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.
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 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.