GOVERNMENT IMMUNITY – Gov’t vs. proprietar function re housing provided to mainentance person working for school board: Breathitt County Board of Education v. Dot Prater (SC 8/27/2009)

Breathitt County Board of Education v. Dot Prater
2008-SC-000041-DG August 27, 2009
Opinion by Justice Abramson; all sitting.

As part of her compensation for providing security and maintenance services at an elementary school, the school board allowed an employee to live in a house located on school grounds. Prater was visiting the employee at the house when she suffered a permanent injury. Prater sued the school board, alleging negligence in the maintenance of the house. The board moved for dismissal, claiming it was absolutely immune from damage claims brought in court. The trial court denied the motion on the grounds that the board’s maintenance of the house served a proprietary function rather than a governmental function.

The Supreme Court noted that denials of motions to dismiss are typically not final and thus not subject to appellate review. However, since immunity is meant to shield its possessor not just from liability, but from the costs and burdens of litigation as well, a denial of immunity is subject to interlocutory appeal. The Court also concluded that the board’s furnishing of a residence was a governmental function because it furthered the board’s educational mission and was thus within the scope of governmental immunity.

Justice Venters dissented, taking the position that “maintaining the personal, private house for the use of a school maintenance worker and her social guests has nothing to do with the school district’s educational mission.”

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