- School Board Employees Immune from Damages But Not From Suit or Liability
- August 29, 2012 | Author: Andrew G. Scott
- Law Firm: Pessin Katz Law, P.A. - Towson Office
In the recent case of Board of Education of Prince George’s County v. Marks-Sloan, Maryland’s high court held that Section 5-518 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Annotated Code provides board employees immunity from damages arising from tort claims, but does not provide the employees immunity from suit or liability. In so holding, the Court rejected the argument that Section 5-518 acts as an absolute immunity provision which precludes the initiation of any tort action against board employees. Instead, the Court held that such actions may be brought against board employees and that judgments may be entered against board employees, but the collection of such judgments may only be against county boards of education. To this end the Court emphasized that Section 5-518 requires that county boards be joined as a party when such actions are brought against board employees. The Court explained, “[a] judgment may then be entered against both the employee and the county board of education, but the judgment may be levied and executed against the county board of education only.”
The case involved Stephanie Marks-Sloan and Norman Iglehart, both employees of Prince George’s County Public Schools. Ms. Marks-Sloan, while acting in the course and scope of her employment, was driving a motorcycle on an access road from a school bus lot in Prince George’s County. At the same time, Mr. Iglehart, also acting in the course and scope of his employment, was driving a school bus in the opposite direction. Due to Mr. Iglehart’s negligent operation of the bus, Ms. Marks-Sloan was forced off the road and suffered injuries.
Of further significance in the case, the Court also held that county boards’ statutory obligation to indemnify board employees under Section 5-518 does not violate the exclusivity rule of the Workers’ Compensation Act codified at Md. Code Ann., Lab. & Empl. § 9-101 et seq. Thus, although the exclusivity rule prohibits a board employee from initiating a tort claim against a county board directly if he has received an award from the Workers’ Compensation Commission, the employee may nevertheless sue his co-employee notwithstanding the fact that the county board is statutorily obligated to indemnify the board employee under Section 5-518. In order to avoid double recovery, however, county boards of education are entitled to offset the amount of workers’ compensation paid or awarded to the employee from the amount of the tort judgment.