Minnesota Department of Transportation

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Traffic Engineering

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Tort claims

What is a tort?
A “tort” is a civil wrong, other than a breach of contract and not criminal in nature, for which a court of law will provide a remedy in the form of money.

What is the Tort Claims Act of 1976?
In 1976, the Minnesota Legislature decided that the state should be held liable if they were negligent in performing their duties and passed the Tort Claims Act.  This Act defines the conditions under which the State, its agencies and its employees may be held accountable for damages resulting from the State’s negligence.

Minnesota Statute 3.736 defines the parameters of a tort claim including the procedures, exclusions (immunities), liability limits, notice required, payment, liability insurance, and indemnification.

When is MnDOT liable for a “tort claim”?
Liability for a tort is the legal obligation to pay money for damages to the person who is injured or damaged.  More than one entity may be liable for damages arising out of the same incident to more than one claimant.

 There are three elements of a tort claim:

  • MnDOT has a legal duty to the public – to keep roads safe for travel.
  • MnDOT breached that duty by falling below the standard of care – being negligent.
  • The defect needs to be the proximate cause of the tort – damage incurred by claimant was caused by MnDOT’s negligence.

There also needs to be notice, either “actual” notification or “constructive” notification of the condition.  The condition has to have existed long enough that MnDOT should have been notified or noticed it, and then a reasonable amount of time to afford MnDOT an opportunity to repair the condition or warn of the condition before MnDOT is considered negligent.

 What does the tort claims office do?
Our office is the liaison unit between MnDOT and the State Attorney General’s office and the Department of Administration’s Office of Risk Management.  This office processes all claims and lawsuits involving torts against MnDOT.

We work with each district office’s traffic engineer, who works within their district, to investigate claims and defend tort actions.

Since the state is self-insured, there is no insurance agency or investigative agency to perform these functions.  The tort claims section of MnDOT performs these functions.