Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2021


Qualified immunity is a legal doctrine that protects law enforcement officers from lawsuits if the courts find their actions fit three criteria: the action must be discretionary rather than ministerial, the action must be in good faith, and the action must be within the scope of the employee’s authority. By conducting a survey of cases in both the Kentucky court system and the federal court system, this presentation analyzes how qualified immunity is applied. This presentation looks at the doctrine and what the courts look for in various tort claims involving police officers, such as negligence, assault, and false imprisonment. It also discusses the significant pitfalls with the qualified immunity doctrine and how it can shield law enforcement officials from being held liable in a civil case. A plaintiff seeking damages in tort cases must prove that it is more likely than not that the defendant is liable for whatever tort is being alleged. They do this by showing the defendant’s conduct fulfilled certain elements, and if they do so, then they win. A result of the qualified immunity doctrine is that even if a plaintiff proves each element in a case with a police officer, the law enforcement official can avoid being held liable.