Kentucky Appellate Court holds that foreman with duty of road maintenance was not entitled to qualified immunity

by Mandy Hicks

The term “qualified immunity” refers to a doctrine under which an allegedly negligent public official is shielded from liability when sued in his or her individual capacity for discretionary acts that were performed in good faith and within the official’s scope of employment.

Recently, a Kentucky appellate court was called upon to review a claim of qualified immunity as it pertained to a personal injury lawsuit brought by two people injured in a school bus wreck that allegedly happened due to the failure of certain government officials to respond to public complaints about the condition of a road in Leslie County, Kentucky.

Facts of the Case

In the recent unreported case of Sizemore v. Maggard, the plaintiffs were a bus driver, a bus monitor, and an insurance trust who filed suit against the defendants, who were a county judge executive, a road foreman, and a magistrate, claiming that the defendants were negligent in the maintenance of a certain road on which a school bus accident occurred that injured the driver and monitor. According to the plaintiffs, the defendants had received numerous complaints about the road but had failed to act. The plaintiffs claimed that a large pothole in the road had caused a school bus to flip down into a ravine and injure the driver and monitor.

The defendants argued that their conduct pertaining to the road had been in the nature of discretionary acts performed in good faith, thus entitling them to qualified immunity. The trial court denied the defendants’ motions for summary judgment, and they appealed.

The Kentucky Court of Appeals Decision

The court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded the case to the lower court for further proceedings. According to the court, the trial judge should have granted summary judgment to the magistrate because he had no duty with respect to the maintenance or repair of the road in question, and the case should have been dismissed with respect to him. As to the county judge executive, his duty was discretionary, but more evidence was necessary in order to determine whether he acted in good faith in discharging his duty. The court found that the road foreman had a ministerial – not discretionary – duty to oversee the maintenance of the roads in Leslie County and that he was therefore not entitled to qualified immunity.

To Speak to an Experienced Kentucky Accident Attorney

If you or a member of your family has been hurt by the negligent conduct of a person, business, or governmental entity, you should speak to an attorney who can advise you of your legal right to file suit against the responsible party in a court of law. The experienced motor vehicle accident attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley will be happy to schedule a free consultation at your convenience. Call (270) 781-6500 to set up your appointment. No money is required upfront, and most injury cases are accepted on a contingency fee basis so that you don’t have to pay legal fees unless your case is successfully resolved. Our offices are located in Bowling Green. Our team of knowledgeable injury attorneys serves clients in both Kentucky and Tennessee, including Gallatin, Hendersonville, Scottsville, Glasgow, Russellville, and Brownsville.

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