BMHJ Blog: Legal Information, Resources, & News: Local Government / Municipal Law

First Responder Liability and Sovereign Immunity: A Court Divided

Maureen E. Cummins, Esquire
November 22nd, 2014
By: Maureen E. Cummins, Esquire

The modern concept of sovereign immunity is derived from the old English maxim rex non potest peccare, i.e. “the king can do no wrong.” This powerful tool immunizes many governmental entities and government agents from tortious liability and serves a public policy purpose of “[protecting] the state from burdensome interference with the performance of governmental functions and preserves its control over state funds, property, and instrumentalities.” Messina v. Burden, 228 Va. 301, 307 (1984). Put plainly, sovereign immunity allows the government to continue performing its functions for the public good without the fear of constant, draining, and crippling litigation. While the concept appears straightforward, its application is not.

Read more

Sovereign Immunity No Protection for Sheriff Who Allegedly Caused Rear End Crash

Melissa H. Katz, Esquire
December 15th, 2013
By: Melissa H. Katz, Esquire

While driving two work inmates in a city vehicle to a job site, a sergeant for the sheriff’s department in the City of Chesapeake rear ended another driver. A personal injury action ensued. The defendant sergeant filed a plea in bar arguing that he was protected under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The trial court disagreed and denied the plea in bar. The court found that routine driving activities are ministerial functions that do not give rise to the cloak of sovereign immunity.

Read more

Sovereign Immunity for Governmental Authorities

January 27th, 2010
By: Bancroft McGavin Horvath & Judkins

In an article published by the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys in its Journal of Civil Litigation, Vol. XXI, No. 4, Winter 2009-2010, Julia Judkins and Dawn Boyce outline successful sovereign immunity challenges to tort claims against governmental authorities, such as local water authorities. There are now a significant number of lower court decisions, many litigated by Ms. Judkins, that have found that authorities created by statute are entitled to sovereign immunity from tort claims because the particular entity was created by an immune entity or because of the language of the enabling statute. To obtain a copy of the article, please contact Dawn Boyce, Esquire or Julia Judkins, Esquire, 703 385-1000.

Read more


This blog and the information provided has been prepared by Bancroft, McGavin, Horvath & Judkins, P.C. (“BMHJ”) for information purposes only and is not intended nor to be construed as legal advice. This blog may contain the opinions of the members and associates of this firm on various legal issues and is not legal advice. Read More