In a previous post discussing Premises Liability, we briefly noted two (2) relevant legal doctrines – Attractive Nuisance and Sovereign Immunity. We recently discussed the Attractive Nuisance doctrine, so today will be focusing on the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity and its codification under the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act.
As discussed in previous posts, if you were injured in a car accident or on the property of another, you likely have a cause of action against those persons. However, what happens when the driver of that other car is a government employee or the property you were injured on is a government building? In Massachusetts, it is much harder to file a lawsuit and win when the other party is the government. As you may have guessed, this is due to the aforementioned principle known as Sovereign Immunity.
Sovereign Immunity is a very old legal premise that basically states that the sovereign, i.e., the government in this country, cannot be sued even if an individual is harmed by the acts, decisions, or inactions of the government. It dates back to English law, where people were unable to sue the king. Even in this brief explanation, you can see that this is an exceptionally broad principle that absolves the government of virtually all tortious acts. However, there are limits to Sovereign Immunity.