In old England, while the system of law we still use today was being developed, kings realized that the courts they were setting up might leave them vulnerable to being sued by their own subjects. In response, the principle of sovereign immunity was developed and enshrined as law: you cannot sue the king.
Although we rejected the rule of kings hundreds of years ago, Pennsylvania legislators had similarly protective feelings towards their government, and in 1978 codified the principle in the Sovereign Immunity Act (“SIA”). However, the SIA has nine exceptions to the principle.
The nine statutory exceptions to Pennsylvania’s immunity are established in the (SIA) as follows:
- Vehicle liability – for vehicles controlled by Pennsylvania agents or employees;
- Medical-professional liability – for acts of commonwealth agency medical facilities or personnel;
- Nuclear and other radioactive equipment - for care or control of property control by Pennsylvania parties;
- Real Estate - for dangerous conditions of highways and sidewalks;
- Potholes and Sinkholes - for dangerous conditions created by these on Pennsylvania highways;
- Animals - for control of animals owned by the Commonwealth;
- Liquor Sales - for sales to minors or intoxicated persons;
- National Guard – for acts by Pennsylvania military forces; and
- Toxoids and vaccines – for damages caused by vaccines or toxic materials.
Not only does the SIA limit the types of situations in which a person can sue the Commonwealth, it also limits the amount of money any one person can recover, no matter how severe their injuries and damages. Finally, the SIA restricts the types of damages a person can recover from the Commonwealth to the following: a) loss of earnings; b) pain and suffering; c) medical expenses; d) loss of consortium; and e) property loss.
In short, it is very difficult to recover money from Pennsylvania. Even when you have been harmed by actions of its agencies or employees, unless the conduct falls into one of the nine enumerated exceptions, you can not sue the Commonwealth or its’ employees. If you know anyone who has may have a claim against an employee of the Commonwealth who could benefit from compassionate yet zealous representation, then contact the Mizner Law Firm at (814) 454-3889 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.