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Holding Your City Accountable: Municipal Liability

Any Wisconsinite will tell you there is something special about living in this great state. Wisconsin is a stable, productive state, replete with natural beauty—not to mention, the home of the Green Bay Packers. In no small part, Wisconsin local governments play a critical role in maintaining our state’s appeal by ensuring that citizens (and our guests) are safe, prosperous, and happy. Under the law, local governments have many duties to fulfill, and just like any of us, a local government is prone to making mistakes.

When a local government makes a mistake, it can have a huge negative impact on our rights, property, and personal safety. Generally, a local government is immune from liability when it makes a mistake. Immunity, however, is not set in stone.

The question of whether you could hold a local government liable for your damages turns on the nature of the government’s action. To put it simply, government action can be one of two things.

1. Discretionary – discretionary action is a legal power that gives a local government the choice of how it should act in response to a situation, if at all.

2. Ministerial – ministerial action is an action clearly defined by law that the local government must perform.

A local government may be held liable when acting negligently in carrying out ministerial action. Put another way, if the law directs a local government to take certain action, and in carrying out that action the local government negligently, recklessly, or intentionally causes harm or damages, the local government may be held liable. Moreover, a local government may be liable for certain violations of local, state, or federal law.

Governmental immunity is important and should be respected, but there are times when a local government should be held liable for its mistakes. You are not without hope if you have experienced loss or damage by the actions of a local government. At Levine Eisberner LLC, we care about keeping government accountable and helping you get compensated for your loss so that you can focus on what matters—enjoying life in Wisconsin.

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