This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2004).
IN COURT OF APPEALS
Filed December 26, 2006
Chisago County District Court
File No. 13-C8-04-001060
Stephen W. Cooper, Stacey R. Everson, The Cooper Law
Firm, Chartered, Loring Green East,
Teresa M. Thompson, Lindsay J. Zamzow, Fredrickson & Byron, P.A., 200 South Sixth Street, Suite 4000, Minneapolis, MN 55402 (for appellants)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge; Kalitowski, Judge; and Dietzen, Judge.
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
district court denied
F A C T S
an introductory training program, the department assigned Elofson to patrol duty
the fall election, Rivard became the Chisago County Sheriff in January 2003. As sheriff, Rivard became aware of reports
that Elofson was misusing her squad car and was taking frequent coffee and meal
breaks outside of
early July 2003, Rivard assigned a new lead officer to
Rivard notified Elofson in writing on July 28, 2003, that her probationary employment would be terminated. In separate written requests, Elofson asked why she was being terminated, requested reinstatement, and also requested that Rivard list her termination as a resignation if he was unwilling to reinstate her. In a letter dated July 29, 2003, Rivard informed Elofson that he had accepted her resignation.
D E C I S I O N
reviewing an appeal from the denial of official immunity on summary judgment,
this court determines whether there are genuine issues of material fact and
whether the district court erred in applying the law. Thompson
v. City of
doctrine of official immunity is a common law remnant of sovereign immunity
that protects individuals who may be subject to liability because of their work
on behalf of government. Janklow v.
decision to terminate a person’s employment is “almost always a discretionary
act.” Janklow, 552 N.W.2d at 717.
This is especially true for employment that involves carrying out the
policies and reflecting the standards of an elected official. Rico v.
State, 472 N.W.2d 100, 105 (
the employment termination is discretionary, the government official who makes
the decision will ordinarily be immune from suit unless the claimant can
establish that the government official forfeited immunity protection by acting
willfully or maliciously.
Beaulieu the supreme court expressly
recognized that the same evidence that is necessary to prove discrimination
will almost always demonstrate willful or malicious conduct for purposes of
official immunity. 518 N.W.2d at 570. Because both inquiries require a finding that
the defendant acted intentionally, and the inquiry for each focuses on the
objective reasonableness of the defendant’s actions, “the practical impact of
allowing official immunity to be asserted as a defense to discrimination claims
under [the MHRA] will be at most negligible.”
we applied the principles stated in Beaulieu,
and concluded that, because the elements that are required to sustain a
sexual-harassment claim under the MHRA are substantially similar to those
required to sustain the claim of malice, the denial of a motion for summary
judgment on the merits necessarily barred summary judgment on the basis of
official immunity. 559 N.W.2d at
123-124. In denying
After analyzing the extensive evidence in the record, the district court denied summary judgment on the gender-discrimination claim because it concluded that Elofson had presented sufficient facts to raise a triable issue on whether Rivard intentionally treated her differently from similarly situated males on the basis of her gender. See Minn. Stat. § 363A.08, subd. 2 (2004) (prohibiting unfair employment practices on basis of gender). The district court observed that Elofson’s allegations of gender-based discrimination are “reasonably supported by affidavits and deposition transcripts,” and further recognized that the “evidence presented remains subject to conflicting interpretations that could cause reasonable people to differ.”
with that determination and the reasoning of
agree with the district court’s analysis.
Elofson is a member of a protected class for purposes of the MHRA, she
has sustained a negative employment consequence for reasons which she alleges
to be discriminatory, and she has put forward evidence of discriminatory
treatment. Also, Elofson has provided
evidence of her experience and skill as a veteran police officer, has presented
affidavit support from the business community in her assignment area that
attests to the high quality of her service, and has submitted numerous records
from her training with
We recognize that, at the summary judgment stage, the conjunction of proof on the elements of a discrimination claim and the willful-or-malicious-act exception to official immunity may result in immunizing the government from ultimate liability but not the immediate litigation. We interpret Beaulieu and Davis as intending this result. We also note that, outside the context of discrimination claims, official immunity is not available on summary judgment when the record presents a genuine issue of material fact on an element necessary for the application of official immunity. See, e.g. Thompson, 707 N.W.2d at 674-75 (addressing issue of vehicular pursuit and stating that official immunity cannot be determined on summary judgment when genuine issues of material fact are disputed and require resolution at trial); Johnson v. Morris, 453 N.W.2d 31, 42 (Minn. 1990) (addressing excessive-use-of-force claim under 42 U.S.C.A. § 1983 and denying summary judgment because willful-or-malicious-act exception to official immunity is “usually a question of fact to be resolved by a jury”).
on this record, we conclude that the district court properly applied the law
and did not err in denying summary judgment on the application of official
immunity and, by extension, vicarious immunity to Chisago County. Mumm v.
Mornson, 708 N.W.2d 475, 493 (