Franklin County commissioners are asking the operators of the Franklin County Museum to list the county as a secondary insurer on the facility to help protect the county from potential liability claims. Commissioners instructed County Administrator Fred Bowen to send a letter to the Franklin County Historical Society asking that the county be covered under the museum's liability insurance policy.
County officials have expressed fear over what could happen with a claim because of the state's "joint and several" liability law, which could make the county responsible for paying all damages even if it were only 1 percent responsible in case of an accident at the museum, located at 305 N. Fourth Ave. in Pasco.
"It hasn't happened yet, but it could," commission Chairman Rick Miller said.
The county purchased the building from the city of Pasco, but doesn't own it outright because of a clause that requires that the county keep it as a museum. But Commissioner Brad Peck said ownership is a secondary issue.
"I think the issue is not so much who owns the building, because everybody agrees it should stay a museum," he said. "The issue is who is responsible under joint and several liability for paying the lawsuit if there is a serious accident or incident? We certainly hope that won't happen, but we can't pretend there isn't some risk there."
The historical society board is not scheduled to meet again until Nov. 12, museum administrator Sherel Webb told the Herald.
Webb said they will consider the request when they receive it.
"We are not in receipt of the letter. I have no idea what the letter says or how in need of receipt they are," she said.