This month we brought you the story of Alise Williams, a Virginia (VA) mother who lost her teenaged son to suicide after being relentlessly bullyied at school. Williams sued when she learned school administrators had known about the her son's emotional abuse but did nothing to save him or stop his persecuters. She filed a wrongful death lawsuit and seeks $10 million.
While Williams has solid evidence that the administration knew her son was being harmed but took no significant action, the school’s wrongful death attorneys are arguing that the school administrators and the county have sovereign immunity and can’t be sued at all. But what is sovereign immunity, and how can it affect your Virginia wrongful death case?
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Very simply, the United States has sovereign immunity laws that state that the federal government and state governments can’t be sued in some cases. On the federal level, a person cannot sue the government unless the government agree to be sued or waives its right to immunity. For example, you can sue the federal government if a federal employee causes damage or if the lawsuit comes from a contract to which the government is party. In addition, you can sue the state or federal government for discrimination.
State sovereign immunity works much the same way, with many state supreme courts strengthening state-level sovereign immunity over the past few decades. However, cities and so-called “arms of the state” are not immune from lawsuits. The United States reserves the power to sue other states and states can sue each other.
Do you have a West Virginia or Virginia wrongful death lawsuit that you believe may be affected by sovereign immunity? Talk to a wrongful death attorney about your potential case today.