Generally speaking, governments and government agencies are immune from personal injury lawsuits. However, there are several very important exceptions. First, a government can always consent to be named in a lawsuit if, for example, it believes that doing so is in the best interest of the public. There are also some situations in which a government can statutorily waive immunity, meaning that the legislature determines, in advance, when governments should be held liable, and it can codify these situations in various state statutes.
Another method of getting around government immunity is showing that the allegedly negligent act was a “ministerial” task, rather than a “discretionary” one. To be sure, the distinction between ministerial and discretionary tasks can be slight and is often confusing. But at its most basic level, the difference between the two is that a discretionary task is one that the government can decide how to carry out. A ministerial task is one that is routine and leaves the government no discretion in how to carry out the task. A recent case illustrates the distinction.
Mississippi Transportation Commission v. Adams
Adams passed away after crashing his motorcycle on a Mississippi highway that was under construction. According to the court’s written opinion, Adams accidentally entered a construction zone and then, as he attempted to exit the zone, lost control on some uneven pavement. His estate filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the government agency in charge of maintaining the highway. The allegation was that the road lines leading up to the construction zone were confusing to motorists, permitting them to enter the zone inadvertently.
The agency argued that traffic control was a discretionary task, so government immunity prevented the plaintiff from pursuing the case. However, the plaintiff argued that, while traffic control in general may be a discretionary task, the specific act at issue in this case – the placement of the white road lines leading up to the construction zone – was discussed in a regulation. The plaintiff pointed to the regulation, which stated that “all centerline, lane lines, edge lines and no-passing stripes that have been covered or removed during the day’s operations shall be replaced with temporary stripe before work is discontinued for the day.” Since there was this specific language governing the placement of the road lines, the court determined that the act of placing the lines was a ministerial one, and government immunity was not appropriate under the circumstances.
Have You Been Injured in a Motorcycle Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a motorcycle accident in Virginia, Maryland, or the Washington, D.C. area, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. With hundreds of construction zones at any given moment, the local governments in the area have a difficult time making sure that they are all safe and up to code. This creates unnecessary hazards for motorists. The skilled personal injury attorneys at Charles B. Roberts & Associates have decades of combined experience helping their injured clients seek the compensation they deserve. Call 703-491-7070 today to set up a free consultation.
See More Blog Posts:
Bar Owner Held Not Liable for Parking Lot Accident After Kicking At-Fault Driver Out of Bar, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 6, 2016.
State Supreme Court Orders New Trial in Slip and Fall Case, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, June 29, 2016.