Legal Memorandum: City Official's Liability in LA

Issue: Whether a city official in Louisiana may be held liable individually or in his official capacity for violations that occurred before he was sworn in as an official

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Municipal, County and Local Law
Keywords: Liability of city official; Personal or official capacity
Jurisdiction: Louisiana
Cited Cases: 46 So. 3d 266; 542 So. 2d 145; 144 So. 78
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 10/01/2011

No case with an explicit holding on this issue was located.  However, in Rehm v. Sharp, 144 So. 78 (La. App. 1932), the court held that a candidate for office was not liable for expenses incurred by his campaign manager prior to the individual’s appointment as campaign manager.  Conversely, the campaign manager had the actual or implied authority to bind the candidate from the date of the campaign manager’s appointment forward.

Notwithstanding the paucity of cases on point, the case law stands generally for the rule that a defendant can be liable in his or her official capacity only for acts or omissions occurring during the official’s term, and while in the scope and course of the official’s duties or employment.  E.g., Nall v. Parish of Iberville, 542 So. 2d 145 (La. App. 1 Cir. 4/11/89).  In Jenkins v. Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, 402 So. 2d 669 (La. 1981), the supreme court concluded that a sheriff (and not the parish) could be held vicariously liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior for the acts of his deputy sheriffs.  The court clarified that the sheriff’s liability for the acts of his or her employees attaches “only because he is sheriff and … only … to the extent that the holds that office.  He is not liable personally, and his personal funds and property cannot be subjected to execution of a judgment decreeing that liability.”  Id. at 671.  The sheriff cannot “be viewed as acting […]

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