Historically, governments and governmental entities were immune from almost all lawsuits under the theory of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity originated from old English common law whereby the king could do no wrong. This doctrine eventually carried over into the United States. Sovereign immunity hinged on the idea that for a government to effectively carry out its duties, it must be immune from the financial and legal burdens of litigation.
Without the government’s consent, citizens injured due to government wrongdoing were left without options for recovery. However, many states, including Tennessee, have slowly chipped away at the idea of complete sovereign immunity and have enacted legislation allowing suits against the government under specific circumstances. For over a century, Tennessee recognized the doctrine of sovereign immunity before it was codified as the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act (GTLA).
The GTLA applies to Tennessee government, from counties to school districts. Through the Act, immunity is granted to governmental entities but with a number of exceptions. Part 2 of the Act provides for the removal of immunity for certain causes of action. Under the GTLA, governments can be sued for actions such as:
- Injuries caused by car crashes as the result of negligence on the part of a government employee acting within the scope of their governmental duty;
- Injuries caused by unsafe walkways and motorways such as streets, sidewalks, or highways owned and controlled by the government;
- Injuries caused by the dangerous condition of government owned and operated buildings and structures.
Recently, a lawsuit was filed against a government owned and operated hospital in a slip and fall case. Valerie Miller slipped and fell at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital while visiting her brother, who was a patient. Ms. Miller claimed that she slipped on water that was spilled from a food cart. She testified that she did not know the water was on the floor and that the hospital employees were responsible for moving the food cart.
To prevail on a Tennessee premises liability claim against the government, plaintiffs like Valerie Miller must prove that a dangerous or defective condition existed on the government’s property and that the government or its employees had notice of the condition prior the plaintiff’s accident.
To establish notice, a plaintiff may show that the dangerous condition was created by the government or one of the government’s employees. However, if the dangerous condition was created by someone or something else, the plaintiff must show that the government knew or in the exercise of reasonable care should have known that a dangerous condition existed on their property prior to the accident. Accordingly, it is imperative that a plaintiff document the surrounding circumstances of a slip and fall immediately. Photographs, incident reports, and witness testimony are crucial in proving liability.
Slip and fall victims injured on government property have legal rights and options. In Tennessee, premises liability cases against the government can be very similar to those against private property owners in terms of the burden of proving liability. If you have been injured as the result of a slip and fall on government property, let the personal injury lawyers of Nahon, Saharovich & Trotz fight for you to get you the compensation to which you are entitled. Call us today, toll-free, at 1-800-LAW-4004 for a free consultation.