The tort liability of municipalities and other local governmental entities is determined under the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act - Tennessee Code Annotated (TCA) Chapter 20.
About the Act
This Act, passed in 1973 by the Tennessee General Assembly, is an attempt to balance the needs of injured persons to recover for injury or damage caused by the negligent acts of a local government and the needs of local governments to provide and of their citizens to receive public services, without unduly burdensome litigation and taxes.
One of the most important provisions of the Act is the section that grants absolute immunity to local governments and then creates exceptions to this immunity making them liable for certain actions or inactions, based on negligence.
Removal of Immunity
Removal of Immunity (exceptions) for claims filed in state court:
Removal of immunity for injury from negligent operation of motor vehicles or other equipment.
Removal of immunity for injury from defective, unsafe, or dangerous streets and highways. Includes streets, alleys, sidewalks, and/or traffic control devices. Actual and/or Constructive Notice Required.
Removal of immunity for injury from dangerous structures. Any public building, structure, dam, reservoir, or other public improvement. Actual and/or Constructive Notice Required.
Removal of immunity for injury caused by negligent act or omission of employee(s). Immunity remains for eight functions. For example, immunity is not removed for discretionary functions, permitting licensing, negligent inspections, riots/civil disturbances, assessment of taxes, etc.
Negligence Based on Four Elements
The four elements negligence is based on is:
You had a duty to act.
You breached that duty.
Your breach of that duty was the proximate cause of the injury.
An actual injury or damage did occur.
Monetary Limits of Liability
Another important feature of the Act is the monetary (Tort) limits set by Section 29-20-403(b) (2) A of the Tort Act. These limits have changed only a few times since the original limits were set in 1973. These limits ensure that persons injured by negligent local governments will be compensated; but, at the same time protect other citizens from experiencing tax increases or reductions in service caused by overblown judgments that would cause an increase in insurance premiums or the unavailability of coverage.