Jerauld County v. St. Paul-Mercury Indem. Co., PAUL-MERCURY

CourtSupreme Court of South Dakota
Writing for the CourtRENTTO
Citation71 N.W.2d 571,76 S.D. 1
PartiesJERAULD COUNTY, a quasi municipal corporation of the State of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. SAINTINDEMNITY COMPANY, a Corporation, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date22 July 1955
Docket NumberNo. 9501,PAUL-MERCURY

Page 571

71 N.W.2d 571
76 S.D. 1
JERAULD COUNTY, a quasi municipal corporation of the State
of South Dakota, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
SAINT PAUL-MERCURY INDEMNITY COMPANY, a Corporation,
Defendant and Appellant.
No. 9501.
Supreme Court of South Dakota.
July 22, 1955.
Rehearing Denied Sept. 3, 1955.

[76 S.D. 4] Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, Sioux Falls, for defendant and appellant.

Charles R. Hatch, Wessington Springs, for plaintiff and respondent.

RENTTO, Judge.

The respondent Jerauld County pursuant to the provisions of SDC 27.19 and acts supplementary thereto, established and maintained a county hospital designated and known as Memorial Hospital. It was managed by a Board of Trustees. The trustees bought public liability insurance from the appellant indemnifying the hospital against loss by reason of liability imposed by law or contract in the operation of the hospital. This action was brought to recover the amounts paid by the county to appellant as premiums for such insurance together with interest thereon.

In its brief respondent states the reasoning on which its cause of action is premised as follows: 'The basis of the action is that there is no liability on the part of the plaintiff county for the liabilities insured against and therefore no consideration for the premiums paid and that the premiums paid are recoverable under the provisions of SDC 31.0603(1)'. This section in substance provides that the insured is entitled to the return of the premiums paid where the insurer has never incurred any risk or liability under the policy for which the premium was paid. Grabinski v. United States Annuity & Life Ins. Co., 33 S.D. 300, 145 N.W. 553. Appellant contends that under the insurance furnished, it assumed risks and liabilities for which the county was liable. Appellant's motion to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted was overruled. On respondent's motion for judgment on the [76 S.D. 5] pleadings, judgment was entered as requested. This appeal is from the judgment so entered.

It is well settled in this state that no action lies against a county in the absence of statute to the contrary, for the negligence of its officers, agents, or employees. Bailey v. Lawrence County, 5 S.D. 393, 59 N.W. 219; Hanigan v. Minnehaha County, 47 S.D. 606, 201 N.W. 522; Brown v. Roberts County, 49 S.D. 173, 206 N.W. 479; Cain v. Meade County, 54 S.D. 540, 223 N.W. 734; Robinson v. Minnehaha County, 65 S.D. 628, 277 N.W. 324; Vesely v. Charles Mix County, 66 S.D. 570, 287 N.W. 51; Arms v. Minnehaha County, 69 S.D. 164, 7 N.W.2d 722; Williams v. Wessington Twp., 70 S.D. 75, 14 N.W.2d 493. See also Jackson County v. Dufty, 8 Cir., 147 F.2d 227; Minnehaha County v. Kelley, 8 Cir., 150 F.2d 356. The reason for this rule has been made manifest.

In the Bailey case the Court said [5 S.D. 393, 59 N.W. 221]: 'The ground upon which it is held that counties are not liable for damages in actions of this character is that they are involuntary political divisions of the state, created for governmental purposes, and are organized without regard to the consent or dissent of the inhabitants'. In the Williams case it is stated [70 S.D. 75, 14 N.W.2d 494] 'The reason assigned for the rule of non-liability at common law is that counties and townships and political subdivisions of the state exercising a part of the sovereign powers of the state and liable only to the extent the state itself would be in the absence of statute imposing liability.' In the Cain case the Court said [54 S.D. 540, 223 N.W. 736] 'If, although the duty is imposed by contract and not by

Page 574

statute, it is still acting in a sovereign function, requiring a waiver of immunity before it can be held'. In Jensen v. Juul, 66 S.D. 1, 278 N.W. 6, 8, 115 A.L.R. 1280, after discussing the tort liability of a municipal corporation proper the Court went on to say 'On the other hand, counties, civil townships, and school districts classified as quasi public corporations are merely instrumentalities of the state for the purpose of carrying into effect the functions of government, and, as such, are not liable for damages caused by neglectful performance of such duties, unless cause of action is expressly [76 S.D. 6] given by statute.' The rule of nonliability and our reasons therefor are supported by the weight of authority. 14 Am.Jur., Counties, §§ 48, 49; 20 C.J.S., Counties, § 215.

Appellant contends that the immunity from liability which a county enjoys is available if the activities by which the damage is occasioned is a governmental function, but if the activity is proprietary in character there is no immunity from liability. Since we are of the view that the activity here involved is governmental in character a decision of this question in this case becomes unnecessary. Nor do we determine whether a county in this state can ever be said to be performing a function which is proprietary in character.

