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Minnesota Legislature

Office of the Revisor of Statutes

Key: (1) language to be deleted (2) new language

  

                         Laws of Minnesota 1990 

                        CHAPTER 555-S.F.No. 1827 
           An act relating to civil actions; providing for 
          immunity from liability for unpaid members of county 
          agricultural society boards; addressing reduction of 
          damages in an action under no-fault automobile 
          insurance; preserving common law tort law claims 
          against adults who knowingly provide alcoholic 
          beverages to minors; increasing the amount of claims 
          that may be settled without court approval under the 
          municipal compromise of claims statute; changing the 
          standard for awarding punitive damages; addressing 
          when a principal may be held liable for punitive 
          damages for an act of the principal's agent; requiring 
          a separate trial to address punitive damages; 
          requiring the court to review a punitive damages 
          award; making the contributory negligence rule apply 
          to damages resulting from economic loss; redefining 
          fault; abolishing the doctrine of last clear chance; 
          providing immunity from liability for volunteer ski 
          patrollers; limiting the liability of food donors; 
          providing a defense for the use of reasonable force by 
          teachers; providing vehicle and watercraft lighting 
          exemptions for law enforcement; repealing the limit on 
          intangible loss damages and the requirement that a 
          jury specify amounts for past, future, and intangible 
          loss damages; amending Minnesota Statutes 1988, 
          sections 31.50, subdivisions 1, 2, 3, and by adding a 
          subdivision; 38.013; 65B.51, subdivision 1; 127.03, by 
          adding a subdivision; 169.48; 340A.801, by adding a 
          subdivision; 361.15; 466.08; 541.051, subdivision 1; 
          548.36, subdivision 3; 549.20, subdivisions 1, 2, and 
          by adding subdivisions; 604.01, subdivisions 1, 1a, 
          and 3; 604.05, subdivision 2; proposing coding for new 
          law in Minnesota Statutes, chapter 169; repealing 
          Minnesota Statutes 1988, sections 549.23 and 549.24. 
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA: 
    Section 1.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 31.50, 
subdivision 1, is amended to read: 
    Subdivision 1.  [DEFINITIONS.] (a) For the purposes of this 
section, "distressed food" means, in addition to the definition 
in section 31.495, certain perishable foods, as defined in 
section 28A.03, which may not be readily marketable due to 
appearance, freshness, grade, surplus or other considerations 
and are not suspect of having been rendered unsafe or unsuitable 
for food use and are adequately labeled.  
    (b) For the purposes of this section, "food bank" means a 
surplus food collection and distribution system operated and 
established to assist in bringing donated food to nonprofit 
charitable organizations and individuals for the purpose of 
reducing hunger and meeting nutritional needs. 
    (c) For the purposes of this section, "food facility" means:
    (1) a restaurant, food establishment, vehicle, vending 
machine, produce stand, temporary food facility, satellite food 
distribution facility, stationary mobile food preparation unit, 
and mobile food preparation unit; 
    (2) a place used in conjunction with the operations 
described in clause (1), including, but not limited to, storage 
facilities for food-related utensils, equipment, and materials; 
or 
    (3) a farmers' market. 
    (d) "Nonprofit charitable organization" means an 
organization that was organized under the Minnesota nonprofit 
corporation act and is operating for charitable purposes. 
    Sec. 2.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 31.50, 
subdivision 2, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 2.  [DONATION; DISTRESSED FOOD.] A food manufacturer, 
distributor, processor or a person who donates or collects 
distressed food to or for a nonprofit charitable organization as 
defined in section 309.50, subdivision 4, for distribution at no 
charge to the elderly or needy, or who directly distributes 
distressed food to the elderly or needy at no charge, shall not 
be liable for any injury, including but not limited to injury 
resulting from the ingesting of the distressed food, unless the 
injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness or 
intentional misconduct of the food manufacturer, processor, 
distributor or person.  
