The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Immunity

Reference Number: MTAS-276
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: January 29, 2016
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Waiver of Immunity
A governmental entity may waive its immunity from suit only by express provisions or endorsement of a policy or contract of insurance authorized by this law to cover its liabilities. The law also provides that any contract of insurance to cover liabilities under federal law shall not be construed or deemed to be a waiver of such immunity. T.C.A. § 29-20-404.

Situations Where Immunity is Removed
Governmental entities are not immune from suit for injuries resulting from an employee’s negligent operation of a motor vehicle or other equipment while in the scope of his or her employment. However, this provision does not repeal T.C.A. § 55-8-101, T.C.A. § 55-8-108, or T.C.A. § 55-8-132, which relate to operating authorized emergency vehicles. The immunities provided by these sections are expressly continued. T.C.A. § 29-20-202.

Governmental entities are not immune from suit for any injury caused by a defective, unsafe, or dangerous condition of any street, alley, sidewalk, or highway owned and controlled by the governmental entity, including any traffic-control devices. This provision does not apply unless constructive or actual notice to the governmental entity of the condition is alleged and proved. T.C.A. § 29-20-203.

Governmental entities are not immune from suit for any injury caused by the dangerous or defective condition of any public building, structure, dam, reservoir, or other public improvement owned and controlled by the governmental entity. Immunity is not removed for latent defective conditions, nor shall this section apply unless constructive or actual notice to the governmental entity of the condition is alleged and proved. T.C.A. § 29-20-204.

Governmental entities may be sued for injury proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of an employee within the scope of his employment, unless the injury arises or results from:

  • riots, unlawful assemblies, public demonstrations, mob violence, or civil disturbances; assessing, levying, or collecting taxes.
  • exercising or performing or failing to exercise or perform a discretionary funcion, or whether or not the discretion is abused;
  • false imprisonment pursuant to a mittimus from a court, false arrest, malicious prosecution, intentional trespass, abuse of process, libel, slander, deceit, interfering with contract rights, inflicting mental anguish, or invading right of privacy or civil rights;
  •  issuing, denying, suspending, or revoking or failing or refusing to issue, deny, suspend, or revoke any permit, license, certificate, approval, order, or similar authorization;
  • failing to make an inspection or making an inadequate or negligent inspection of any property.
  • institutuing or prosecuting any judicial or administrative proceeding, even if malicious or without probable cause;
  • misrepresentation by an employee, whether or not such is negligent or intentional; or
  • Y2K-related computer failures occurring before January 1, 2005.  T.C.A. § 29-20-205.

The nine exceptions listed above are categories in which governmental entities may not be sued for the negligent acts of their employees. Except for these listed categories, governmental entities are liable for any injury proximately caused by a negligent act or omission of any employee within the scope of his or her employment.

T.C.A. § 29-20-201 grants immunity from suit to all members of boards, commissions, agencies, authorities, or other governing bodies of governmental entities arising from their affairs except for willful, wanton, or grossly negligent acts.

Responsible: