State and Local Legal Blog

Mississippi Tort Claims Act — governmental misconduct

February 25, 2013
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The case of Tawanda Sandifer is a tragic story of a disturbed young woman who clearly was not getting the support she may have needed from her home, her school, her friends and family, and the government officials who are charged with her protection.

There are many lessons to be learned by Tawanda’s tragic death in 2006, but one of them has to do with liability for governments for behavior of their employees.

Lesson One:  Governmental immunity is waived for employee misconduct only if an employee is acting within the course and scope of his employment.  City of Jackson v. Powell, 917 So. 2d 59, 73 (Miss 2005).

Lesson Two:  An employee shall not be considered as acting within the course and scope of his employment and a governmental entity shall not be liable or be considered to have waived immunity for any conduct of its employees if the employee’s conduct constitutes…any criminal offense.  Miss. Code Ann. Section 11-46-7 (2).

Lesson Three:  Policemen who commit criminal activities with juveniles while they are not acting “within the course and scope of their employment when the alleged misconduct occurred” and were not “acting in furtherance of their employers’ business” do not subject their employer to any tort.

Lesson Four:  An employee’s personal unsanctioned recreational endeavors are beyond the course and scope of employment.  Cockrell v. Pearl River Valley Water Supply Dist., 856 So.2d 357, 362 (2004).

Lesson Five:  Do not depend on a governmental body to seriously investigate misconduct.  City of Jackson v. Powell, at 74.  “There is no doubt that the choice to employ and the manner of supervision of police officers does affect public policy, and the make-up of the police force interently affects the social policy of a city.  The manner in which a police department supervises, disciplines and regulates its police officers is a discretionary function of the government and thus the city is immune to suit under Section 11-46-9 (1) (d).

Oh woe are we!

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