    Sec. 3.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 31.50, 
subdivision 3, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 3.  [DISTRIBUTION.] A food bank or nonprofit 
charitable organization as defined in section 309.50, 
subdivision 4, which in good faith collects or receives 
distressed food and distributes it at no charge to the elderly 
or needy, at no charge, food which is fit for human consumption 
at the time it is distributed, shall not be liable for any 
injury, including but not limited to injury resulting from the 
ingesting of the distressed food, unless the injury is caused by 
the gross negligence, recklessness or intentional misconduct of 
the food bank or nonprofit charitable organization.  
    Sec. 4.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 31.50, is amended 
by adding a subdivision to read: 
    Subd. 5.  [OTHER FOOD DONATION.] A food facility that 
donates, to a food bank or other nonprofit charitable 
organization, food which is: 
    (1) fit for human consumption at the time of donation; and 
    (2) distributed by the food bank or nonprofit charitable 
organization to the elderly or needy at no charge; 
shall not be liable for any injury, including, but not limited 
to, liability resulting from ingestion of the food, unless the 
injury is caused by the gross negligence, recklessness, or 
intentional misconduct of the food facility. 
     Sec. 5.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 38.013, is 
amended to read: 
    38.013 [TORT LIABILITY.] 
    Subdivision 1.  [GENERAL.] Except as provided in 
subdivision 2, the provisions of chapter 466, regarding tort 
liability, apply to county agricultural societies organized 
under this chapter.  
    Subd. 2.  [UNPAID BOARD MEMBERS; LIABILITY.] A person who 
serves without compensation as a member of the board of a county 
agricultural society created or organized under this chapter is 
not civilly liable for an act or omission by that person if the 
act or omission was in good faith, was within the scope of the 
person's responsibilities as a member of the board, and did not 
constitute willful or reckless misconduct. 
    This subdivision does not apply to: 
    (1) an action or proceeding brought by the attorney general 
for a breach of a fiduciary duty by a board member; 
    (2) a cause of action to the extent it is based on federal 
law; or 
    (3) a cause of action based on a board member's express 
contractual obligation. 
    This subdivision does not limit the liability of a member 
of the board for physical injury to the person of another or for 
wrongful death that is personally and directly caused by the 
board member. 
    For purposes of this subdivision the term "compensation" 
means any thing of value received for services rendered, except: 
    (1) reimbursement for expenses actually incurred; 
    (2) a per diem in an amount not to exceed the per diem 
authorized for state advisory councils and committees under 
section 15.059, subdivision 3; or 
    (3) payment by the county agricultural society of insurance 
premiums on behalf of a member of the board. 
    Sec. 6.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 65B.51, 
subdivision 1, is amended to read: 
    Subdivision 1.  [DEDUCTION OF BASIC ECONOMIC LOSS 
BENEFITS.] With respect to a cause of action in negligence 
accruing as a result of injury arising out of the operation, 
ownership, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle with respect to 
which security has been provided as required by sections 65B.41 
to 65B.71, there shall be deducted the court shall deduct from 
any recovery the value of basic or optional economic loss 
benefits paid or payable, or which would be payable but for any 
applicable deductible.  In any case where the claimant is found 
to be at fault under section 604.01, the deduction for basic 
economic loss benefits must be made before the claimant's 
damages are reduced under section 604.01, subdivision 1. 
     Sec. 7.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 127.03, is 
amended by adding a subdivision to read: 
    Subd. 3.  [IMMUNITY FROM CIVIL LIABILITY.] It is a defense 
to a civil action for damages against a teacher to prove that 
the force used by the teacher was reasonable, was in the 
exercise of lawful authority, and was necessary under the 
circumstances to restrain the pupil. 
    Sec. 8.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 169.48, is 
amended to read: 
    169.48 [VEHICLE LIGHTING.] 
