liability

CSG Midwest
Last year, 2.3 million people attended Iowa’s 105 volunteer-driven, youth-oriented county and regional fairs. That means a lot of people in close contact with farm animals — and, as a result, the chance for outbreaks of zoonotic disease. “I see fair officials doing due diligence to reduce the risk of visitors getting sick,” notes Iowa Sen. Dan Zumbach, who, like many farmers, has been a 4-H leader and is active on his county board.
But even if the proper precautions are taken (for example, proper handling of animal waste, posting signs and promoting hand washing among participants), outbreaks can and do happen, as evidenced by occurrences in the Midwest. According to the International Association of Fairs and Expos, county fairs in Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin have had known cases of E. coli O157:H7 outbreaks since 2000.
One concern of Zumbach’s has been the legal liability of county fairs when these incidences occur. His response: Last year’s introduction of SF 362, which received near-unanimous approval in the Legislature.
Now a new state law, the measure explicitly states that no fair authority in Iowa (state, local or regional) is liable for injuries or deaths “caused by a domesticated animal pathogen transmitted at a domesticated animal premises located on its fairgrounds.”

In a unanimous opinion in County of Los Angeles v. Mendez the Supreme Court rejected the “provocation rule,” where police officers using reasonable force may be liable for violating the Fourth Amendment because they committed a separate Fourth Amendment violation that contributed to their need to use force. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to reject the Ninth Circuit’s provocation rule.

Police officer entered the shack Mendez was living in without a warrant and unannounced. Mendez thought the officers were the property owner and picked up the BB gun he used to shoot rats so he could stand up. When the officers saw the gun, they shot him resulting in his leg being amputated below the knee.  

The Supreme Court sent Spokeo v. Robins, involving whether Thomas Robins may sue a search engine under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) for providing inaccurate information about him, back to the lower court to determine whether Robins suffered a “concrete” harm and therefore had “standing” to sue.

While this case does not sound relevant to state and local government it is. A number of federal statutes applicable to state and local government—the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA)—allow plaintiffs to sue even if they have not necessarily been harmed. Regardless, to bring a lawsuit in federal court a plaintiff must have “standing” per Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Injury-in-fact—including a concrete harm—is one of the requirements for “standing.”

To bring a lawsuit in federal court a plaintiff must have “standing” per Article III of the U.S. Constitution. An undisputed element of standing is that the plaintiff has suffered an injury. But what if Congress allows plaintiffs who have suffered no concrete harm to sue based upon a mere violation of statute? The Supreme Court will decide whether such plaintiffs have Article III standing in Spokeo v. Robins

While the impact of this case on state and local governments may not be obvious, there is a finite number of statutes where Congress has created a private right of action and a plaintiff may be unharmed by a violation of the statute. Most are consumer protection statutes like the Truth in Lending Act and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which don’t apply to state and local governments. But a few such statutes do apply—the Fair Housing Act (FHA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA).