Harrison County supervisors ponder liability issues

HARRISON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - During a recent Harrison County clean-up project a weed trimmer flung a rock and broke a windshield. Such accidents happen more often than you might imagine. But if you think the county is liable for covering the damage, you may be surprised.

It happened during a clean-up at Mississippi City cemetery. A weed eater threw a rock into a woman's windshield.

"The driver in this case had a reasonable expectation that they would be able to travel that road at any time of day, without a broken glass," said Supervisor Kim Savant, as he asked the board to consider this damage claim.

Supervisors typically reject such damage claims. Often times it's a county lawn mower on a roadway.

"And a mower, where you put up signs that say 'warning mowers' and a car comes by and proceeds on, there's a risk," said board attorney, Tim Holleman, "Legally, the question is whether or not the county was negligent and therefore responsible for the windshield. That's difficult sometimes when you're talking about mowers and weed eaters as to whether or not they're negligent."

Supervisor Windy Swetman said he recently paid less than $50 to replace a car window for a constituent whose vehicle was hit by a mower-thrown-rock. He suggested the board consider a policy.

"It might save us some time and money and certainly heartache on the constituents," he said.

Supervisor Marlin Ladner said setting a price cap could be troublesome.

"For example, somebody says it's $200 and we have an agreement to pay for $200 and less, another guy comes in for $225 and we tell him, 'No.'  I think the issue is whether we're liable for it. And we've got to be careful," said Supervisor Ladner.

In the end, supervisors rejected the cemetery clean-up damage claim.

"State law says that we do not have to be liable for those type of things. That's according to Tim Holleman. It's a matter of moral responsibility versus legal responsibility," said Supervisor Savant.

Following the discussion, supervisors took no action to create a new policy. They will continue to consider such damage claims on a case by case basis.

Copyright 2013 WLOX. All rights reserved.