    Every vehicle upon a highway within this state, at any time 
from sunset to sunrise and at any other time when visibility is 
impaired by weather, smoke, fog or other conditions or there is 
not sufficient light to render clearly discernible persons and 
vehicles on the highway at a distance of 500 feet ahead, shall 
display lighted lamps and illuminating devices, as hereinafter, 
respectively, required for different classes of vehicles, 
subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles and law 
enforcement vehicles, as hereinafter stated.  In addition to the 
other requirements of this paragraph, every school bus 
transporting children upon a highway within this state, at any 
time from a half hour before sunrise to a half hour after 
sunset, shall display lighted lamps and illuminating devices as 
required by this paragraph, except that the operator shall use 
the lower most distribution of light specified in section 169.60 
unless conditions warrant otherwise. 
    When requirement is hereinafter declared as to the distance 
from which certain lamps and devices shall render objects 
visible or within which such lamps or devices shall be visible, 
these provisions shall apply during the time stated in this 
section upon a straight level unlighted highway under normal 
atmospheric conditions unless a different time or condition is 
expressly stated and unless otherwise specified the location of 
lamps and devices shall refer to the center of such lamps or 
devices.  Parking lamps shall not be used in lieu of head lamps 
to satisfy the requirements of this section.  
    Sec. 9.  [169.541] [LIGHTING EXEMPTIONS; LAW ENFORCEMENT 
VEHICLES; STANDARDS.] 
    Subdivision 1.  [EXEMPTION.] Sections 84.87, 84.928, 169.48 
to 169.65, and 361.15, relating to lighting of vehicles and 
watercraft, do not apply to a licensed peace officer, as defined 
in section 626.84, subdivision 1, paragraph (c), while operating 
a motor vehicle or watercraft owned, leased, or otherwise the 
property of the state or a political subdivision, in the 
performance of the officer's law enforcement duties if the 
officer's conduct is reasonable and is consistent with the 
standards adopted under subdivision 2, and if the officer 
reasonably believes that operating the vehicle without lights is 
necessary under the circumstances to investigate a criminal 
violation or suspected criminal violation of state laws, rules, 
or orders or local laws, ordinances, or regulations. 
    Subd. 2.  [POST BOARD STANDARDS.] The peace officers 
standards and training board shall adopt standards governing 
situations in which licensed peace officers as defined in 
section 626.84, subdivision 1, paragraph (c), may operate a 
vehicle or watercraft without lights as provided in subdivision 
1.  The board shall report to the legislature on the standards 
by January 1, 1991. 
    Sec. 10.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 340A.801, is 
amended by adding a subdivision to read: 
    Subd. 6.  [COMMON LAW CLAIMS.] Nothing in this chapter 
precludes common law tort claims against any person 21 years old 
or older who knowingly provides or furnishes alcoholic beverages 
to a person under the age of 21 years. 
     Sec. 11.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 361.15, is 
amended to read: 
    361.15 [LIGHTS.] 
    Subdivision 1.  Except as provided in section 9, each 
watercraft using the waters of this state, when underway or in 
use at any time between sunset and sunrise, shall carry and 
display the lights specified by the commissioner for such 
watercraft. 
    Sec. 12.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 466.08, is 
amended to read: 
    466.08 [COMPROMISE OF CLAIMS.] 
    Notwithstanding sections 466.03 and 466.06, the governing 
body of any municipality, the administrator of a self-insurance 
pool, or the authorized representative of a private insurance 
carrier may compromise, adjust and settle tort claims against 
the municipality for damages under section 466.02 and may, 
subject to procedural requirements imposed by law or charter, 
appropriate money for the payment of amounts agreed upon.  When 
the amount of a settlement exceeds $2,500 $10,000, the 
settlement shall not be effective until approved by the district 
court. 
    Sec. 13.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 541.051, 
subdivision 1, is amended to read: 
    Subdivision 1.  (a) Except where fraud is involved, no 
action by any person in contract, tort, or otherwise to recover 
damages for any injury to property, real or personal, or for 
bodily injury or wrongful death, arising out of the defective 
and unsafe condition of an improvement to real property, nor any 
action for contribution or indemnity for damages sustained on 
account of the injury, shall be brought against any person 
performing or furnishing the design, planning, supervision, 
materials, or observation of construction or construction of the 
improvement to real property or against the owner of the real 
property more than two years after discovery of the injury or, 
in the case of an action for contribution or indemnity, accrual 
of the cause of action, nor, in any event shall such a cause of 
action accrue more than ten years after substantial completion 
of the construction.  Date of substantial completion shall be 
determined by the date when construction is sufficiently 
completed so that the owner or the owner's representative can 
occupy or use the improvement for the intended purpose.  
