Declining Jimmy Williams’ invitation to extend the tort of negligent misrepresentation to government employment relationships, the Minnesota Supreme Court today reversed a $1 million damage award to Williams. Williams had sued the University of Minnesota and basketball coach Tubby Smith because, he said, he was offered a job at Minnesota and the job offer was rescinded because Smith did not have hiring authority.
Smith did not owe Williams a duty of care not to mislead him in the negotiations, the court said. “[W]hen a prospective government employment relationship is negotiated at arm’s length between sophisticated business persons who do not have a professional, fiduciary, or other special legal relationship, the prospective employee is not entitled to protection against negligent misrepresentations by the representative for the prospective government employer,” the court said, in a divided opinion written by Justice Christopher Dietzen.
The court also said, “We believe that the manner in which appellants treated Williams regarding his prospective employment with the University was unfair and disappointing. We do not condone their conduct.”