John M. Kirby
White v. Cochran | Waiver of Governmental Immunity
In White v. Cochran,the plaintiff sued the defendant (Sheriff) alleging wrongful termination, on the basis that the was fired for her filing a workers compensation claim.
The lower court denied the sheriff's motion for summary judgment. On appeal, the court noted that the sheriff would have immunity from suit, unless he waived immunity by the purchase of insurance. (The claim was apparently against the sheriff officially, rather than individually.) The Court of Appeals noted that the bond covers the sheriff's "faithful perform[ance] the duties of his office," and held that this applies to the claim for wrongful termination.
The court also rejected the sheriff's argument that an insurance policy did not apply to the claim. This was a claims made policy. The court held that the claim was made within the policy period. The sheriff's argument was that the lawsuit was not filed until after the reporting period had expired. The court, however, noted that the plaintiff had filed a complaint with the Department of Labor prior to the expiration of the policy, along with other actions indicating an intent to assert a claim. "Sheriff Cochran and other county officials were clearly aware of both the existence and nature of Plaintiff's claim [within the reporting period]."
John Kirby has handled numerous cases involving claims against government officials asserting immunity, and has handled insurance claims including claims under "claims-made" policies.