable to the operation of the Tort Claims Fund from such fund;
(d) To assign litigated claims against governmental entities other than political subdivisions to competent attorneys unless such governmental entity has a staff attorney who is competent to represent the governmental entity and is approved by the board; the board shall give primary consideration to attorneys practicing in the jurisdiction where the claim arose in assigning cases; attorneys hired to represent a governmental entity other than a political subdivision shall be paid according to the department fee schedule, and contracts with such attorneys shall be exempt from review by the Personnel Board;
(e) To approve all claimants' attorney fees in claims against the state;
(f) To employ on a full-time basis a staff attorney who shall possess the minimum qualifications required to be a member of the Mississippi Bar, and such other staff as it may deem necessary to carry out the purposes of this chapter; the employees in the positions approved by the board shall be hired by the director, shall be employees of the department, and shall be compensated from the Tort Claims Fund;
(g) To contract with one or more reputable insurance consulting firms as may be necessary;
(h) To purchase any policies of liability insurance and to administer any plan of self-insurance or policies of liability insurance required for the protection of the state against claims and suits brought under this chapter;
(i) To expend money from the Tort Claims Fund for the purchase of any policies of liability insurance and the payment of any award or settlement of a claim against the state under the provisions of this chapter or of a claim against any school district, junior college or community college district, or state agency, arising from the operation of school buses or other vehicles, under the provisions of Section 37-41-42;
(j) To cancel, modify or replace any policy or policies of liability insurance procured by the board;
(k) To issue certificates of coverage to governmental entities, including any political subdivision participating in any plan of liability protection approved by the board;
(l) To review and approve or reject any plan of liability insurance or self-insurance reserves proposed or provided by political subdivisions if such plan is intended to serve as security for risks of claims and suits against them for which immunity has been waived under this chapter;
(m) To administer disposition of claims against the Tort Claims Fund;
(n) To withhold issuance of any warrants payable from funds of, or to the credit of, a participating governmental entity should such entity fail to make required contributions to the Tort Claims Fund in the time and manner prescribed by the board;
(o) To develop a comprehensive statewide list of attorneys who are qualified to represent the state and any employee thereof named as a defendant in a claim brought under this chapter against the state or such employee;
(p) To develop a schedule of fees for paying attorneys defending claims against the state or an employee thereof;
(q) To adopt and promulgate such reasonable rules and regulations and to do and perform all such acts as are necessary to carry out its powers and duties under this chapter;
(r) To establish and assess premiums to be paid by governmental entities required to participate in the Tort Claims Fund;
(s) To contract with a third-party administrator to process claims against the state under this chapter;
(t) To annually submit its budget request to the Legislature as a state agency; and
(u) To dispose of salvage obtained in settlement or payment of any claim at fair market value by such means and upon such terms as the board may think best.
(2) Policies of liability insurance purchased for the protection of governmental entities against claims and suits brought under this chapter shall be purchased pursuant to the competitive bidding procedures set forth in Section 31-7-13.
(3) The department shall have the following powers and duties:
(a) To annually report to the Legislature concerning each comprehensive plan of liability protection established pursuant to Section 11-46-17(2). Such report shall include a comprehensive analysis of the cost of the plan, a breakdown of the cost to participating state entities, and such other information as the department may deem necessary.
(b) To provide the board with any staff and meeting facilities as may be necessary to carry out the duties of the board as provided in this chapter.
(c) To submit the board's budget request for the initial year of operation of the board in order to authorize expenditures for the 1993-1994 fiscal year and for the appropriation of such general funds as shall be required for the commencement of its activities.
SECTION 7. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.