Governmental-Function Theory Law and Legal Definition

Governmental-function theory refers to a legal principle characterizing a private conduct as a state action. This principle is applied in due process and equal protection clauses, especially when a private party is exercising a public function. In Belt v. Grand Forks, 68 N.W.2d 114, 119 (N.D. 1955), the court under the governmental-function theory exempted a municipality from a liability for negligence in the performance of a governmental function, power or duty which it is authorized to perform. This theory is based on the survival of the medieval idea that the sovereign power can do no wrong. However, this doctrine has been seriously questioned and condemned by eminent jurists and distinguished legal authors.