Robinson v. Hillsborough County

Governmental Immunity Does Not Apply
New Hampshire Supreme Court, No. 2014-0648
Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In this brief opinion, the New Hampshire Supreme Court held that governmental immunity did not prevent a prisoner from filing suit to recover damages for injuries he sustained using damaged weight-lifting equipment in a county correctional facility. The plaintiff alleged that he reported a frayed cable on the equipment to a corrections officer, who determined that the equipment was usable. The next day, the cable snapped, injuring the plaintiff.

A governmental entity is immune from liability for injuries arising from planning or discretionary functions. Purely ministerial functions are not protected. For immunity to apply, the conduct that caused the injury must involve a “high degree of discretion and judgment . . . in weighing alternatives and making choices with respect to public policy and planning.” However, a governmental entity may be subject to liability “when its employees negligently follow or fail to follow an established plan or standards.” Here, the correctional facility had a procedure for creating work orders for equipment repairs. Determining whether to file a work order is not the type of discretion that governmental immunity protects from liability. These facts alleged the negligent implementation of policy and not the “choice of policy or planning, involving consideration of competing economic, social, and political factors” necessary to invoke governmental immunity.

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