November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 36

L AW R E V I E W

entitled to governmental immunity
with respect to tort claims arising from
the municipality's alleged negligence
in the maintenance of a public park
when the injury occurred within the
boundaries of a public park and outside the boundaries of a public way. "
Accordingly, the state supreme court
ordered the appeals court to reinstate
the summary judgment of the trial
court in favor of the City.
Proprietary Lease
In the case of Considine v. City of Waterbury, 279 Conn. 830; 905 A.2d 70
(Conn. 2006), the plaintiff was injured
when he fell into a glass panel in a
restaurant within the clubhouse of the
defendant City's golf course. The City
derived rental income from leasing
this restaurant to a private party.
The trial court had determined
that governmental immunity under a
state statute (General Statutes ยง 52557n) did not apply because the City
derived pecuniary benefit from the
rental income generated by the private restaurant. This state immunity
statute provided that political subdivisions of the state could be held liable
for negligence " in the performance
of functions from which the political
subdivision derives a special corporate
profit or pecuniary benefit. "
According to the state supreme
court, the legislative intent was to
codify the common law of municipal liability by including the terms
" special corporate profit " and " pecuniary benefit " in the language of
the statute. The state supreme court,
therefore, referenced " common-law
sovereign immunity " to define municipal liability and immunity within
the context of the state statute.
[S]overeign immunity protects sovereign governments, such as states,
and municipalities when acting as
34

Parks & Recreation

agents of the state, but not municipal corporations acting on their own
behalf....[T]his court has stated that
a municipality's immunity from liability for injuries applies only when
it is engaged in the performance of a
public duty for the public benefit, and
not for its own corporate profit.
The state supreme court acknowledged that " the distinction between a
municipality's governmental and proprietary functions has been criticized
as being illusory, elusive, arbitrary,
unworkable and a quagmire, " which
has " long plagued the law of municipal corporations. " Moreover, the
court found " dissatisfaction with the
distinction between proprietary and
governmental acts " has caused many
courts and legislatures to revise or
completely abandon the common-law
rules governing municipal liability.
That being said, the state supreme
court noted, in general, the operation and management of " municipal
property as [a] public park is a governmental function because control
of public parks belongs primarily to
the state and municipalities...[who]
act as governmental agencies exercising an authority delegated to them by
the state. " Further, the court acknowledged that a municipality " may even
charge a nominal fee for participation
in a governmental activity and it will
not lose its governmental nature as
long as the fee is insufficient to meet
the activity's expenses. "
On the other hand, the state supreme court would find a municipality is engaged in a nonimmune proprietary function when it acts for its own
special corporate benefit or pecuniary
profit where it engages in an activity
" for the particular benefit of its inhabitants, " or " if it derives revenue in excess of its costs from the activity. " In
particular, the court noted that " this

| N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 3 | W W W. N R PA . O R G

court and courts of other jurisdictions
generally have concluded that a municipality acts in its proprietary capacity when it leases municipal property to private individuals. "
When a municipality derives substantial revenue from its commercial
use of municipal property, it has been
considered nonetheless to be engaged
in a proprietary function even if it
reinvests that revenue back into the
property's maintenance expenses or to
pay down debt related to the property.
The City had contended that the
maintenance of the clubhouse was a
governmental function because this
building was located on a municipal
golf course. Moreover, the City argued that " a golf course, like a park
or swimming pool, is a recreational
facility that falls within the scope of
a municipality's governmental functions. " The state supreme court rejected this argument.
Even if we were to assume that the
operation of a municipal golf course
is a governmental function, we cannot conclude that the fact that the
restaurant is in a building located on
a municipal golf course transforms
an otherwise commercial function
into a governmental one.
As a result, the state supreme
court determined " the defendant
can be held liable for the plaintiff 's
injuries because it was acting in its
proprietary capacity when it leased
a portion of the clubhouse to the
restaurant. " The state supreme court
affirmed the judgment of the trial
court in favor of plaintiff.
James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D., is an
attorney and associate professor in the
School of Recreation, Health and Tourism at
George Mason University (jkozlows@gmu.
edu). Webpage with link to Law Review
articles archive (1982 to present): http://
mason.gmu.edu/~jkozlows.



November 2013 - Parks & Recreation

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November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 1
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