The History of Sovereign Immunity
Sovereign immunity is an idea that passed into American history through
its British heritage. The idea of sovereign immunity is that a government
as an acting entity should not be held accountable for certain actions.
The monarch of Britain has sovereign immunity from any legal action. This
means that he or she is literally untouchable in the British court system.
While the founding fathers were interested in a democracy, the founders
believed that sovereign immunity should extend to American leadership
to some degree. Therefore, limited sovereign immunity was granted to those
who work for the American government; states could use this sovereign
immunity as well. In one state, this soverign immunity trickles down to
schools as an acting agent of government authority.
Sovereign Immunity in Georgia Today
In June 2017, sovereign immunity was upheld by the Georgia Supreme Court
when three women tried to fight a
Georgia abortion law. Essentially, sovereign law is the idea that the state of Georgia, its
officers in their official capacities, and its departments and agencies
cannot be sued “without consent.” This rule means the Georgia
government cannot be sued without the state of Georgia allowing a lawsuit
The effects of this law can even be seen in
personal injury cases. For example, a boy was seriously hurt while playing basketball in his
high school gym. When chasing the ball down the court, he ran throat-first
into a volleyball pole that had yet to be taken down by his gym teacher.
The impact required an immediate life-flight to an equipped hospital.
He has undergone 13 surgeries since his accident. However, when he and
his parents tried to sue the school for negligence, the school denied
his suit by claiming sovereign immunity.
However, this law it is not as strict as it sounds. Government officials
do have extra security in lawsuits, but they are not completely immune.
As sovereign immunity law states, “officers in their official capacities
are under sovereign immunity,” therefore, government officials acting
outside of official capacities can be held liable for personal injury claims.
If a teacher, government official, or other state of Georgia worker were
to injure another person in a car accident, they could be held liable
in a personal injury claim. However, government officials who accidentally
cause harm to others while “on the job” would likely be covered
by sovereign immunity under Gerogia law.
What Can I Do If I’m Injured by a Government Official?
The first thing you should do is contact an
Atlanta personal injury attorney. A government official is not strictly free from lawsuits under sovereign
immunity, and it is important that you contact a personal injury attorney
to see if you have a case. There are special circumstances regarding school
buses, school employees, and police officers that need to be taken into
account by a personal injury lawyer on your behalf. Waivers for sovereign
immunity exist, but it is vital that your story be heard by Douglas F.
Kaleita, P.C. as soon as possible so that you can discuss your situation
and available options.
Call 888-665-7699 for a free case evaluation!