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Internet Explorer 11 is no longer supported. The present appeal comes to this Court by way of discretionary review from an action asserting negligence brought by Appellees, Orville Green, Catherine Green and Green's Motorcycle Salvage, Inc. At the outset, we note that the City of Caneyville was entitled to dismissal.
Because fire departments are thus immune from suit in tort, and are agents of the Commonwealth, albeit operating on a local basis, there can be no attendant municipality liability for CVFD's firefighting actions. Therefore, it is not within our authority to impose civil liability on an arm of the government carrying out such a government function.
This is also consistent with KRS In his individual capacity, Chief Clark is entitled to qualified official immunity for his discretionary acts. Accordingly, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals to the extent that it conflicts with these holdings and the rationale articulated herein.
Unquestionably, the prudent path between sovereign immunity and jural rights is a formidable legal quagmire to traverse. As a of my esteemed colleagues on the bench have observed through the years, immunity is an area fraught with complexities which have divided the courts and confounded jurists. However, the complexity in immunity analysis has much to do with the courts' genuine attempt, over time, to eliminate the guesswork from determining when immunity has been properly and constitutionally recognized.
Naturally, striking the appropriate balance has been no small task. At times during this endeavor, proponents and recipients of immunity have bumped against Kentucky's jural rights or open courts doctrine. While the doctrine is not without its critics, it is a deep-rooted aspect of the Commonwealth's legal canon. And, although some would liken it to legal Meet local singles Caneyville Kentucky, we are disinclined to reach such a conclusion. Indeed, thirty-nine 39 other states contain similar such provisions in their state constitutions. Jonathan M. Over a Meet local singles Caneyville Kentucky after Coke penned his Second Institute, the doctrine rang true with the American Colonies who feared that the British Crown was meddling in the colonial courts.
Thus, the doctrine found its way into early state constitutions. Nonetheless, we have been called upon, here, to examine the General Assembly's recognition of immunity in this state's fire departments, which inherently dredges up considerations of sovereign immunity and jural rights.
Thus, the matter is one of constitutional interpretation and common law application. As such, this Court is bound, as it has oft been in the past, to articulate a plausible and constitutionally sound solution to an immunity problem while respecting the doctrine of jural rights. As always, the doctrine of stare decisis remains an ever-present guidepost in our undertaking.
Stare Decisis compels us to decide every case with deference to precedent. Commonwealth, S. Hillery, U. The open courts provision appears in our constitution, Ky. Johnson, Ky. This is a longstanding common law principle of nearly fourscore years, to which this Court should defer-unless we are strongly compelled otherwise, which we are not. The Greens own a motorcycle salvage business in Grayson County outside the city of Caneyville.
Their business caught fire on December 3,and CVFD responded to the call to extinguish the fire. CVFD is a volunteer fire department which provides fire protection services to Caneyville and the surrounding areas. Despite the fire department's attempt to contain the fire, the business along with much of its inventory was destroyed. Appellees subsequently brought suit alleging that CVFD, its Chief, and thus the City of Caneyville were negligent in failing to timely extinguish the fire and that, as a result of this alleged negligence, they suffered more severe property damage than they otherwise would have if additional measures had been taken to extinguish the fire.
KRS The apparatus shall be deemed to be employed in the exercise of a governmental function of the city. Erwin, S. City of Lexington, S. As to the Fire Chief, the Court of Appeals found he was entitled to qualified official immunity, but the record was insufficient to determine whether his acts were discretionary or ministerial in nature, and thus remanded the matter back to the trial court for further proceedings. This Court granted discretionary review.
The impetus of the foregoing is that once again this Court is faced with the prospect of defining the permissible boundaries of sovereign immunity within this Commonwealth and the lengths to which such immunity may extend without improperly impinging upon the citizenry's constitutional right to have access to its courts and to obtain redress therein. Specifically, the task before this Court is to determine whether the Caneyville Volunteer Fire Department is, or should be, afforded governmental immunity from tort liability either by virtue of its status as a governmental or quasi-governmental agency, or pursuant to KRS The issue is whether the General Assembly has the right, through the enactment of legislation, to confer immunity on fire departments and volunteer fire departments, or whether jural rights preclude this grant of immunity as unconstitutional.
