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AGO 1960 No. 121 - June 02, 1960
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

DISTRICTS - SCHOOLS - LIABILITY POLICIES IN CONNECTION WITH SCHOOL BUS OPERATIONS -MEDICAL PAYMENTS INCLUDED IN PREMIUM.

In procuring a policy of liability insurance covering the operation of its buses, the board of directors of a school district may not pay the cost of any increased premium to provide medical payments for the passenger injured by or through its operation irrespective of liability.  Public funds may only be expended to protect the district from liability.  However, the board of directors may procure medical and accident insurance where the assenting students pay the additional cost.

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                                                                    June 2, 1960

Honorable Thurman E. Ward
Prosecuting Attorney
Klickitat County
Goldendale, Washington                                                                                         Cite as:  AGO 59-60 No. 121

Dear Sir:

            By letter previously acknowledged you requested an opinion of this office on the following question:

            It is proper for a school district, as a part of their liability policy in connection with school bus operations, to also include within their premium basis medical payments for each passenger injured which would be payable regardless of any fault on the part of the driver of the bus?

            We answer your question in the negative as qualified in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            A school district is a municipal corporation and, as such, has only those powers expressly granted by the legislature, those necessarily or fairly  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] implied in or incident to the powers granted, and those essential to the declared objects and purposes of the municipal corporation.  Seattle High School Ch. No. 200 v. Sharples, 159 Wash. 424, 293 Pac. 994 (1930); Juntila v. Everett School District No. 24, 178 Wash. 637, 35 P. (2d) 78 (1934).  The governing body of the district, empowered to exercise the foregoing powers, is, of course, the elected board of directors.  (RCW 28.58.080.)  State ex rel. Griffiths v. Superior Court, 177 Wash. 619, 33 P. (2d) 94 (1934).  See also AGO 59-60 No. 116 [[to Prosecuting Attorney, Klickitat County on May 6, 1960]], AGO 59-60 No. 113 [[to Damon R. Canfield, State Representative on April 19, 1960]], AGO 59-60 No. 105 [[to Pat Nicholson, State Representative on March 10, 1960]].

            The general laws governing all class districts are found in chapter 28.58 of the Revised Code of Washington.  RCW 28.58.100 provides in pertinent part as follows:

            "Every board of directors, unless otherwise specially provided by law, shall:

            " . . .

            "(11) . . .

            "Whenever any school children are transported by the school district in its own motor vehicles and by its own employees, the board may provide insurance to protect the district against loss by reason of theft, fire or property damage to the motor vehicle, and to protect the district against loss by reason of liability of the district to persons from the operation of such motor vehicle."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Our court has stated many times that where a statute is plain and unambiguous, it furnishes a rule of construction beyond which the court cannot go.  See Parkhurst v. Everett, 51 Wn. (2d) 292, 318 P. (2d) 327 (1957); In re Baker's Estate, 49 Wn. (2d) 609, 304 P. (2d) 1051 (1956).

            This rule is clearly applicable in interpreting RCW 28.58.100 (11) supra.  The legislature has empowered the board of directors to provide liability insurance to protect the district against loss arising from the operation of its buses.  This statute is a limitation as well as a grant of power under the rule of expressio unius est exclusio alterius.  Bradley v. Dept. of Labor and Industries, 52 Wn. (2d) 780, 329 P. (2d) 196 (1958); State v. Thompson, 38 Wn. (2d) 774, 232 P. (2d) 87 (1951).

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            However, we believe that the legislature in 1959, by a general act (§ 1, chapter 187, Laws of 1959), did provide a procedure whereby student passengers in a school bus may be covered by accident insurance procured by the board of directors.  Codified as RCW 28.76.410, the act reads as follows:

            "The regents, trustees or board of directors of any of the state's educational institutions or school districts may provide liability, life, health and accident insurance or any one of, or a combination of the enumerated types of insurance for the regents, trustees, members of boards of directors, students and employees of the institution or school district.  The premiums due on such liability insurance shall be borne by the university, college or school district.  The premiums due on such life or health and accident insurance shall be borne by the assenting regent, trustee, member of board of directors, student or employee: Provided, That nothing contained herein shall be construed to prevent the extension of the coverage provided in the insurance plan adopted to include dependents of the assenting regents, trustees, members of boards of directors, students or employees so long as the additional cost thereof is borne by the insured regent, trustee, member of board of directors, student or employee."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Based upon the language of the foregoing statute, the board of directors of any school district is authorized to provide accident insurance for children riding on school buses in addition to liability insurance which is necessary to protect the district from any loss.  However, where accident insurance is provided, the premium must be paid by the assenting student.  Our court has said that where the means are provided by law, there is no room for implied powers.  See, State ex rel. Eastvold v. Maybury, 49 Wn. (2d) 533, 304 P. (2d) 663.  Likewise, it is well established that public funds can only be expended "to the extent and in the manner prescribed by legislative authority."  Attorney General's Opinion written to the Honorable Leslie M. Carroll, Acting Prosecuting Attorney, Spokane County, dated July 23, 1945 [[1945-46 OAG 270]].  See, also AGO 59-60 No. 62 [[to State Superintendent of Public Instruction on August 24, 1959]].

            The conclusions stated herein are in accord with those expressed in opinions written to the (1) Honorable Lloyd L. Wiehl, Prosecuting Attorney, Yakima County, dated November 28, 1941, and (2) Honorable Lloyd Shorett, Prosecuting Attorney, King County, dated  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] May 15, 1945.  (The holding of the latter opinion was changed by the enactment of § 1, chapter 278, Laws of 1953, (RCW 46.48.090).)

            We trust the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

ROBERT J. DORAN
Assistant Attorney General

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