IN COURT OF APPEALS
David Granville and Marlyss Granville,
as parents and natural guardians of
Kailynn Granville, a minor,
Jacqueline Johnson, as parent and natural
guardian of Shanel Andrews, a minor,
School District No. 1,
Filed June 27, 2006
Hennepin County District Court
File Nos. 02-10663 & 02-10664
Erik D. Willer, Michael L. Weiner, Christopher J. Moreland, Yaeger, Jungbauer & Barczak, PLC, 745 Kasota Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for respondents)
Diane B. Bratvold, Shanda K. Pearson, Rider Bennett, LLP, 33 South Sixth Street, Suite 4900, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellant)
Steven L. Theesfeld, Yost & Baill, LLP, 2050 U.S. Bank Plaza South, 220 South Sixth Street, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for amicus curiae Minnesota Trial Lawyers Association)
Considered and decided by Stoneburner, Presiding Judge; Willis, Judge; and Crippen, Judge.*
S Y L L A B U S
Because Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a (2002), which provides immunity from tort liability to all school districts that are unable to obtain liability insurance for an average rate of $1.50 or less per pupil, treats all school districts and their students similarly, the statute does not violate the Equal Protection Clause of either the United States or Minnesota Constitution.
O P I N I O N
Appellant school district challenges an
order denying its motion for summary judgment based on its claim of immunity
from tort liability under Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a (2002), which
provides immunity to school districts that are unable to obtain liability insurance
for an average rate of $1.50 or less per pupil.
The district court, applying both federal and state rational-basis
analyses, concluded that the statute’s $1.50 classification is arbitrary in
light of current market conditions and “not genuine or relevant to the purpose
of the law” and that, therefore, the “operation of the statute . . . violates
the equal protection guarantees of the federal and state constitutions.” Because the record shows that all school
In November 2001,
appealed to this court, arguing that the district court erred by failing to
apply the strict-scrutiny standard to the statute. This court affirmed in part, concluding that
strict scrutiny did not apply because the statute did not create a racial
classification or infringe on a fundamental right, and reversed in part because
the record did “not permit the determination of whether Minn. Stat.
§ 466.12, subd. 3a, passes the rational-basis test.” Granville
In December 2004, the school district moved the district court for summary judgment, arguing again that it was immune from tort liability under Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a. Respondents argued that, inter alia, Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a, is not rationally related to the legitimate governmental purpose of protecting schools that cannot obtain liability insurance at reasonable market rates. On May 13, 2005, the district court issued an order denying summary judgment and concluding that, inter alia, Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a, is unconstitutional under both the federal and state rational-basis tests. The school district appeals.
Does Minn. Stat. § 466.12,
subd. 3a (2002), violate the equal-protection clauses of the
A party may appeal immediately from
an order that denies an immunity defense.
The school district claims it has immunity from tort liability under Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a (2002), which provides:
Schools shall insure, be liable; conditions. A school district shall procure insurance as provided in section 466.06, meeting the requirements of section 466.04, if it is able to obtain insurance and the cost thereof does not exceed $1.50 per pupil per year for the average number of pupils. If, after a good faith attempt to procure such insurance, a school district is unable to do so, and the commissioner of insurance certifies that such insurance is unobtainable, it shall be subject to the provisions of subdivisions 1 and 2. If the school district fails to make a good faith attempt to procure such insurance and the commissioner of insurance does not certify that such insurance is unobtainable, then in that event section 466.12 shall not apply to such a school district and it shall be subject to all of the other applicable provisions of chapter 466.
It is undisputed that the school district satisfied the requirements for immunity under subdivision 3a by showing that it was unable to obtain liability insurance at an average rate of $1.50 or less per pupil per year and by obtaining a certification of such inability from the commissioner of commerce. See 1983 Minn. Laws ch. 289, § 114, at 1307 (substituting statutory references to “commissioner of insurance” with “commissioner of commerce”). Respondents argue, and the district court concluded, that the $1.50 per pupil classification in the statute is an arbitrary distinction and that immunity triggered by the $1.50 per pupil rate violates the equal-protection guarantees of the federal and state constitutions.
constitutionality of a statute is a question of law, which is reviewed de
Granville I, this court determined
that the rational-basis standard applies to the determination of whether Minn.
Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a, violates the equal-protection clauses of the
(1) The distinctions which separate those included within the classification from those excluded must not be manifestly arbitrary or fanciful but must be genuine and substantial, thereby providing a natural and reasonable basis to justify legislation adapted to peculiar conditions and needs; (2) the classification must be genuine or relevant to the purpose of the law; that is there must be an evident connection between the distinctive needs peculiar to the class and the prescribed remedy; and (3) the purpose of the statute must be one that the state can legitimately attempt to achieve.
State v. Russell, 477 N.W.2d 886, 888 (
Respondents argue that although the $1.50 classification in Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a, “presumably served to protect the coffers of high risk schools facing abnormally high insurance premiums,” it is now an arbitrary distinction because it “is not in line with current market condition[s]” and cannot be “rationally aimed to meet the desired goal of protecting schools that cannot get insurance at reasonable market rates.” The school district argues that this court should not analyze the $1.50 classification “under current market conditions” because (1) this court is limited to analyzing whether the $1.50 classification was arbitrary at the time it was enacted (the parties agree it was not); (2) there is no “legal authority for incorporating ‘current market conditions’ into a rational basis analysis”; (3) market conditions are always changing and an analysis that incorporates market conditions would therefore subject subdivision 3a to repeated constitutional challenge; and (4) this court’s reference to current market conditions in Granville I was only an attempt to “frame the parties’ competing arguments for remand” and does not constitute the law of the case.
conclude that we do not need to decide if the $1.50 classification is arbitrary
in light of current market conditions because arbitrary classifications in
statutes have been ruled unconstitutional only when such classifications result
in similarly situated individuals being treated differently. See,
e.g., Glassmann v. Miller, 356
N.W.2d 655, 656 (Minn. 1984) (holding that statutory notice-of-claim
requirement that applied to tort victims of municipalities but not to tort
victims of the state violated equal-protection clauses because there was “no
rational basis for distinguishing between municipal and state tortfeasors”); Wegan v. Village of Lexington, 309
N.W.2d 273, 280 (
parties dispute whether school-district immunity is good public policy. And although the supreme court’s exploration
of similar policy arguments led it to abrogate common-law immunity for school
districts in Spanel v. Mounds View Sch.
Dist. No. 621, 264 Minn. 279, 118 N.W.2d 795 (1962), there is no Minnesota
caselaw suggesting that a grant by the legislature of school-district immunity
from tort liability is unconstitutional.
It is the legislature’s responsibility “to balance myriad competing
interests and to allocate the State’s resources for the performance of those
services important to the health, safety, and welfare of the public.” Lienhard
v. State, 431 N.W.2d 861, 867 (
raised due-process arguments for the first time at oral argument. Because these arguments were not made in
respondents’ brief, we will not consider them.
See Peterson v. BASF Corp.,
711 N.W.2d 470, 482 (
D E C I S I O N
Because the application of the $1.50
classification in Minn. Stat. § 466.12, subd. 3a, results in similarly
situated individuals being treated similarly, the statute does not violate the Equal
Protection Clause of either the
* Retired judge of the Minnesota Court of Appeals, serving by appointment pursuant to Minn. Const. art. VI, § 10.