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We were recently contacted by a seriously injured person who was already represented for an injury in late 2010. In fact, the case was close to settlement. The plaintiff was looking for a second opinion because his lawyer kept talking about a “$300,000 state liability cap.” The lawyers had repeatedly told him that Minnesota law limits liability of the state and municipalities at $300,000 per claim. His lawyers said they were going to do everything possible to try to get him “the full $300,000 available.”

If the client was correct (and it certainly seemed that he had all his facts straight) his lawyer was about to commit malpractice!

Caps do exist, and have been changed a number of times since the original law in the early 1960s. The most recent amendment provided a series of gradual increases for caps on:

Claims against the State:

• $300,000 per claim before August 1, 2007.

• $400,000 per claim from August 1, 2007 through June 30, 2009.

• $500,000 per claim on or after July 1, 2009.[1]

The lawyers going into negotiations thinking they were capped at $300,000 may have been leaving $200,000 on the table!

Incidentally, there is a slightly different set of dates capping total claims out of a single occurrence (e.g., capping total payout when multiple people are injured or killed out of the same incident).

• $750,000 maximum for all claimants from January 1, 1998 to January 1, 2000.

• $1 million for all claims between January 1, 2000 and January 1, 2008.

• $1.2 million for all claims between January 1, 2008 and July 1, 2009.

• $1.5 million for all claims arising on or after July 1, 2009.[2]

Municipalities have the same steps, but again somewhat different dates:

• $300,000 for claims before January 1, 2008.

• $400,000 for claims between January 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009.

• $500,000 for claims on or after July 1, 2009.

The dates for aggregate limits are the same for municipalities and the state.[3] Of course, the municipal limits, both single and aggregate, are doubled when “the claim arises out of the release or threatened release of a hazardous substance . . .”[4]

[1] Minn. Stat. § 3.736, subd. 4(a-c) (2010).

[2] Minn. Stat. § 3.736, subd. 4(d-g) (2010).

[3] Minn. Stat. § 466.04, subd. 1(a)(4-7)(2010), Minn. Stat. § 3.736, subd. 4(d-g)(2010).

[4] Minn. Stat. § 466.04, subd. 1(a)(8)(2010).

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