Judge rules state, engineer have immunity from lawsuit in Waseca fatal
WASECA — A judge has ruled the Minnesota Department of Transportation and its engineer have immunity from a lawsuit stemming from the death of a former Minnesota State University football player.
Fred Statz, 25, collided with a semi-truck at a Waseca intersection in November 2012. He was coming from a banquet at Waseca High School, where the former college player coached football, according to the Free Press of Mankato (http://bit.ly/1MtP1sQ ).
Days before the accident, MnDOT converted the intersection from a four-way to a two-way stop but did not notify drivers.
Statz's parents, Bill and Kathy, filed a wrongful death lawsuit, alleging the department was negligent. The transportation department argued it had discretion to place signage as it chooses.
Waseca County District Court Judge Larry Collins ruled Aug. 6 that the MnDOT engineer qualified for official immunity because the decision about signage to notify drivers of the change from a four-way stop to a two-way stop was discretionary in nature and not made maliciously.
Since the engineer received immunity from suit, the department also receives immunity in this case, Collins wrote.
Bill Statz said Friday he found the ruling "a little bit upsetting."
"All the professions in the civilian side of life are held accountable and are always subject to scrutiny," he said. "That's why people carry liability insurance. If the state employees don't have to be held accountable, they can make bad decisions with bad outcomes without consequences."
He said they would review the decision and plan with their attorney.
Kevin Gutknecht, communications director for MnDOT, said the department was aware of the judge's decision, but "our chief counsel hasn't had a chance to review it."