Washington State

Office of the Attorney General

Attorney General

Bob Ferguson

AGLO 1975 No. 99 -
Attorney General Slade Gorton


Under § 1, chapter 16, Laws of 1975 (RCW 36.16.138), the commissioners of a public hospital district established pursuant to chapter 70.44 RCW, may purchase liability insurance for themselves and other officers and employees of such district.

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                                                               December 29, 1975

Honorable Duane Berentson
State Representative, 40th District
P.O. Box 426
Burlington, Washington 98233                                                                                                               Cite as:  AGLO 1975 No. 99

Dear Sir:

            By recent letter you have made reference to the following provisions of § 1, chapter 16, Laws of 1975:

            "Any board of commissioners, council, or board of directors or other governing board of any county, city, town, school district, port district, public utility district, sewer district, water district, irrigation district, or other municipal corporation or political subdivision is authorized to purchase insurance to protect and hold personally harmless any of its commissioners, council members, directors, or other governing board members, and any of its other officers, employees, and agents from any action, claim, or proceeding instituted against the foregoing individuals arising out of the performance, purported performance, or failure of performance, in good faith of duties for, or employment with, such institutions and to hold these individuals harmless from any expenses connected with the defense, settlement, or monetary judgments from such actions, claims, or proceedings.  The purchase of such insurance for any of the foregoing individuals and the policy limits shall be discretionary with the municipal corporation or political subdivision, and such insurance shall not be considered to be compensation for these individuals.

            "The provisions of this section are cumulative and in addition to any other provision of law authorizing any municipal corporation or political subdivision to purchase liability insurance."

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]   You have then asked for our opinion on the following two questions:

            "(1) May Hospital District, organized under chapter 70.44 RCW, purchase such insurance?

            "(2) What, if any, type of local governmental entities, which are loosely described as 'special districts', are precluded from purchasing such insurance?"

            We answer your first question in the affirmative and respond to your second in the manner set forth in our analysis.


            The key to our affirmative answer to your first question is to be found in RCW 70.44.010.  This statute, which contains the basic authorization for the formation of public hospital districts in our state, reads as follows:

            "Municipal corporations, to be known as public hospital districts, are hereby authorized and may be established within the several counties of the state as hereinafter provided."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            Thus, by express statutory definition, a public hospital district constitutes a form of "municipal corporation" and, for that reason, clearly falls within the scope of § 1, chapter 16, supra.

            Conversely, in response to your second question, if a particular local governmental entity is not one of those expressly listed in the subject statute1/ and cannot be said to constitute either a "municipal corporation" or a "political subdivision" as those terms are ordinarily understood, such a local governmental entity will not be able to utilize the provisions of this 1975 legislation for the procurement of liability insurance for its officers or  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] employees.  Because of the obvious possibility of an inadvertent omission in view of the large number of different types of local governmental entities which are presently authorized to exist in our state, however, we would prefer not to attempt, here, to provide you with any sort of list of those which thus might not come within the scope of the statute.  If, on the other hand, you would care to specify any particular governmental bodies with which you are also particularly concerned we would be happy to examine the laws governing those so designated and advise you as to our thinking as to whether or not they also are covered by the provisions of the subject law.

            It is hoped that the foregoing will be of some assistance to you at this time.

Very truly yours,

Attorney General

Deputy Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/I.e., a county, city, town, school district, port district, public utility district, sewer district, water district or irrigation district.