What is the doctrine of sovereign immunity in Virginia? | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Law school textbooks describe sovereign immunity as evolving from the ancient concept that the king can do no wrong. As applied under modern Virginia law, sovereign immunity protects government agencies and government employees from personal and wrongful death lawsuits unless very specific conditions exist.

Generally, a government employee who acts within the scope of his or her job duties cannot be sued by the victim of an accident caused by that government employee. Similarly, government officials, departments and agencies are immune from personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits when the employee who caused an accident was working within the scope of the law.

Sovereign immunity can be waived (i.e., removed by a court) when evidence exists that a government employee was acting recklessly or doing something blatantly illegal. For instance, a city bus driver who was driving drunk could not claim sovereign immunity.