The sole question on this appeal is whether the 30-day notice-of-claim requirement and 1-year limitation provision of Minn.St. 1961, § 465.09, apply to bar plaintiffs' action for damages resulting from personal injuries sustained by the minor plaintiff, Gary Schultz, when he was assaulted after attending a dance conducted on premises owned and controlled by the Housing and Redevelopment Authority of the City of St. Paul and known as John J. McDonough Homes.
It is undisputed for the purposes of this appeal that the action, based upon a claim of negligence, is against the Authority and that plaintiffs neither presented a notice of claim within 30 days after the alleged injury nor commenced the action within 1 year thereafter. The trial court held that the statute does not apply to the Authority and denied its motion for summary judgment, but certified the questions involved as important and doubtful. The Authority appeals.
Section 465.09 provides in relevant part:
Under our previous construction and application of this statute, departments and agencies of a city government have been entitled to timely notice as a condition precedent to suit. Hirth v. Village of Long Prairie, 274 Minn. 76, 143 N.W.2d 205; Mitchell v. City of St. Paul, 228 Minn. 64, 36 N.W.2d 132.
The test for determining the applicability of these requirements to the various agencies of government is set forth in Mitchell and speaks in terms of "identity" between the department or agency and the city (228 Minn. 71, 36 N.W.2d 136):
Basing its reasoning on the Mitchell case, the Authority argues that, for the purposes of § 465.09, it must be considered to be an agency of the city of St. Paul and therefore entitled to the benefit of the conditions precedent to suit afforded by the statute. In support of that argument, it points to the statutory scheme creating the Authority, which it claims reveals such identity between
While the rationale of the Mitchell case together with the underlying purpose of the statute "to protect against dissipation of public funds"
The Authority seeks to restrict the meaning of this provision by arguing that it is intended to establish only that the substantive liability of the Authority be the same as that of any private corporation and does not preclude the application of the general notice statute governing conditions precedent to suit against a municipal agency. In support of this argument, the Authority relies on Frasch v. City of New Ulm, 130 Minn. 41, 153 N.W. 121, L.R.A. 1915E, 749. The significant holding in that case, however, is that the legislature in requiring a condition precedent to suit did not unconstitutionally discriminate in favor of municipalities owning public utilities as against private parties carrying on similar enterprises. As in the Mitchell case the suit was against the city for alleged negligence of employees of one of its departments, and the court was not confronted with a conflict between the notice statute and a provision such as § 462.455 declaring the liability of a public agency created by statute.
That there is a direct conflict between these two statutory provisions cannot be denied. Requiring a claimant to give notice of a claim before he may sue does not render the Authority liable in tort "in the same manner as a private corporation." Broadly interpreted, the phrase "in the same manner" refers not only to the creation of rights and the extent of liability but also to the procedure for the assertion of those rights. Cassidy v. Constantine, 269 Mass. 56, 168 N.E. 169, 66 A.L.R. 1186. Thus, given such an interpretation, at the very least it must refer to the procedural aspects of liability, of which the notice requirement is surely an example. Terry v. Ferreria (Fla.) 51 So.2d 426; La Monica v. Krauss, 191 Misc. 589, 76 N.Y.S.2d 520; Buman v. Sturn, 73 N.D. 561, 16 N.W.2d 837. We believe that a proper interpretation of the phrase "in the same manner" was intended to encompass both the procedural and the substantive law applicable to tort actions.
The general notice statute and its predecessor have been in effect in similar form since 1897. The conflicting statute declaring the policy with respect to the tort liability of the Authority was enacted in 1947 as a part of the Municipal Housing and Redevelopment Act. The question, therefore, is which of these conflicting statutes shall govern. The rules of statutory construction provide that where there is irreconcilable conflict between statutes, one general and the other special or particular in scope, the particular controls over
The quasi-private nature of the Authority also supports the conclusion that the legislature as a matter of policy intended that with respect to tort liability an authority shall be treated in every way as though it were a private corporation. We have in the past held that it is pertinent to consider the private characteristics of a governmental instrumentality in determining whether it is intended to be immune from liability for torts. In Zins v. Justus, 211 Minn. 1, 10, 299 N.W. 685, 690, we reasoned as follows:
This reasoning appears equally relevant to the question of the applicability of the notice statute. Not unlike the Federal Housing Administration, the Authority in the management and development of property acquired by it for both public and private use is empowered to engage in activities of a commercial or semicommercial nature which may and often do compete with private enterprise. As a creature of the state it is a corporate entity distinct from the city and is granted "all the powers necessary or convenient to carry out the purposes" of its creation. Minn.St. 462.445, subd. 1. Included specifically (§ 462.445) is the power of eminent domain, to sue and be sued, to have perpetual succession, to make rules and regulations, to borrow money, issue bonds, notes, or other evidences of indebtedness, to mortgage its property, to invest funds, and to make expenditures "as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of sections 462.415 to 462.711." Subd. 4(16). Such a corporate agency of government may justifiably be made subject to the same liability for torts as a private corporation and should not be afforded the protection of the notice statute at the expense of an injured claimant absent a clear legislative mandate.
In holding as we do that, by reason both of the rules of statutory construction and of legislative policy, Minn.St.1961, § 465.09, is not applicable to the Authority, we do not rule on or intend to indicate any predilection as to the applicability of Minn.St. 466.05 of the Tort Liability Act, since that question, as expressly acknowledged by the parties, is neither raised nor presented.