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Interstate Commission for Adult Offender Supervision | Ensuring Public Safety for the 21st Century

Bench Book - 5.2.2.2 Tort Claims by Others

An unfortunate fact pattern that arises from time to time is when a Compact offender causes the injury or death of a victim. Victims of those incidents (or their family members or estate) will sometimes raise tort claims against correctional or judicial officials related those injuries or deaths.

In some of those case, courts will find that the officials’ actions were not the proximate cause of the harm done to the victim, because the link between state action and the harm is too attenuated. See, e.g., Goss v. State, 714 A.2d 225 (N.H. 1998). Other courts have established a forgiving standard of care for officials, finding them liable only for the “grossly negligent or reckless release of a highly dangerous prisoner.” See Grimm v. Ariz. Bd. of Pardons & Parole, 564 P.2d 1227 (Ariz. 1977). And finally in many cases, resolution of the case will turn on the various immunities enjoyed by the defendant-officials, discussed in section 5.3.2. See, e.g., Hodgson v. Miss. Dep’t of Corr., 963 F. Supp. 776 (E.D. Wis. 1997) (a Compact case in which the sending state officials were deemed immune from a wrongful death suit filed by the father of a woman murdered in the receiving state).