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STATE OF MISSISSIPPI FOR THE USE AND BENEFIT OF NELDA M. BRAZEALE, AND NELDA M. BRAZEALE, INDIVIDUALLY v. RICHARD A. LEWIS

NOVEMBER 12, 1986

STATE OF MISSISSIPPI FOR THE USE AND BENEFIT OF NELDA M. BRAZEALE, AND NELDA M. BRAZEALE, INDIVIDUALLY
v.
RICHARD A. LEWIS, INDIVIDUALLY, AND UNITED STATES FIDELITY AND GUARANTY CO.



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, P.J., ANDERSON AND GRIFFIN, JJ.

GRIFFIN, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

I.

Plaintiffs, Nelda M. Brazeale, individually, and the State of Mississippi for the Use and Benefit of Nelda M. Brazeale, filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, alleging negligent maintenance and repair of a county road by defendants Richard A. Lewis, individually, and U.S.F.&G. Co., his surety, for injuries and damages Brazeale alleges were proximately caused by an accident which occurred on July 18, 1983, due to the condition of said road. Defendants filed a motion to dismiss which the lower court granted. For the reasons stated herein, we affirm the lower court's ruling.

 II.

 Nelda M. Brazeale was involved in an accident while

 driving along New Light Road in Oktibbeha County, Mississippi, when she apparently lost control of her car and ran off the road after coming across various obstructions in her path. Plaintiff's amended complaint did, in fact, allege her injuries and damages were the result of numerous holes, indentations, and rough spots along the road which culminated in creating a hazardous condition and which resulted in the complained of accident.

 In her complaint, Brazeale charged negligence on the part of Richard A. Lewis, a member of the Board of Supervisors of Oktibbeha County, and with whom authority for supervision of the road in question lay. Brazeale's complaint conclusively delegated to Lewis the primary legal responsibility for preparing and maintaining that portion of the county road system within his district.

 Pursuant to M.R.C.P. Rules 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6), defendants filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, and further that the court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter which forms the basis of plaintiff's claim. The trial court granted the motion and plaintiffs appeal.

 III.

 A.

 The central core of the dispute between the parties to this action involves a topic of particular interest to our judicial system but which, oddly enough, has seen precious little litigation in the State of Mississippi despite the somewhat controversial nature of its existence. We are asked today to determine the rights of an individual - a private citizen as it were - to file suit against a county officer, whose act of negligence, she alleges, serves as the proximate cause of her injuries suffered and damages incurred. In short, we are asked to ascertain once again the position and impact the doctrine of sovereign immunity holds within this state and its political subdivisions for torts committed, as well as the liability for the torts of its employees.

 As a side issue, we are presented with the question of the liability of Lewis's surety, U.S.F.&G. Co., should we find negligence on the part of Lewis, principal in the action.

 B.

 The distinction between discretionary and ministerial acts by a government employee is directly correlated to what immunity he will enjoy in the event he has been negligent in his actions or in failing to act. The basis for extending sovereign immunity to government officials lies in the inherent need to promote efficient and timely decision-making without lying in fear of liability for miscalculation or error in those actions. The immunity ...


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