Governmental Immunity Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Governmental Immunity, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Governmental Immunity?

(n) Governmental Immunity is the protection available to the statutory authorities, governmental body , officers etc against possible legal actions while they are within the ambit of their confined jurisdiction, authority or legitimate activity.

History and Meaning of Governmental Immunity

Governmental Immunity is a legal principle that dates back to English common law. It originally stated that the King and his agents could not be sued without their consent. This principle was adopted in the United States, and it means that government entities and officials are generally protected from lawsuits unless they explicitly waive that protection.

The rationale behind governmental immunity is that it is important for government officials to be able to exercise their public functions without fear of legal repercussions. This is particularly true for law enforcement officers, judges, and other officials who are tasked with making difficult decisions that may be unpopular or controversial.

Examples of Governmental Immunity

  1. A police officer is sued for wrongful arrest. If the officer was acting within the scope of his or her duties, then they may be covered by governmental immunity.

  2. A city is sued for failing to maintain a sidewalk that caused someone to trip and fall. The city may be covered by governmental immunity if it can show that it was not negligent in its maintenance of the sidewalk.

  3. A judge is sued for a decision that a party disagrees with. The judge would likely be covered by governmental immunity, as long as they were acting within the scope of their judicial authority.

Legal Terms Similar to Governmental Immunity

  1. Qualified Immunity - This is a doctrine that provides protection to government officials in civil lawsuits if their conduct did not violate clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would be aware.

  2. Sovereign Immunity - This is the principle that a sovereign government cannot be sued without its consent.

  3. Official Immunity - This is a principle that protects government officials from lawsuits related to actions they took while on the job, as long as those actions were within the scope of their duties.