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ALMA JANE RICHARDSON v. RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND MICHAEL B. VINSON

FEBRUARY 22, 1989

ALMA JANE RICHARDSON
v.
RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT; AND MICHAEL B. VINSON, COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OF EDUCATION OF RANKIN COUNTY, MS; ELTON JAY, HENRY CANNON, SHIRLEY HALL, ANN STURDIVANT AND A. J. COMFORT, IN THEIR CAPACITY AS MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF RANKIN COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT, AND DARLENE COLLIER



BEFORE ROY NOBLE LEE, C.J., PRATHER AND ZUCCARO, JJ.

PRATHER, JUSTICE, FOR THE COURT:

This appeal revisits the doctrine of governmental

immunity abandoned by this Court in Pruett v. City of Rosedale, 421 So. 2d 1046 (Miss. 1986) and seeks total and final abandonment of such doctrine again by this Court. Plaintiff Alma Jane Richardson suffered personal injury in an accident between her vehicle and a Rankin County School bus driven by Darlene Collier. Richardson sued the Rankin County School District, and its School Superintendent Michael B. Vinson, and all members of its Board of Trustees in their official capacities, and the school bus driver. The Circuit Court of Rankin County granted a partial summary judgment in favor of the defendants, excepting Darlene Collier.

 Feeling aggrieved, Alma Jane Richardson brings this interlocutory appeal and assigns as error the following:

 That the Circuit Court of Rankin County, Mississippi, erred in entering its order granting Motion For Partial Summary Judgment.

 I.

 Richardson filed her complaint alleging that on May 1, 1986, she was injured as a result of a collision involving her automobile and a school bus owned by the Rankin County School District and being operated by its employee, Darlene Collier. Richardson bases her theory of liability upon the statutory liability of the Rankin County School District, et al, as provided under Miss. Code Ann. 37-41-37, et seq. (1986 Supp.) and upon the theory of negligence. Negligence was alleged against the School District in failing to properly train Collier and to insure that she operated the District's property in a safe, careful and lawful manner, as well as allowing Collier to continue to operate a school bus after having knowledge of Collier's prior involvement in traffic mishaps and near accidents while operating the District's bus. Negligence was alleged against Collier for driving at a greater rate of speed than warranted under the circumstances existing immediately prior to the accident, driving across the center of the road over into the traffic lane for approaching traffic, failing to have the bus under control, and failing to stop the bus. Richardson demanded judgment against all defendants, jointly and severally, in the amount of $550,000.

 On March 31, 1987, all of the defendants filed their answer setting forth their defenses, including the defense that the defendants are immune from liability under the theory of sovereign or governmental immunity and denying all material allegations of the complaint and denying that Richardson is entitled to recover any sums whatsoever.

 All defendants, excluding Darlene Collier, filed their Motion For Partial Summary Judgment on March 31, 1987. The motion alleged that the Rankin County School District, including its Superintendent and Board of Trustees, as political subdivisions of the State of Mississippi, as a matter of law, is immune from liability for damages, if any, excluding that provided under Miss. Code Ann. 37-41-37 et seq., (1986 Supp.).

 On May 11, 1987, the Order of the Circuit Court of Rankin County, Mississippi, granting Motion For Partial Summary Judgment was entered. The circuit court found that the extent of liability of the Rankin County School District for damages is controlled by the case of Pruett v. City of Rosedale, 421 So. 2d 1046 (Miss. 1982), by the provisions of 37-41-37, et seq., Miss. Code Ann. (1986 Supp.), and by 4 of Chapter 495, Laws of 1984, as amended by 12, Chapter 474, Laws of 1985, as amended by 6 of Chapter 438 of the general laws of the State of Mississippi, 1986.

 The circuit court found that the Mississippi Supreme Court in Pruett did not find the theory of governmental immunity to be unconstitutional but rather found the control and policing of sovereign or governmental immunity to be a responsibility of the legislature and not of the judiciary. The circuit court further found that the legislature has expressed its clear intention to retain the doctrine of sovereign immunity as the same existed prior to the decision in the case of Pruett.

 The circuit court thereupon found that the movants were entitled to immunity from suit except under statutory law. The circuit court found that the movants were not immune from liability, if any, or for damages, if any, to the extent provided under the provisions of Miss. Code Ann. 37-41-37, et seq. (1986 Supp.), and that the maximum amount of damages to which the plaintiff may be entitled is the amount of $10,000.00 for personal injury or damages and $1,000.00 for property damage, if proven by plaintiff upon a trial of the case. The circuit court entered Partial Summary Judgment in favor of all defendants, except for Collier, who remained unaffected by such order.

 II.

 The question of whether or not the doctrine of governmental or sovereign immunity should be totally abolished has come before this Court on a number of occasions. ...


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