Legal Memorandum: Private Right of Action for Declaratory Relief

Issue: Under Minnesota law, when is a party entitled to declaratory relief under Minnesota Statute 8.31, subdivision 3a?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Declaratory relief; Private cause of action; Causation
Jurisdiction: Minnesota
Cited Cases: 517 F.3d 544
Cited Statutes: Minnesota Statute 8.31, subdivision 3a
Date: 11/01/2012

Minnesota Statute § 8.31, subdivision 3a*FN1 provides a private right of action for declaratory relief.  The statutory language addressing standing is clear that a private cause of action is available only to “any person injured by a violation of any of the laws” specified.  Minn. Stat. § 8.31.  Allegations and evidence that show only (1) a violation and (2) an injury, without demonstrating (3) a causal link between the first two elements, is insufficient as a matter of law and grounds for dismissal.  As stated in Group HealthPlan Inc. v. Phillip Morris, 621 N.W.2d 2, 13 (Minn. 2001):

Section 8.31, subdivision 3a, authorizes a damages action only by someone injured by a violation.  This language denotes a causal relationship between the alleged injury and the wrongful conduct that violates the statute.  Causation is, therefore, a necessary element of an action to recover damages under section 8.31, subdivision 3a.

See also Schaaf v. Residential Funding Corp., 517 F.3d 544, 552 (8th Cir. 2008) (under Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd 3a, “requirement that a plaintiff be “injured by” conduct of the defendant does not allow for recovery unless a plaintiff can show that the defendant’s actions proximately caused the plaintiff’s losses”); Kinetic Co. v. Medtronic Inc., 672 F. Supp. 2d 933, 945-46 (D. Minn. 2009) (pursuant to Minn. Stat. § 8.31, subd. 3a, “plaintiff must prove a ‘causal nexus’ between defendant’s wrongful conduct and plaintiff’s injuries.”).



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