Legal Memorandum: Police Officer's Immunity from Tort Liability

Issue: Is a police officer entitled to official immunity from tort liability for a traffic accident?

Area of Law: Government Claims
Keywords: Official immunity; Tort liability; Police officer
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 678 N.W.2d 651
Cited Statutes: Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 5 (b)(2); Minn. Stat. § 169.03, subd.3 § 169.17, §§ 169.14, subd. 2 (speeding), 169.18, subd.1;
Date: 03/01/2007

Although, generally, a police officer is classified as a discretionary officer entitled to official immunity, “official immunity is not available when an officer is exercising a ministerial duty.”  Brown v. City of Bloomington, 706 N.W.2d 519, 522 (Minn. Ct. App. 2005), pet. review denied Minn. Feb. 22, 2006).  To determine whether immunity applies to shield a police officer in a given case, the court must identify the specific conduct at issue.  Anderson v. Anoka Hennepin Indep. Sch. Dist. 11, 678 N.W.2d 651, 656 (Minn. 2004).  In conducting the analysis, “it must be kept in mind that the mere existence of some degree of judgment and discretion will not necessarily confer common law official immunity.”  Schroeder v. St Louis County, 708 N.W.2d 497, 505 (Minn. 2006).

For example, an officer who attempts to pass another vehicle within 100 feet of a city intersection violates Minn. Stat. § 169.18, subd. 5 (b)(2):

Subd. 5(b) …[N]o vehicle shall, in overtaking and passing another vehicle or at any other time, be driven to the left half of the roadway under the following conditions:

. . . .


(2) when approaching within 100 feet of any . . .intersection within a city . . ..


Although Minn. Stat. § 169.03, subd.3 permits an authorized emergency vehicle to use the oncoming lane of traffic when responding to an emergency call, there is no exemption for passing within 100 feet of a city intersection even in an […]

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