(a) An area authority, by securing liability insurance as provided in this section, may waive its governmental immunity from liability for damage by reason of death or injury to person or property caused by the negligence or tort of any agent, employee, or board member of the area authority when acting within the scope of his authority or within the course of his duties or employment. Governmental immunity is waived by the act of obtaining this insurance, but it is waived by only to the extent that the area authority is indemnified by insurance for the negligence or tort.
(b) Any contract of insurance purchased pursuant to this section shall be issued by a company or corporation licensed and authorized to execute insurance contracts in this State and shall by its terms adequately insure the area authority against any and all liability for any damages by reason of death or injury to a person or property proximately caused by the negligent acts or torts of the agents, employees, and board members of the area authority when acting within the course of their duties or employment. The area board shall determine the extent of the liability and what agents, employees by class, and board members are covered by any insurance purchased pursuant to this subsection. Any company or corporation that enters into a contract of insurance as described in this section with the authority, by this act waives any defense based upon the governmental immunity of the area authority.
(c) Any persons sustaining damages, or, in the case of death, his personal representative, may sue an area authority insured under this section for the recovery of damages in any court of competent jurisdiction in this State, but only in a county located within the geographic limits of the authority. It is no defense to any action that the negligence or tort complained of was in pursuance of a governmental or discretionary function of the area authority if, and to the extent that, the authority has insurance coverage as provided by this section.
(d) Except as expressly provided by subsection (c) of this section, nothing in this section deprives any area authority of any defense whatsoever to any action for damages or to restrict, limit, or otherwise affect any defense which the area authority may have at common law or by virtue of any statute. Nothing in this section relieves any person sustaining damages nor any personal representative of any decedent from any duty to give notice of a claim to the area authority or to commence any civil action for the recovery of damages within the applicable period of time prescribed or limited by statute.
(e) The area authority may incur liability pursuant to this section only with respect to a claim arising after the authority has procured liability insurance pursuant to this section and during the time when the insurance is in force.
(f) No part of the pleadings that relate to or allege facts as to a defendant's insurance against liability may be read or mentioned in the presence of the trial jury in any action brought pursuant to this section. This liability does not attach unless the plaintiff waives the right to have all issues of law or fact relating to insurance in the action determined by a jury. These issues shall be heard and determined by the judge, and the jury shall be absent during any motions, arguments, testimony, or announcement of findings of fact or conclusions of law with respect to insurance. (1981, c. 539, s. 2; 1985, c. 589, s. 2.)