Government employees who are acting within the scope of their employment generally enjoy something known as "sovereign immunity." This means that they are immune to lawsuits for their actions on behalf of the government. However, Pennsylvania law allows for some important exceptions to this general rule regarding premises liability.
One exception to this sovereign immunity is a government employee using a motor vehicle in the scope of their duties. This includes vehicles that travel by water, air or rail, such as a train. Also excepted from immunity is liability for dangerous conditions on government-owned real estate, such as highways or property leased by the Commonwealth to private entities. Dangerous property hazards like potholes and sinkholes in the roads are also exempt from sovereign immunity.
When liquor is sold through employees at stores run by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, they generally have no sovereign immunity under state law. This can include instances where alcohol is sold to someone who is visibly intoxicated at the time, insane or under the legal drinking age. Damage from injuries caused by animals under the control of Commonwealth employees can be recovered. The Pennsylvania National Guard is also exempted from sovereign immunity under state law.
The law allows certain defenses for government employees when actions are brought under these sovereign liability exemptions. The employee may claim that they were acting as required under state statute or some other duty, or that the action was within their statutorily granted discretion. Government officials may claim defenses that have previously been used by other officials in similar cases.
When a person is injured by a dangerous condition on government property, an attorney may be able to assist. The attorney may be able to bring a lawsuit for premises liability against the government in accordance with these sovereign immunity exemptions. For a free consultation, call the premises liability attorneys at Goodrich & Geist today for a free consultation at 412-766-1455 or 800-806-2456.