1. K-State home
  2. »Research and Extension
  3. »Employee Resources
  4. »Administrative Handbook
  5. »Chapter 1
  6. »Section D
  7. »Immunity of Volunteer Workers of County Extension Councils from Negligence Liability (1987)

KSRE Employee Resources

EXTENSION ADMINISTRATIVE HANDBOOK - KANSAS STATE ATTORNEY GENERAL OPINIONS

Chapter 1 Section D12. Immunity of Volunteer Workers of County Extension Councils from Negligence Liability (1987)


August 12, 1987

Ted D. Ayres
General Counsel
Kansas Board of Regents
Suite 609, Capitol Tower
400 S.W. Eighth
Topeka, KS 66603-3911

RE:        Agriculture—County Extension Councils, Boards and Agents—Application of L. l987, Ch. 215

Synopsis:    Without Internal Revenue Code, section 50l(c) exemption county extension councils do not qualify as “nonprofit organizations” pursuant to L. l987, ch. 215. However, if county extension councils did have section 50l(c) exemption status, and if they carried general liability insurance, then their volunteers would be eligible to receive the negligence liability immunity afforded by L. l937, ch. 215. Cited herein: L. l987, ch. 215; K.S.A. l986 Supp. 2-611.

Dear Mr. Ayres:

As General Counsel for the Kansas Board of Regents you request our opinion as to whether volunteer workers of county extension councils are immunized from negligence liability pursuant to l987 Senate Bill No. 28, hereinafter referred to as L. l987, ch. 215.

L. l987, ch. 215 specifically limits civil liability for volunteers of certain nonprofit organizations.  Section l(b) provides in part:

“If a nonprofit organization carries general liability insurance coverage, a volunteer of such organization shall not be liable for damages in a civil action for acts or omissions as such volunteer unless ...” (emphasis added.)

In order for L. l987, ch. 215 to apply to volunteers of a county extension council, the county extension council must first be classified as a “nonprofit organization.” L. l987, ch. 215, Sl(A)(1). For purposes of L. l987, ch. 215, a nonprofit organization is defined in section l(a)(l) as follows:

“‘Nonprofit organization’ means those nonprofit organizations exempt from federal income tax pursuant to section 50l(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of l986, as in effect on the effect date of this act...” (emphasis added.)

In order to qualify for federal income tax exemption pursuant to Section 50l(c) of the Internal Revenue Code of l986, an application for that exception has to be submitted to the Internal Revenue Service. It is our understanding that currently no county extension council has obtained section 50l(c) exemption status from the Internal Revenue Service. Without this exemption status, county extension councils do not satisfy the requirements of a “nonprofit organization” as listed in section l(a)(l) of L. l987, ch. 215.

L. l987, ch. 215 also sets out a definition of what a “volunteer” is. To be immune from negligent liability pursuant to L. l987, ch. 215, the individuals in question must meet this definition:

“‘Volunteer” means an officer, director, trustee or other person who performs services for a nonprofit organization but does not receive compensation, either directly or indirectly, for those services ...”

L. l987, ch. 215, Sl(a)(3). (emphasis added.)

County extension council members, executive board members, and other volunteers do not receive compensation for their services pursuant to K.S.A. l986 Supp. 2-611(G), which provides in part:

“Members of the county extension council and of the executive board shall receive no compensation for their services as members of the council or of the executive board ...” (emphasis added.)

Since county extension council members, executive board members, and other county extension council volunteers receive no compensation for their services, it would appear that they are “volunteers” for purposes of L. l987, ch. 215. Thus, if a county extension council obtains a 50l(c) exception from federal income tax, and thus becomes a nonprofit organization for purposes of L. l987, ch. 215, these individuals would be immunized from negligence liability, pursuant to L. l987, ch. 215.

In summary, without Internal Revenue Code, section 50l(c) exemption status, county extension councils do not qualify as “nonprofit organizations” pursuant to L. l987, ch. 215. However, if county extension council did have section 50l(c) exemption status, and if they carried general liability insurance, then their volunteers would be eligible to receive the negligence liability immunity afforded by L. 1937, ch. 215.

/S/ Robert T. Stephan, Attorney General
/S/ Julene L. Miller, Deputy Attorney General