Legal Memorandum: Official Immunity to State Officers

Issue: Under what conditions may a state officer be afforded official immunity under Minnesota law?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Government Claims
Keywords: Official immunity; State officer; Discretionary function
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 522 N.W.2d 344; 164 Minn. 457; 552 N.W.2d 711; 472 N.W.2d 100
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 3.736, subd. 1; Minn. Stat. § 3.736, subd. 3(b); Minn. Stat. § 181.64
Date: 04/01/2012

Statutory immunity of the state and official immunity is sometimes afforded to state officers.*FN1  Under the Minnesota Tort Claims Act, the state will pay compensation for injury to persons or property caused by an act or omission of a state employee acting within the scope of his or her office, under any circumstances where the state, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant, whether the injuries arise out of a governmental or a proprietary function.  Minn. Stat. § 3.736, subd. 1.  The state will not be held liable, however, for losses caused by the performance of a discretionary duty, even when the discretion is abused.  Id. § 3.736, subd. 3(b).  In cases where the state is liable, damages are limited as set out in subdivision 4 of the statute, and the state will not pay punitive damages.  See id. at subds. 3 (no punitive damages); 4 (limiting damages to $1.5 million for claims arising out of a single occurrence after July 1, 2009). 

The governmental immunity issue was raised in Board of Regents v. Reid, 522 N.W.2d 344 (Minn. Ct. App. 1994).  In that § 181.64 fraudulent-inducement case against the University of Minnesota, the court held that the university and named officials had absolute immunity from suit for defamation, but it left standing the district court’s refusal to grant summary judgment in the university’s favor on the fraudulent-inducement-to-accept-employment claim.  The court explained that the university shares sovereign immunity with […]

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