     (b) For purposes of paragraph (a), a cause of action 
accrues upon discovery of the injury or, in the case of an 
action for contribution or indemnity, upon payment of a final 
judgment, arbitration award, or settlement arising out of the 
defective and unsafe condition. 
     (c) Nothing in this section shall apply to actions for 
damages resulting from negligence in the maintenance, operation 
or inspection of the real property improvement against the owner 
or other person in possession. 
    (d) The limitations prescribed in this section do not apply 
to the manufacturer or supplier of any equipment or machinery 
installed upon real property. 
    Sec. 14.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 548.36, 
subdivision 3, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 3.  [DUTIES OF THE COURT.] (a) The court shall reduce 
the award by the amounts determined under subdivision 2, clause 
(1), and offset any reduction in the award by the amounts 
determined under subdivision 2, clause (2).  
    (b) If the court cannot determine the amounts specified in 
paragraph (a) from the written evidence submitted, the court may 
within ten days request additional written evidence or schedule 
a conference with the parties to obtain further evidence. 
    (c) In any case where the claimant is found to be at fault 
under section 604.01, the reduction required under paragraph (a) 
must be made before the claimant's damages are reduced under 
section 604.01, subdivision 1. 
    Sec. 15.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 549.20, 
subdivision 1, is amended to read: 
    Subdivision 1.  (a) Punitive damages shall be allowed in 
civil actions only upon clear and convincing evidence that the 
acts of the defendant show a willful indifference to deliberate 
disregard for the rights or safety of others. 
    (b) A defendant has acted with deliberate disregard for the 
rights or safety of others if the defendant has knowledge of 
facts or intentionally disregards facts that create a high 
probability of injury to the rights or safety of others and: 
    (1) deliberately proceeds to act in conscious or 
intentional disregard of the high degree of probability of 
injury to the rights or safety of others; or 
    (2) deliberately proceeds to act with indifference to the 
high probability of injury to the rights or safety of others. 
    Sec. 16.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 549.20, 
subdivision 2, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 2.  Punitive damages can properly be awarded against 
a master or principal because of an act done by an agent only if:
    (a) the principal authorized the doing and the manner of 
the act, or 
    (b) the agent was unfit and the principal was reckless in 
employing the agent deliberately disregarded a high probability 
that the agent was unfit, or 
    (c) the agent was employed in a managerial capacity with 
authority to establish policy and make planning level decisions 
for the principal and was acting in the scope of that 
employment, or 
    (d) the principal or a managerial agent of the principal, 
described in clause (c), ratified or approved the act while 
knowing of its character and probable consequences. 
    Sec. 17.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 549.20, is 
amended by adding a subdivision to read: 
    Subd. 4.  [SEPARATE PROCEEDING.] In a civil action in which 
punitive damages are sought, the trier of fact shall, if 
requested by any of the parties, first determine whether 
compensatory damages are to be awarded.  Evidence of the 
financial condition of the defendant and other evidence relevant 
only to punitive damages is not admissible in that proceeding.  
After a determination has been made, the trier of fact shall, in 
a separate proceeding, determine whether and in what amount 
punitive damages will be awarded. 
    Sec. 18.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 549.20, is 
amended by adding a subdivision to read: 
    Subd. 5.  [JUDICIAL REVIEW.] The court shall specifically 
review the punitive damages award in light of the factors set 
forth in subdivision 3 and shall make specific findings with 
respect to them.  The appellate court, if any, also shall review 
the award in light of the factors set forth in that 
subdivision.  Nothing in this section may be construed to 
restrict either court's authority to limit punitive damages. 
