Salt Lake County was not liable for the misconduct of a former county-employed social worker who had sexual relations with a female patient, the Utah Supreme Court has ruled in overturning a lower court.

The justices, in the 5-0 ruling, said Michael Flowers, a licensed social worker, should be ordered to pay the judgment previously entered against the county on the basis he was indemnified as a government employee.The justices said Flowers was acting outside the scope of his employment, for personal reasons and in violation of county regulations and rules of professional conduct. They ordered 3rd District Judge Dean Conder to enter a new judgment to that effect.

The jury found Flowers 50 percent negligent, the county 40 percent negligent and the patient 10 percent culpable. But the judge agreed with Flowers' claim he was indemnified because of his position, and ordered the county to pay that portion as well.

The jury awarded the patient a total of $14,000, minus her 10 percent, in connection with the 1982 episode of sexual misconduct.

The woman became acquainted with Flowers after calling a crisis line operated by Salt Lake County's Intensive Treatment Unit. She spoke with Flowers and he persuaded her to visit the agency for counseling.