SDC Supp. 50.0101 makes it the duty of the county to relieve and support all poor and indigent persons having a lawful poor relief settlement therein. In this general duty is included, among other things, the specific duty to provide hospitalization, medical care and treatment. South Dakota Employers Protective Association v. Poage, 65 S.D. 198, 272 N.W. 806. In the acceptance of this duty the county has no choice. It does however have a choice as to the means by which the hospitalization, medical care and treatment are to be provided. SDC 50.0201. SDC Supp. 50.0204. Bartron v. Codington County, 68 S.D. 309, 2 N.W.2d 337, 140 A.L.R. 550. If the electors of the county petition and vote to establish a county hospital as authorized by SDC Supp. 27.19, the county may utilize such facility in providing the enumerated services.

Appellant argues that since the establishment of a county hospital is a matter of choice to be determined by the electors of the county, its maintenance and operation by the county is a proprietary function. It seems to us that the character of the activity here involved must be determined from the nature and purposes of the duty imposed. That various means for discharging the duty are permitted does not alter the character of the activity.

In State ex rel. Hurd v. Blomstrom, 72 S.D. 526, 37 N.W.2d 247, at page 250, this Court said 'It has been said that if a municipal corporation 'is made, by the state, one of its instruments, or the local depository of certain limited and prescribed political powers, to be exercised [76 S.D. 7] for the public good in behalf of the state rather than for itself' the function is governmental. Also that 'The governmental functions of a municipal corporation are those conferred or imposed upon it as a local agency, to be exercised not only in the interest of its inhabitants, but also in the advancement of the public good or welfare as affecting the public generally.' However, if the powers are conferred, not primarily or chiefly in the interest of the state at large, but for the private advantage of the incorporated community, they are proprietary.' While this was written concerning a municipal corporation we believe these definitions are equally valid in determining the character of county activities.

Governmental support of the poor and indigent has...

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18 practice notes
  • Hemenway v. Presbyterian Hospital Ass'n of Colo., No. 21875
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • October 24, 1966
    ...be addressed to the legislature where constitutional authority rests to amend the law. Jerauld County v. Saint Paul-Mercury Indemnity Co., 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W.2d 751; Maffei v. Incorporated Town of Kemmerer (80 Wyo. 33), 338 P.2d 808 (340 P.2d 759); Lee v. Dunklee, 84 Ariz. 260, 326 P.2d 1117......
  • Conway v. Humbert, No. 10286
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • October 21, 1966
    ...The legislature, aware of the rule of immunity, limited the extent of coverage. See Jerauld County v. St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co., 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W.2d The legislature has provided a procedure for the investigation of claims arising on contract or tort against the state and for the payme......
  • Blue Fox Bar, Inc. v. City of Yankton, Nos. 15721
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • June 8, 1988
    ...* This statute does not create, or impose, any duties upon the City of Yankton. In Jerauld County v. Saint Paul-Mercury Indemnity Co., 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W.2d 571 (1955), this court considered whether the operation of a county hospital was a proprietary or governmental function. In establishin......
  • Defender v. CITY OF McLAUGHLIN, SOUTH DAKOTA, Civ. No. 968.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • April 10, 1964
    ...to the court's attention warranting a deviation from O'Rourke, on the contrary, in Jerauld County v. Saint Paul-Mercury Indemnity Company, 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W. 2d 571 (1955), a forceful and clearly expressed adherence to the immunity rule in the comment "We are not unmindful of recent cases h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
18 cases
  • Hemenway v. Presbyterian Hospital Ass'n of Colo., No. 21875
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • October 24, 1966
    ...be addressed to the legislature where constitutional authority rests to amend the law. Jerauld County v. Saint Paul-Mercury Indemnity Co., 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W.2d 751; Maffei v. Incorporated Town of Kemmerer (80 Wyo. 33), 338 P.2d 808 (340 P.2d 759); Lee v. Dunklee, 84 Ariz. 260, 326 P.2d 1117......
  • Conway v. Humbert, No. 10286
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • October 21, 1966
    ...The legislature, aware of the rule of immunity, limited the extent of coverage. See Jerauld County v. St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co., 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W.2d The legislature has provided a procedure for the investigation of claims arising on contract or tort against the state and for the payme......
  • Blue Fox Bar, Inc. v. City of Yankton, Nos. 15721
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of South Dakota
    • June 8, 1988
    ...* This statute does not create, or impose, any duties upon the City of Yankton. In Jerauld County v. Saint Paul-Mercury Indemnity Co., 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W.2d 571 (1955), this court considered whether the operation of a county hospital was a proprietary or governmental function. In establishin......
  • Defender v. CITY OF McLAUGHLIN, SOUTH DAKOTA, Civ. No. 968.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. District of South Dakota
    • April 10, 1964
    ...to the court's attention warranting a deviation from O'Rourke, on the contrary, in Jerauld County v. Saint Paul-Mercury Indemnity Company, 76 S.D. 1, 71 N.W. 2d 571 (1955), a forceful and clearly expressed adherence to the immunity rule in the comment "We are not unmindful of recent cases h......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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