Firefighting has always been inherently intertwined with American civil governance. Dating back to the establishment of Jamestown inwhich was subsequently ravaged by fire a year later, the threat of fire and the need to curtail that threat became a pressing concern for the fledgling American colonies. As early asthe Governor of New Amsterdam, in what is present-day New York, appointed four fire wardens to enforce fire safety rules. Volunteer firefighting can likewise trace its roots to colonial America as the vast majority of these early organizations were staffed by volunteer citizen-firefighters.
Boston, too, took steps to secure itself from the danger of fire as early as and already had a remedial fire engine when the city was consumed by fire in When the engine proved ineffective for thwarting the fire, the city subsequently purchased a state of the art machine from England whose tank was filled by bucket brigade. This engine brought about the need for the first organized fire department in the colonies, beginning service on January 27,requiring the General Court to seek out twelve men and a captain to man the engine and fight fires.
As with so many things in the emerging Union, Benjamin Franklin played a pivotal Meet local singles Caneyville Kentucky in the development of the modern-day volunteer fire department. Soon thereafter, on December 7, Meet local singles Caneyville Kentucky, Franklin established the Union Fire Company, which served as the model for volunteer firefighter organization in the rest of the colonies.
By the time of the Civil War, volunteer fire departments were widespread and were emerging as an entrenched aspect of state and local government. The evolution of firefighting in Kentucky mirrored that of much of the rest of the colonies and, ultimately, the newly formed country. For instance, organized firefighting was first commenced in Winchester inconsisting largely of organized bucket brigades.
These remedial tactics soon gave way to engine pumps, filled by buckets and pumped by hand. Like other cities in the state, modernization in technologies and population increases soon begat more advanced firefighting techniques and closer governmental regulation. AroundWinchester obtained its first horse-drawn steam engine, capable of dispensing with gallons per minute, and by the fire department had a Webb hose truck, which was apparently one of the first motorized engines in Kentucky. Likewise, the capitol city, Frankfort, has had tax supported fire service since at least the early s and additionally had regulations in effect during that period empowering fire engineers to require the assistance of lay citizens in answering fire alarms and mandating that households own one leather bucket for every three fireplaces found in the home for purposes of fighting house fires.
Inthe Common Council passed an ordinance to establish and maintain a fire company and set forth the manner in which it would be governed. The thrust of the aforementioned historical perspective is to note that the development of fire departments in Kentucky has arisen out of the common need of public service and grown alongside government legislation, regulation, and financial support of these entities.
Fire departments, however, are particularly unique in their evolution in that, of necessity, they have been forced to maintain roots confined to the locality in which they serve. Because the nature of firefighting involves the need for expeditious and virtually instantaneous response to the scene of a fire, fire departments are maintained and operated in local areas, despite the fact that the authority from whence their existence arises stems from the central state legislature.
See KRS It is incontrovertible that fire departments perform a paradigmatic function of the government in keeping the populous and its property safe from fire. Indeed, one would be hard-pressed to think of a more representative government function. Notably, Kentucky has a longstanding tradition of treating firefighting as a governmental function and thereby cloaking it in immunity.
See Greenwood v. Louisville, 76 Ky. City of Lebanon, Ky. Louisville Water Co. Bridwell, Ky. Lexington, S. The doctrine of sovereign immunity, as embodied in Ky. The doctrine has been included in all four of the Commonwealth's constitutions and predates each. Kentucky Center for the Arts Corporation v.