    Sec. 19.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 604.01, 
subdivision 1, is amended to read: 
    Subdivision 1.  [SCOPE OF APPLICATION.] Contributory 
fault shall does not bar recovery in an action by any person or 
the person's legal representative to recover damages for fault 
resulting in death or, in injury to person or property, or in 
economic loss, if the contributory fault was not greater than 
the fault of the person against whom recovery is sought, but any 
damages allowed shall must be diminished in proportion to the 
amount of fault attributable to the person recovering.  The 
court may, and when requested by any party shall, direct the 
jury to find separate special verdicts determining the amount of 
damages and the percentage of fault attributable to each party; 
and the court shall then reduce the amount of damages in 
proportion to the amount of fault attributable to the person 
recovering. 
    Sec. 20.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 604.01, 
subdivision 1a, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 1a.  [FAULT.] "Fault" includes acts or omissions that 
are in any measure negligent or reckless toward the person or 
property of the actor or others, or that subject a person to 
strict tort liability.  The term also includes breach of 
warranty, unreasonable assumption of risk not constituting an 
express consent or primary assumption of risk, misuse of a 
product and unreasonable failure to avoid an injury or to 
mitigate damages, and the defense of complicity under section 
340A.801.  Legal requirements of causal relation apply both to 
fault as the basis for liability and to contributory fault.  The 
doctrine of last clear chance is abolished. 
    Evidence of unreasonable failure to avoid aggravating an 
injury or to mitigate damages may be considered only in 
determining the damages to which the claimant is entitled.  It 
may not be considered in determining the cause of an accident. 
    Sec. 21.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 604.01, 
subdivision 3, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 3.  [PROPERTY DAMAGE OR ECONOMIC LOSS; SETTLEMENT OR 
PAYMENT.] Settlement with or any payment made to a person or on 
the person's behalf to others for damage to or destruction of 
property shall or for economic loss does not constitute an 
admission of liability by the person making the payment or on 
whose behalf the payment was made. 
    Sec. 22.  Minnesota Statutes 1988, section 604.05, 
subdivision 2, is amended to read: 
    Subd. 2.  [GENERAL IMMUNITY FROM LIABILITY.] Any person 
who, without compensation or the expectation of compensation 
renders emergency care, advice, or assistance at the scene of an 
emergency or during transit to a location where professional 
medical care can be rendered, is not liable for any civil 
damages as a result of acts or omissions by that person in 
rendering the emergency care, advice, or assistance unless that 
person acts in a willful and wanton or reckless manner in 
providing the care, advice, or assistance.  Any person rendering 
emergency care, advice, or assistance during the course of 
regular employment, and receiving compensation or expecting to 
receive compensation for rendering such care, advice, or 
assistance, shall be excluded from the protection of this 
section. 
    For the purposes of this section, the scene of an emergency 
shall be those areas not within the confines of a hospital or 
other institution which has hospital facilities, or an office of 
a person licensed to practice one or more of the healing arts 
pursuant to chapter 147, 148, 150A, or 153.  The scene of an 
emergency includes areas threatened by or exposed to spillage, 
seepage, fire, explosion, or other release of hazardous 
materials, and includes ski areas and trails.  
    For the purposes of this section, "person" includes a 
public or private nonprofit volunteer firefighter, volunteer 
police officer, volunteer ambulance attendant, volunteer first 
provider of emergency medical services, volunteer ski patroller, 
and any partnership, corporation, association, or other entity.  
    For the purposes of this section, compensation does not 
include payments, reimbursement for expenses, or pension 
benefits paid to members of volunteer organizations. 
    Sec. 23.  [REPEALER.] 
    Minnesota Statutes 1988, sections 549.23 and 549.24, are 
repealed. 
    Sec. 24.  [EFFECTIVE DATE; APPLICATION.] 
    Sections 1 to 4, 6, 13 to 21, and 23 are effective the day 
following final enactment and apply to all causes of action 
arising on or after that date.  Section 10 is effective August 
1, 1990, and applies to causes of action arising on or after 
that date. 
    Presented to the governor April 26, 1990 
    Signed by the governor May 3, 1990, 10:48 a.m.