New Jersey Transit, a state-owned transportation system, has been ruled to be shielded from a negligence lawsuit in Pennsylvania due to sovereign immunity.
Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects government entities from being sued without their consent.
The concept of sovereign immunity was derived from British common law doctrine based on the idea that the king could do no wrong. In the United States, sovereign immunity typically applies to the federal government and state government, but not to municipalities.
Federal and state governments, however, have the ability to waive their sovereign immunity. The federal government did this when it passed the Federal Tort Claims Act, which waived federal immunity for numerous types of torts claims.
However, this rule was later superseded by the 11th Amendment, which states that “the Judicial power of the United States shall not be construed to extend to any suit in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State.”
As such, a citizen of State A can no longer sue State B. Sovereign immunity is used as a means of protecting the government from having to alter its policies any time a person takes issue with them
Last Friday, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled that New Jersey Transit’s sovereign immunity extends across the Delaware River and prevents the agency from being sued in Pennsylvania. This decision sparked controversy and raised several concerns.
First, the decision limits the ability of Pennsylvania residents to seek justice for injuries caused by New Jersey Transit’s negligence. This is particularly concerning given that New Jersey Transit operates trains and buses that travel across state lines, and therefore, accidents and injuries can occur in Pennsylvania. The ruling effectively means that Pennsylvania residents cannot hold New Jersey Transit accountable for any harm caused by their actions.
Second, and perhaps more important, the decision sets a precedent that could be used to shield other out-of-state government entities from lawsuits in Pennsylvania. This could have far-reaching implications for Pennsylvania residents who may be injured by government entities from other states.
This decision can be appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, which has the authority to review and make final judgments in cases heard by the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.