How “sovereign immunity” can influence your an individual injury claim

By S.M. Oliva on February 7, 2018Updated ~ above February 8, 2021


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If you are injured as result of the negligence of a personal business, you have the right to seek damages through a an individual injury lawsuit. Because that example, if you room hit through a corporate shipment van that runs a red light, you deserve to sue the owner that the van because that his employee"s negligence. But what if the negligent owner is in reality a municipal government, such as Harris ar or the City of Dallas?

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Jason B. Stephens—a an individual injury lawyer at Stephens, Anderson & Cummings in ft Worth—represented the son of a mother in simply such a case. “As she was obtaining close come the hospital whereby she works, a Texas DOT car towing a trailer swerved into her roadway of traffic,” claims Stephens. “She had actually nowhere to go, and also no time to react; she suffered catastrophic injuries and also ended up dying as a result.”

Waiver of Sovereign immunity in Tort Cases

American legislation inherited the concept of “sovereign immunity” from the English legit system. In England, the idea was the “the King might do no wrong,” and therefore can not be sued in court. Similarly, you cannot sue the State the Texas or any of its political subdivisions unless there is a constitution or legislative waiver that this can be fried immunity. “To carry a case versus the state or a city is a daunting task—you can’t sue for simply anything,” states Stephens.

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The Texas legislature has in truth enacted a limited waiver v the Texas Tort cases Act. Under this act, a human being may sue the state or a local government for “property damage, an individual injury, and death proximately caused” through a public employee"s negligence, omission, or other “wrongful act” the occurs within the person"s “scope of employment.” In other words, if you are injured in an accident brought about by a sanitation worker steering a city-owned rubbish truck, you deserve to sue the city for damages. Yet if that very same worker injures friend off-the-job control his very own vehicle, the city can not be hosted liable.

Governmental vs. Proprietary Functions

There is a vital distinction in Texas law in between “governmental” and “proprietary” functions. The Tort insurance claims Act just waives immunity with regard come the former, together there is no immunity because that the latter. A “governmental” function refers to a duty enforced on a local government by law, together as providing police and fire protection services. The Tort cases Act in reality lists 36 separate categories of government functions. A “proprietary” function, in contrast, is one the the municipality choose to provide at its very own risk, such as operation a public utility or “amusements” for the advantage of that is residents.

Limits top top Damages

While the Tort claims Act waives can be fried immunity for liability developing from government functions, that does so just under particular conditions. The Act boundaries a municipal government"s damages to “$250,000 for each person and $500,000 because that each single occurrence because that bodily injury or death.” If over there is property damage, the municipality"s damages are restricted to $100,000 “for each single occurrence.” This would certainly include, for instance, damage to a plaintiff"s car.

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In Stephens’ case, there was clear liability on behalf of the Texas dot driver; the attorney won $250,000—the maximum permitted by the state—for the son. “There was just no way around trying to obtain more than the $250,000 native the state of Texas,” that says. “One the the problems that we had actually is that the cap has remained in place because 1985. If we’re going to have caps, it would seem reasonable and also fair that we would adjust those over time for inflation. The times have actually changed.”

For an ext information on this area that law, watch our overviews of personal injury, premises liability, and motor vehicle accidents.