Navigation Top
AGO Logo Graphic
AGO Header Image
File a Complaint
Contact the AGO
AGO 1957 No. 37 - March 25, 1957
AGO Opinion Header Image
John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

CIVIL DEFENSE ‑- LEGALLY ESTABLISHED LOCAL ORGANIZATION -- CIVIL DEFENSE WORKER ‑- COMPENSATION FOR INJURIES ‑- ELIGIBILITY

In order for a local civil defense worker to qualify for the benefits of the state act it must have been established and organized as a civil defense agency which has been approved by the state dir. of civil defense in accordance with the state civil defense plan and program.

A civil defense worker must be regularly enrolled in a legally established civil defense agency engaged in civil defense activities at the time he sustained injuries in order to be entitled to benefits of the compensation provisions of the state CD act.

                                                                   - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                  March 25, 1957

Department of Civil Defense
P.O. Box 519
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                                Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 37


Attention:  C. J. Eisenbacher

Gentlemen:

            We acknowledge receipt of your request for an opinion on the following questions:

            (1) When is a local civil defense organization a legally established organization?

            (2) Would the provisions of RCW 38.52.200 apply to personnel registered for local civil defense duty where the organization was not a "legally established" civil defense organization?

            Your inquiry has been considered only with reference to the question of whether a local organization may qualify to participate in the benefits of the state act.

            We answer your first question as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            In order for a local organization to qualify for the benefits of the state act relating to civil defense, it must have been established and organized as a civil defense organization and must have been approved by the state director of civil defense as being in accordance with the state civil defense plan and program.

            We answer your second question in the negative.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            (1) In the recent opinion rendered to the director of civil defense on January 18, 1957 (AGO 55-57 No. 5), we assumed the answer to the questions you now ask, when, in determining what liability was incurred by the state under the civil defense act, we said:

            "Consequently, before there can be any liability on the part of the state, the damages must result from the performance of civil defense services by civil defense workers. . . . In other words, they must be an agent of the state, duly authorized as provided in the chapter, before there is any legal liability.  (Emphasis supplied.)

            The effect of your present inquiry is to ascertain when a local civil defense organization is duly authorized to perform civil defense functions to entitle it to benefits of the state act.  This seems to us to be clearly spelled out in the act.

            RCW 38.52.070 specifically provides that:

            "(1) Each political subdivision of this state is hereby authorized and directed to establish a local organization for civil defense in accordance with the state civil defense plan and program: . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 38.52.010 defines a local organization for civil defense as

            ". . . an organization created in accordance with the provisions of this chapter by state or local authority to perform local civil defense functions."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Thus, the authority to perform the civil defense functions under the emergency  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] powers granted by the act is granted to local political subdivisions of the state which have been created in accordance with thestate civil defense plan and program.  In other words, the acts set out the instances in which emergency civil defense may be exercised, and by whom.  What the legislature has said is that certain agencies may exercise the special emergency powers granted when undertaken in the manner outlined.  So, if a local organization is desirous of functioning under the state civil defense, in order to avail itself of the authority and benefits of that act, it must bring itself within its provisions.  It cannot avail itself of the benefits of the act without first qualifying.

            Throughout the act there is spelled out the purpose of coordination ‑ a coordination of local organizations in a state‑wide [[statewide]]plan and program.  RCW 38.52.030 provides that the director

            "(4) . . . shall coordinate the activities of all organizations for civil defense within the state . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In RCW 38.52.050 the governor is empowered

            "(3) (b) . . . to coordinate the preparation of plans and programs for civil defense by the political subdivisions of this state . . ."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            RCW 38.52.070, which authorizes the establishment of local civil defense organizations, requires that it

            ". . . shall submit its plan and program for civil defense to the state director of civil defense and secure his recommendations thereon in order that the local organization for civil defense may be coordinated with the plan and program of the state. . . ." (Emphasis supplied.)

            Consequently, we conclude that in order for a local organization for civil defense to qualify as a legally established organization, eligible to participate in the benefits of the civil defense program under the state act, it must have been established and organized and have been approved by the state director of civil defense as being in accordance with the state civil defense plan and program.

            (2) Your second question refers to eligibility for compensation under RCW 38.52.200, which provides:

            "Liability for the compensation provided by this chapter, as  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] limited by the provisions thereof, is in lieu of any other liability whatsoever to a civil defense worker or his dependents or any other person on the part of the state, the agency, the local organization for civil defense with which the civil defense worker is registered, and the county or city which has empowered the local organization for civil defense to register him and direct his activities, for injury or death arising out of and in the course of his activities while on duty as a civil defense worker: . . ."

            The answer to your question is found in RCW 38.52.190, which is the basic section determinative of the liability which the state has assumed for civil defense injuries, and specifically states:

            "Except as provided in this chapter, a civil defense worker . . . shall have no right to receive compensation from the state . . . for an injury or death arising out of and occurring in the course of his activities as a civil defense worker."

            Consequently, it follows that the personnel of a local civil defense agency which is not organized and established in accordance with the state plan and program is not eligible for compensation under RCW 38.52.200.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General


MITCHELL DOUMIT
Assistant Attorney General

Content Bottom Graphic
AGO Logo