Today’s releases include a published opinion holding that immunities, either under the Municipal Tort Claims Act or official immunity, do not apply in mandamus actions. The short version of the facts in Pigs R Us, LLC v. Compton Township: company applies for swine facility building permit, Town grants permit, citizens complain, Town pulls permit, Town hastily passes a zoning revision, Court grants writ of mandamus and awards damages. The case on damages (Pigs R Us sought over $1.7 million) is where things got interesting. The Court engages in a detailed discussion of statutory immunity and mandamus, reaching a clear conclusion that mandamus is outside the MTCA. Less attention is paid to a vicarious official immunity claim, as it’s logically inconsistent to concede that a non-discretionary duty exists supporting mandamus (as the Town does here), but then claim official immunity, which only exists for discretionary acts. The case came to the Court on a denial of summary judgment, so the opinion only reaches the questions of immunity.
I don’t think the Court is trying to mock Compton Township, but it’s odd that the unpublished opinions can be read to say “hey, here’s how it’s done.” The City of Rochester fares better making an immunity argument to the Court, obtaining a reversal for entry of judgment on a failure-to-warn claim. The opinion follows the line of cases (Minder v. Anoka County, Krieger v. St. Paul) requiring actual knowledge of a defect to defeat statutory immunity. Pawn America applied for an available pawnbroker license in St. Louis Park, citizens panicked, the City adopted a moratorium, studied and revised its zoning several months later, Pawn America gets no license. City wins the lawsuit – the key difference likely being the adoption of a moratorium for study (reasonable) instead of an immediate rewrite of zoning ordinances (arbitrary).
And I didn’t get to it when it came out (real writing assignments always crowd out the blog assignments), but congratulations to my law school classmate Roy Christensen, who won a 60-day rule appeal for his landowner client last week.