Chapter 5.3 Limitations on State Immunity

Limitations on State Immunity

As a general proposition, state officials enjoy immunity from civil liability for their official or public acts when undertaken on behalf of the state.  However, over the years the defense of sovereign immunity has been substantially reduced by state legislatures waiving immunity for ministerial or operational acts.   Generally, courts distinguish between two “types” of public acts in assessing the application of sovereign immunity to conduct resulting in injuries to others: (1) discretionary acts; and (2) ministerial acts.  Other states grant immunity to public officers and employees so long as the official’s actions were not undertaken in bad faith or without a reasonable basis. Pinter v. City of New York, 710 F. Supp. 2d 408 (S.D.N.Y. 2010).  To be entitled to governmental immunity for intentional tort, an officer must establish that they were acting in the course of employment and at least reasonably believed that they were acting within scope of their authority, that the actions were discretionary in nature, and that the officer acted in good faith.  Bell v. Porter, 739 F.Supp.2d 1005 (W.D. Mich. 2010).