State, local, and federal governments, as well as related government agencies, enjoy a general blanket of immunity from personal injury lawsuits. This means that in many cases filed against a government agency or employee, the injured party will not be permitted to recover compensation for their injuries because the named defendant is immune from liability.
However, government liability does have its limits. Importantly, immunity will only attach when the alleged act of negligence is a discretionary one. This means that if the government had a choice in how to conduct the actions in which it is alleged to have been negligent, immunity will attach. Ministerial acts, however, are not covered under the blanket protection of immunity, and governments may be held liable when an allegedly negligent action or inaction was mandated by some law, rule, or regulation. This is exactly what happened in a recent case in front of the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Mississippi Transportation Commission v. Adams: The Facts
Adams was riding his motorcycle on a Mississippi highway that was maintained by the Mississippi Transportation Commission. As he was riding along, Adams accidentally entered into a construction zone. As he attempted to exit the zone safely, he struck an uneven part of the pavement and lost control, falling off the motorcycle. Tragically, two passing cars struck him in the wake of his fall, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Adams’ estate brought a negligence lawsuit against the Transportation Commission, claiming that it was negligent in how it marked the construction zone. Specifically, the estate claimed that the white lines leading up to the zone were not covered up, leaving motorists to believe that the lane was safe to drive in.
At trial, the Transportation Commission asked the court to dismiss the case based on government immunity. However, the court determined that immunity did not attach under these facts because the act of covering up the white lines was a ministerial one, rather than a discretionary one. The court cited to a state regulation requiring 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[.]” The court explained that this regulation made the placement and covering of the traffic line a ministerial task, which will not be covered by governmental immunity.
Have You Been Injured by a Negligent Government Agency in Indiana?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured either by a government agency or employee or while on government land, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled motorcycle accident lawyers at the Indiana firm of Parr Richey Frandsen Patterson Kruse have decades of combined experience helping their clients bring cases against negligent government agencies and employees. To learn more about the law as it applies to your case, and to schedule a free consultation, call 888-532-7766 today.
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Girl Struck by Car While Boarding School Bus Seeks Recovery from Bus Driver’s Insurance Company, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, June 3, 2016