08.10.2020

Suing The Government In Pennsylvania, Part One – The Commonwealth

Many Pennsylvanians wrongly assume that the law prohibits them from suing the government in Pennsylvania if they are injured on public property or by a government worker. While concepts of governmental and sovereign immunity apply, this is not completely accurate. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does enjoy some immunity from liability for injury victims’ damages but is not immune in every circumstance. In fact, there are many exceptions and, therefore, circumstances in which Pennsylvania residents (and out-of-state residents) may recover damages from “Pennsylvania” or a local municipality.

Filing a claim successfully against a government entity is much more challenging than a personal injury claim against a private artificial person (e.g., corporation) or natural person because of specific procedures that plaintiffs are required to follow. Any failure to adhere to any of these special rules and procedures may completely nullify a plaintiff’s right to recover compensation.

Powell Law has litigated and settled cases against state and local government bodies for 115 years. Our attorneys may protect your interests as Powell Law has successfully handled cases against the state of Pennsylvania and local municipalities for over a century rather than just a few decades.

America adopted and adapted the English concept of “sovereign immunity,” which is based on the English view that the King is infallible and can do no wrong. This legal doctrine shields the government from lawsuits. There are two types of government immunity. The first is sovereign immunity, which refers to the immunity provided to the Federal Government and the states. The second type is government immunity, which refers to the immunity provided to local governments and municipalities. There are similar, but different laws related to filing a claim against the state as opposed to one against a local government or municipality.

The Sovereign Immunity Act, found in Pennsylvania Code § 8522, provides that the Commonwealth has immunity from lawsuits unless the victim would have normally been able to recover the damages in a non-government case, and one of nine exceptions applies. If an accident involves any of the following nine exceptions, victims who suffer harm may be entitled to file a claim against the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

  1. Vehicle liability, i.e., being involved in an accident with a government worker in a state vehicle
  2. Medical-professional liability, i.e., injuries sustained from workers of Commonwealth agency medical facilities
  3. Care, custody, or control of personal property
  4. Commonwealth real estate, highways, and sidewalks, i.e., injuries sustained that result from dangerous conditions of state property
  5. Dangerous conditions created by road hazards on Commonwealth highways
  6. Care, custody, or control of animals
  7. Liquor store sales at Pennsylvania liquor stores by employees of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
  8. National Guard, i.e., injury by Pennsylvania military members
  9. Toxoids and vaccines, i.e., harm suffered as a result of a defective toxoid or vaccine not manufactured in Pennsylvania

Despite a set of circumstances that meets one of these exceptions, Pennsylvania law imposes other rules and restrictions on the process of recovering compensation. Contact Powell Law to learn more and stay tuned for part two of this article detailing some of these restrictions, as well as important information related to suing local governments and municipalities.

For 115 years, Powell Law has met the needs of those who require representation in personal injury matters in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area. Powell Law’s attorneys have unmatched experience assisting individuals who have suffered damages caused by the conduct of government employees. With Powell Law’s experience, we have unique abilities to help our clients in cases involving the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, as well as local governments and municipalities. Contact Powell Law at (570) 961-0777 or visit us online. Call now for a FREE case evaluation. You don’t pay unless we win!

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