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Pennsylvania’s Sovereign Immunity Act

West Chester attorneys have successfully defended government entities from liability.The U.S. government inherited the doctrine of sovereign immunity from England where the king or sovereign was immune from liability. Under the sovereign immunity doctrine, the U.S. government and its employees are immune from suit by virtue of their status as a government entity. The policy behind this immunity is to allow legislators and other government entities to govern without interference from lawsuits.

Even though Federal and state governments may not be sued under this doctrine, there are some exceptions to the rule. Generally, if the government action involves some type of negligence, then the government immunity no longer applies, such as when a person slips and falls on the sidewalk maintained by the state where the dangerous condition of the sidewalk was known and the state did nothing to correct it. Another example would be when a state employee is involved in a motor vehicle accident while on duty. However, a plaintiff who wishes to pursue a negligence claim against the government has to provide strict notice and undergo other procedural hurdles.

Pennsylvania’s Sovereign Immunity Act (Act) waives Pennsylvania’s sovereign immunity in certain limited cases. The Act provides a list of specific instances where the state has waived its immunity. Government entities risk exposure to lawsuits in the following instances.

  • Automobile accidents. When an automobile accident involves a government employee’s fault while on duty, sovereign immunity no longer applies.
  • Medical Malpractice. Negligent acts by public health care employees such as doctors, nurses and medical facilities of the state will trigger the exception to sovereign immunity.
  • Toxoids and vaccines. Government entities may be liable for negligent administration of vaccines or manufacture of toxoids and vaccines.
  • Care, custody or control of personal property or animal. If a person is injured because a government agency negligently cared for an animal or personal property in its’ custody, the injured party may pursue a lawsuit against that agency.
  • Premises liability. If a person is injured due to a dangerous condition on government property, that person can pursue a claim against the government entity in control of that property.
  • Dangerous conditions on roadways. State government is under a duty to maintain its roadways. If it is found that the state government agency knew of a dangerous condition on a roadway and did not take steps to repair it, it may be liable to the injured due to the condition of the roadway.
  • Liquor liability. If a person is injured due to the intoxication of another, they may seek damages against the person or place that sold the liquor. This law can extend to the government when it involves the negligence of state liquor control board.

Recovery is Limited

Plaintiffs who have a claim against a government entity must provide notice to the agency within six months of the occurrence of the incident. Failure to send the appropriate notice with all the necessary information may result in dismissal of the lawsuit. Furthermore, recovery for damages is limited to $250,000 in favor of a Plaintiff and $1,000,000 total recovery is permitted.

Attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser have Successfully Defended Government Entities from Liability

Attorneys at MacMain, Connell & Leinhauser have obtained numerous dismissals and defense verdicts on behalf of government agencies. Contact our office at 484-318-7106 or online to schedule a consultation. Located in West Chester, Pennsylvania, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania, including Philadelphia and Chester County.