Legal Memorandum: Former City Official's Liability in LA

Issue: Whether a third party defendant who preceded a city official in office may be added as a defendant in an action that occurred before the defendant official was sworn in as an official in Louisiana

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure, Municipal, County and Local Law
Keywords: Third-party defendant; Liability; Former city official
Jurisdiction: Louisiana
Cited Cases: 46 So. 3d 266; 402 So. 2d 742; 809 So. 2d 533; 542 So. 2d 145
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 10/01/2011

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 in a personal capacity in the employment relationship.”  Id. (observing that even after statutory changes the legislature intended for the sheriff in his or her official capacity, not the parish, should be the party that is held vicariously liable for torts by deputy sheriffs).  Accord Williams v. Stewart, 2010-0457 (La. App. 4 Cir. 9/22/10); 46 So. 3d 266, writ denied.

Since a City Official would not face liability for any acts or omissions that occurred prior to his appointment as City […]

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