Legal Memorandum: Exceptions to Immunity in TN

Issue: Does the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act allow immunity to employees being sued in their official capacity?

Area of Law: Government Claims, Personal Injury & Negligence
Keywords: Immune from liability; Independent negligence; Removal of immunity
Jurisdiction: Tennessee
Cited Cases: 919 F. Supp. 280; 963 S.W.2d 744
Cited Statutes: Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-205; Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-103 (Supp. 1999)
Date: 12/01/2000

Under the Act, Tennessee’s political subdivisions, as well as employees sued in their official capacity, are immune from liability for the exercise of their governmental functions.  Ketron v. Chattanooga-Hamilton County Hosp., 919 F. Supp. 280, 283 (E.D. Tenn. 1996).  The Act also protects governmental entities from vicarious liability for the intentional actions of governmental employees.  Roberts v. Blount Mem’l Hosp., 963 S.W.2d 744, 746 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1997). 

However, such entities are not immune from liability for their own independent negligence, id. at  746, and the statute removes immunity of governmental entities for an employee’s negligence, Tenn. Code Ann. § 29-20-205.  An allegation that the entity failed to adequately investigate an employee prior to hiring, or that it failed to train and supervise the employee, would be allowed under the Act.  Roberts, 963 S.W.2d at 748.  The Act allows suits against a governmental entity for failure to comply with existing legal requirements.  Doe v. Coffee County Bd. of Educ., 852 S.W.2d 899 (Tenn. Ct. App. 1993) (holding that the only act for which the defendants could be liable in light of the Act was the failure to report; because it was unlikely that the plaintiffs would be able to prove that the failure to report proximately caused their injuries, the court affirmed summary judgment dismissing the plaintiffs’ complaint).  The Act also allows suits against individuals who acted outside the scope of their authority.  Ketron, […]

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