A Missouri woman is suing the Cape Girardeau County government for injuries she suffered in 2013 when she fell down stairs in the county Common Pleas Courthouse. Pamela Allen suffered a bone fracture in her leg along with serious blood clots that left her in the intensive care unit of the hospital.
This week, a judge expanded the case to include both the city of Cape Girardeau and the state of Missouri as defendants. Allen is asking for $130,000 in damages.
The county claims it does not have complete control over the courthouse where the injury occurred.
Allen worked as a processor for a real-estate company at the time of the injury. Her job duties required her to sort through court documents, some of which were located in the courthouse basement.
The lawsuit describes the stairs as steps to a “dungeon” that are “physically defective in that they are narrower and steeper than modern building standards, uneven and slickened with paint.”
Allen and her husband could face difficulties with the case over government immunity; Cape Girardeau County claims that it has sovereign immunity to the case. Government immunity laws differ by state, but most laws serve to protect the government from claims. Government immunity laws can lower liability requirements on government property closer to the requirements of private property owners. These laws can also limit liability to instances of gross negligence on government property that cause injury.
In 1973, the Tennessee General Assembly passed the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act that allowed state counties to be immune from cases involving government activities or property, unless a law specifically barred immunity.
The Tort Liability Act specifically removes liability for claims against the Tennessee government that involve the operation of motor vehicles, the unsafe construction of streets and highways, failure to maintain public property, or any claims against negligent government employees.
In certain cases, Tennessee law allows for government immunity while allowing citizens to hold individual government employees accountable like in instances of false imprisonment and arrest, improper permit approval, improper property inspection, or another failure to perform a governmental function.
The Tort Liability Act also imposes limits to claims against the government, as well as limits on the amount of time individuals have to file a claim against the government or a government employee.
While governmental immunity laws create strict parameters for claims against the government, they do not mean that the government is immune from all lawsuits. As long as individuals follow the specific steps required for cases against the government, a case can be viable.
If you or a loved one has suffered an injury as a result of a government employee or due to the negligent maintenance of government property, you may be eligible for compensation. Call our offices today to schedule a free consultation.