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Pine County, Deputy Not Given Official Immunity in Wrongful Death Suit

The Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled that a Pine County deputy and the county itself don’t have official immunity in a wrongful death lawsuit.

On a snowy morning in November of 2013, 29-year-old Joseph Kelley was ejected from his car in a rollover on I-35 near North Branch. Pine County investigator Richard Giese was driving to work in a county-owned car and noticed a stalled vehicle but continued driving. According to documents, Giese noticed something in his lane but was unable to switch lanes, striking Kelley and dragging him about 92 feet.

After coming to a halt, Giese checked the pulse of Kelley, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

A wrongful death lawsuit was filed against him in 2016, alleging that Giese was negligent in the incident, and that it caused the death of Kelley. Giese claimed he was entitled to official immunity, and that the county was entitled to vicarious official immunity.

Last fall a court determined that Giese didn't perform any of the duties 'typical of a police officer' when responding to an accident.

The court of appeals affirmed that no official immunity would be given to Giese or the county.

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