While you might expect the phrase “sovereign immunity” to live in the palaces of kings and queens, you may be surprised to learn that this ancient royal doctrine also rides DC Metro.
Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine which precludes suit against the government without its consent. Based upon the ancient rule that the king can do no wrong, the doctrine bars suit against the State for the torts of its officers or employees unless such immunity has been waived expressly by statute or by necessary inference from legislative enactment.
As discussed in greater detail in Joseph G. Cleaver’s October 30, 2012 post (http://kramerslaw.com/blog/), the Maryland Court of Appeals recently applied this doctrine to two separate cases where women slipped, fell and were injured on wet floors at Metrorail stations. The Court held that plaintiffs were precluded from asserting their tort claims against WMATA because the Interstate Compact governing the Agency granted immunity to governmental functions. Because the floor cleaning decisions of WMATA employees implicated governmental functions, the Court ruled that the WMATA was immune from these suits.
While sovereign immunity still lives and rides in DC and Maryland, that immunity is often limited. If you are injured as a result of the actions of a government agency or employee in DC or Maryland, consult an attorney to discover the rights and limitations existing under the law that affect your ability to obtain recovery.