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Legal Memorandum: Qualified Immunity for Government Officials

Issue: What sort of analysis does the court typically engage in when qualified immunity is not an option in a matter involving the conduct of a government official in Louisiana?

Area of Law: Employee Law, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Qualified immunity absent; Duty/risk analysis; Reasonableness of course of action
Jurisdiction: Louisiana
Cited Cases: 874 So. 2d 863; 944 So. 2d 768; 655 So. 2d 333
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 10/01/2009

Absent qualified immunity, the court engages in a duty/risk analysis.  Taylor v. City of Shreveport, 653 So. 2d 232 (La. App. 2 Cir. 4/7/95), writ denied, 95-1131 (La. 6/16/95); 655 So. 2d 333.  This analysis requires proof that (1) the defendant’s conduct was a cause-in-fact of the alleged injury; (2) the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty of care; (3) the defendant breached the duty of care; and (4) the risk of harm was within the scope of the protection that was afforded by the duty.  Comeaux v. Wranglers Night Club, 04-951, p. 5 (La. App. 3 Cir. 12/8/04; 889 So. 2d 464, 468.  “The cause-in-fact test requires that ‘but for’ the defendant’s conduct, the injuries would not have been sustained.  The legal causation rest requires that there be a ‘substantial relationship’ between the conduct complained of and the harm incurred.”  Taylor, 653 So. 2d at 241.  Accord Kniepp v. City of Shreveport, 609 So. 2d 1163, 1169 (La. App. 2 Cir. 12/2/92).

In Taylor, the court held that even assuming the police officers had a duty to the plaintiff, there was no breach of that duty that caused the plaintiff’s death; the officers had probable cause, acted within their duty as police officers, and violated no constitutional rights.  653 So. 2d at 241.  In Smith v. Lafayette Parish Sheriff’s Dep’t, 03-517, p. 10 (La. App. 3 Cir. 4/21/04); 874 So. 2d 863, 870, the court held that the sheriff’s department fulfilled its duty […]

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