When a person looks up the doctrine of sovereign immunity online, they will likely find the phrase, “the king can do no wrong.” While we obviously do not have a king in America, addressing the sovereign immunity doctrine is still something we must consider when bringing claims against federal and state entities. In America, sovereign immunity means that federal and state governments can limit the types of claims brought against them, the amount of damages that can be recovered, when the claims must be filed, and additional benefits to which normal defendants are not entitled.
In Pennsylvania, laws such as the Sovereign Immunity Act and the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act limit a person’s ability to bring a claim against the state and government units. For example, while most personal injury claims in Pennsylvania must be filed within two years from the date the injury occurred, a person generally is required to provide a government unit specific notice of their intent to bring a claim within six months from the date of the injury. Moreover, the Tort Claims Act limits the types of claims that can be brought against a local agency and caps the recovery of damages at $500,000. While I could discuss additional differences and limitations created by sovereign immunity laws, this is not my purpose for writing. My purpose is to ensure that our readers do not unintentionally waive their claims by not acting until it is too late. Many people review the statute of limitation relevant to their claim, without ever considering whether sovereign immunity laws could affect their potential case. While researching various sovereign immunity issues for a recent case, I found many examples of people whose claims were forever barred due to their failure to send appropriate notices or file their claims on time. Therefore, if a person has a claim against any defendant who may be associated with the government, it is important they take extra precaution and act quickly after the incident or their claim may be barred.