Berns, S. In recent years this Court has examined the history of sovereign immunity in Kentucky in Yanero and in Berns, noting that the doctrine made its way into the Commonwealth's jurisprudence at least as early as See Yanero, 65 S. Harvie, 23 Ky. Mon Thus, by the time our second Constitution was in effect, our courts had recognized that the applicable constitutional provision in force at that time-which manifested authority in the General Assembly to determine the manner in which the Commonwealth could be sued-was but a voluntary grant of ability to sue the state, and that the state was otherwise immune from suit in its own courts.
See Divine, 23 Ky. On the other hand, what has come to be known as the jural rights doctrine exists as the constitutional counterbalance to sovereign immunity. Under Kentucky jurisprudence, three provisions of the Kentucky Constitution have been read in conjunction to assert a canon of jural rights whose purpose is to ensure that citizens are afforded an opportunity to have their causes heard in open court and to prevent the legislature from unnecessarily inhibiting that right. In Ludwig v. Johnson, which was the first case to recognize these three sections together as implementing the doctrine, the Court found that the statute under review in that instance.
It was the manifest purpose of the framers of that instrument to preserve and perpetuate the common-law right of a citizen injured by the negligent act of another to sue to recover damages for his injury. The imperative mandate of section 14 is Meet local singles Caneyville Kentucky every person, for an injury done him in his person, shall have remedy by due course of law. Happy is typically regarded as extending the reasoning in Ludwig and giving rise to the line of cases proffering jural rights as sovereign immunity's counterargument, although nowhere does the case mention sovereign or official immunity.
Davis, 90 Ky. In Happy, a fire truck operator, responding to a call to fight a fire in a neighboring city, was involved in an accident which injured the appellant-bystander. Therein, the appellant argued that an earlier version of KRS Our predecessor Court agreed, holding unconstitutional the version of KRS See Happy, S. Accordingly, since the Happy decision, this reasoning has typically been asserted by those injured by a government agent for the proposition that sovereign immunity should be limited in scope.
See G. At first blush, it would appear, then, that the two seminal cases for sovereign immunity and jural rights, Yanero and Happy respectively, are at odds with one another.
Admittedly, these cases and their progeny, espouse two distinct theories based on common law principles. Johnson, 49 S. However, these two lines of cases and competing common law principles need not represent mutually exclusive objectives. Indeed, we believe they may be read together and harmonized to produce compatible ends.
Namely, Yanero may be construed as providing the proper framework for analyzing liability of a government agent, while Happy may be construed to limit the reach of Yanero in determining when a statute has extended immunity beyond constitutional constraints. Here, we believe the General Assembly's recognition of firefighters and fire departments' immunity was constitutional and, therefore, not repugnant to jural rights. In Yanero, a junior-varsity high school baseball player, who was not wearing a helmet, was struck in the head and injured by a baseball thrown by a teammate during batting practice.
The batsman ultimately brought suit against the Jefferson County Board of Education, the school's athletic director, assistant coaches, and the Kentucky High School Athletic Association KHSAAalleging negligence for failure to require that players wear helmets while participating in batting practice. This Court upheld summary judgment Meet local singles Caneyville Kentucky favor of defendants, the Board of Education, the athletic director and the KHSAA, on grounds of governmental or sovereign immunity and qualified official immunity.
Governmental immunity is, thus, a policy-derived offshoot of sovereign immunity and is premised upon protecting government entities from civil liability. The constitutional and policy justifications for the doctrine are rooted in notions of separation of power, the principle being that courts should not be in the position to impose civil liability on government entities engaged in official functions, as this would disrupt the business of the government governing.
See id. United States. This Court has long struggled with where the permissible limits of sovereign immunity extend. To be sure. The reigning authority on the matter holds that sovereign immunity as embodied in Ky. However, this only holds true in instances wherein it is the Commonwealth who is being sued. Whether an entity is a government agent is a threshold consideration in governmental immunity analysis.Meet local singles Caneyville Kentucky
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CANEYVILLE VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT v. GREEN MOTORCYCLE SALVAGE INC