Williams v. Carbon County Board of Education

In Williams v. Carbon County Board of Education, 780 P.2d 816, 817 (Utah 1989), a school district resurfaced an elementary school parking lot in a manner that caused surface waters to drain onto the property of a neighboring landowner, flooding and damaging his home. The school district had built a diversion curb on the border of the parking lot to retain surface waters--but this measure failed. Id. The property owner brought suit for damages and the school district claimed "absolute immunity" from suit under the flood waters management provision in section 63-30-3 of the Governmental Immunity Act. Id. at 817-18; Utah Code Ann. 63-30-3 (1997). That section allows the state to retain immunity for the "management of flood waters" and the "construction, repair, and operation of flood and storm systems by a governmental entity." Utah Code Ann. 63-30-3(3). The school district claimed that the installation of the diversion curb brought it under this provision. We rejected this argument, observing that the school district was engaged in resurfacing a parking lot, not in managing flood waters, for which "the school district had no such statutory responsibility." Id. at 818. The Court held that in enacting section 63-30-3, the legislature did not intend to immunize the school district from liability for its negligence. Id. Rather, we noted that "like private property owners, owners of public property must exercise reasonable care in controlling surface water runoff." Id.