For nearly the first two hundred years of the nation’s history, state and federal governments could not be held liable in a lawsuit brought by a citizen unless the government entity being named as a defendant specifically consented to being sued. In effect, this insulated the government from acts of its employees, leaving those who were injured as a result of a government worker’s negligence without any real means of recourse.
In the mid-20th century that began to change with the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA provided a legal mechanism for those who had been injured due to the negligent or wrongful act of a government employee to seek compensation for their injuries. In the wake of the FTCA, states began to follow, passing their own versions of the law. The Virginia Tort Claims Act was passed in its current form in 1981, and is contained in Virginia Code, Title 8.01 sections 195.1 to 195.12.
In order to bring a lawsuit against a government entity under a tort claims act, the conditions of the act must be followed. In most cases, tort claims acts require plaintiffs to provide adequate notice to the government entity being sued and pursue their case in a timely manner. A plaintiff’s failure to file these rules precisely will almost certainly result in the dismissal of their lawsuit. A recent case illustrates how courts strictly interpret the procedural requirements of tort claims acts.