Manchester Municipal Risk Management Authority


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Court Weighs In on Absolute Immunity

Posted: Monday, July 8, 2013

As a result of a recent opinion by a divided Michigan Supreme Court, the absolute immunity provisions of the Michigan Governmental Immunity Statute that apply to the elected and highest appointed executive officials of government are applicable to these high-ranking officials even when performing lower-level duties. The majority in Petipren v. Jaskowski wrote:

“Consistent with the plain meaning of 'executive authority,' the highest executive official is entitled to absolute immunity under MCL 691.1407(5) even when performing acts that might otherwise be performed by a lower-level employee if those actions fall within the authority vested in the official by virtue of his or her role as an executive official.” 

In July 2008, Rodney Jaskowski, then police chief of Port Sanilac, Michigan, was involved in the arrest of Thomas Petipren, a musician performing at a community outdoor summer event. The job description of the Port Sanilac police chief included the authority to arrest and otherwise engage in related ordinary police functions.

Petipren thereafter filed suit in state court alleging assault and battery, false arrest, and intentional infliction of emotional distress as a result of the arrest. The trial court and court of appeals both refused to apply the absolute immunity provisions of the Act, because Jaskowski was acting in the role of an ordinary patrolman instead of police chief. As quoted above, a three-Justice majority of the Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with the lower courts and ruled in favor of absolute immunity for the police chief. (Two Justices abstained and two dissented.)

This decision should prove particularly valuable to law enforcement departments in smaller communities, in which chiefs may wear several hats as a result of smaller staffs of patrol officers.




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Michigan Municipal Risk
Management Authority

14001 Merriman Road
Livonia, MI 48154
734.513.0300
800.243.1324

MMRMA has been a leader in municipal risk since 1980 and remains committed to meeting the ever-expanding challenges faced by its membership. MMRMA's risk control services are designed to help its members identify, prevent, and mitigate losses through on-site surveys, training, and other services. MMRMA also provides its members with premier claims and legal services, sound financial management, and essential news on the latest developments in public risk management.


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