When you go to a city park, you expect that the park is maintained and safe for your use. If someone negligently maintains property in New York, it is important to have an experienced New York injury injury attorney advocating for you.
Seabolt v. County of Albemarle is a recent premise liability case out of Virginia. This case deals with the duty owed by your state and local governments to maintain your local parks. Also, this case discusses the potential defense of local or state government in their claim of sovereign immunity.
Sovereign immunity is a type of protection created by statute to protect states or local governments from civil and sometimes criminal liability. Where a government entity enters a claim for sovereign immunity, the court loses its power to hear the case and bind the parties to its decision. This immunity has been limited in the United States through the adaptation of the Federal Tort Claim Act. This Act allows the imposition of liability on a government entity where this entity employs someone who committed a civil wrong while acting in the scope of their employment, causing injury to another person. Each state has adopted this Act to some degree by creating individual state tort claims acts.
Seabolt (plaintiff) argued that there was a waiver to the immunity granted to county governments in this case. This argument was hinged on the state statute that says that a county operating a park, playground or recreational facility is liable for damages caused by the gross negligence of the county’s officers or agents. See Virginia Code §15.2-1809.
The County of Albemarle (County) countered this argument claiming that the statute plaintiff relied on was only a waiver applicable to cities and towns, not counties. In other words, the County stated that cities and towns operating a park where its employee acted grossly negligent can be held liable for the employee’s civil wrong; however, a County government could not be held liable under this same statutory provision.
Through a detailed observation of the statute, the court found that the Virginia provision states that Virginia cities or towns cannot be found liable for the civil wrong of an employee but it could be found liable for the damages resulting from its employee’s gross negligence in maintaining the property. This immunity from civil liability was imputed on counties.
In order to apply the statute to the case, it was noted that there is a distinction between negligence and gross negligence. Gross negligence is where the negligent conduct or omission by a government employee was so egregious or careless. Additionally, the court looked to precedent and found that it has been a general practice of the courts in Virginia to find that a county can only sue or be sued in cases relating to contract disputes.
Because there was no state provision allowing for a lawsuit to be filed against a county for simple negligence, this court found in favor of the county and the plaintiff was unable to obtain the damages she sought.
If you have been injured contact New York injury attorneys at Law Offices of Nicholas Rose, PLLC to schedule a free appointment. Call 718-261-0546.