quick facts

A Constitutional Abolition of Governmental Immunity

Louisiana is unique in that the Louisiana Constitution abolished government immunity in tort and contract cases: “Neither the state, a state agency, nor a political subdivision shall be immune from suit and liability in contract or for injury to person or property.” 1 However, the legislature may limit damages in cases against the government and government officials. 2 The result is that “judgments rendered against the State are payable only by specific appropriation by the legislature.” 3 Louisiana government liability is limited also by a statutory provision granting discretionary immunity. 4

Robust Tort Claims and Precarious Constitutional Rights

In at least one case, the Louisiana Supreme Court recognized a right to damages for injuries suffered because a state agent violated a state constitutional right to privacy. 5 For state constitutional violations, Louisiana courts undertake a qualified-immunity analysis resembling the federal qualified-immunity doctrine. 6

While Louisiana’s constitutional right of action for damages is precarious, plaintiffs harmed by the government will have more certainty when they bring tort claims against the state government and officials, which is governed by the Louisiana Governmental Claims Act (“LGCA”). 7 LGCA lays out procedural rules for contract and tort claims against the government, including a statutory cap on damages and a provision stating that a suit against “the state or a state agency or political subdivision” must be brought in “Louisiana state court.” 8 Fortunately for plaintiffs, Louisiana law generally permits tort claims, including intentional tort claims, to be filed against government employees. Louisiana law also permits victims of a tortfeasor to sue their employer under a theory of vicarious liability. 9 This has been applied in cases involving intentional torts and a government employer. 10