Don’t Sue This State. It Can Do No Wrong!

The state may be also liable for unguarded ditches or embankments along the roadway, for landslides or for fallen trees, where the state had notice of the hazardous condition. Highway authorities may be liable for unguarded excavations or openings in the street and generally are liable for failure to take precautions if they leave a dangerous or defective condition on the highway unprotected.

Warning Signs
Other cases where the state or county has been and Barriers held liable for highway accidents are those where a highway has been closed or discontinued and the public has not been warned of that fact; also, where the municipality or highway authorities fail to erect barriers or guardrail fences, the absence of which would make the highway unsafe for travel. Dangerous places must be lighted at night. There must be notices and signs of dangerous conditions.

Bear in mind that often the contributory negligence of the driver of an automobile will defeat his claim against the state or municipality.

The sad story of claims against states. Collecting against state governments for highway defects is most difficult.

Most of the forty-eight states have an archaic, outdated motto, “Don’t Sue This State. It Can Do No Wrong!” It is a relic of the Dark Ages.
More than three-quarters of the states have put up a claims barrier called, “Sovereign Immunity of the State.” It means that the state cannot be sued without its consent. And most states refuse to give their consent.

The idea of the state not being sued goes back to the days when kings claimed to rule by divine right. To sue the king would be as bad as suing the Almighty.

Imagine! In this age of enlightenment, the courts resort to the rule which applied to sovereigns of England:
In such cases in England, the King is petitioned in his court of chancery, and the chancellor administers right as a matter of grace, not by compulsion. Here the unusual course pursued by the citizen has been to petition the legislature; and that has been the resort when no other remedy has been provided.

It is surprising that some state officials boast of the immunity of their states. They have the same “divine” privileges as did the English kings in the days of the Stuarts, the Tudors and the Plantagenets.

There are a few progressive states which recognize their twentieth century obligations to citizens and waive their immunity. They have courts or boards which hear and determine defective highway claims on their merits. Other states say, “No, you have no legal rights.” Some add, in effect, “Maybe, as a matter of legislative grace, we will allow you to petition the legislature for payment.”

Comments are closed.