Johnson v. State

553 N.W.2d 40 (Minn. 1996)



Whether government entities and public officials are protected by statutory immunity and official immunity is a legal question which a trial court must review de novo.


Respondent trustees filed a wrongful death action and sought monetary damages from the state and the halfway house after a parolee released by the state raped and murdered Melissa Johnson. Appellants, state, county and halfway house, sought review of an order by the Court of Appeals (Minnesota) that held that respondent trustees claims against appellant were not barred by statutory immunity and official immunity, that there was a duty to control the parolee in question, and that the victim's rape and murder were foreseeable. The appeals court's decision was reversed. 


Did the district court err in ruling that the trustees' claims against the state, the county, and their agents were not barred by statutory immunity and official immunity?




The trial court erred when it held that the trustees' claims were not barred by statutory immunity. The facts of each case involving state and office immunity must be carefully scrutinized by the court and reviewed de novo.  In this case, the halfway house had no control over the parolee and could not be held liable. The state could not be  held liable as it is recognized public policy to provide for the release of parolees into the community.

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