Two Kinds of Immunity

There is immunity from SUIT; and then there is immunity from LIABILITY.  These are different things.

If you go to the Immunity Store to buy some immunity, (not available at Amazon or Walmart) you should ask for the immunity from SUIT. It’s probably more expensive, but it’s better.  Immunity from SUIT means they are not supposed to sue you, and if they do, the case will be promptly tossed out.  The court has no jurisdiction over the case, and the only thing it can do is dismiss it.

Immunity from LIABILITY means they can sue you, and you will have to go through all of the preliminary wrangling before the court decides that you have immunity from LIABILITY.  Then the case will be tossed out, but you will have spent some sleepless nights and probably a few thousand bucks.

Teachers who are acting within the scope of their employment are immune from LIABILITY most of the time. Thus when teachers are sued over accidents that happen in the classroom, the court will usually dismiss the case after the teacher’s lawyer has convinced the court that the teacher is entitled to immunity from LIABILITY.

This came up in a case involving an alleged injury to a student in Blum ISD. The plaintiff did not sue the district, but he sued two district employees.  The lawyer for the district employees filed a Plea to the Jurisdiction, arguing that the employees of the district were immune from SUIT, and thus the court lacked jurisdiction. The court said no—the district employees might be immune from LIABILITY, but not from SUIT. The court had jurisdiction.  The case continues.

There is a concurring opinion in this case that points out that the plaintiff claims that the injury occurred in the summer, and had nothing to do with the school or the status of the defendants as BISD employees.  So we shall see what happens as this case proceeds.  In the meantime, it provides a good lesson for school lawyers and all those lawyer wannabes out there.

The case is McPherson v. Wylie, decided by the Court of Appeals for Waco on December 14, 2016. We found it at 2017 WL 7325461.


 File this one under:  LIABILITY

Tomorrow: don’t get too cheeky with your Master’s thesis….