Articles Tagged with immunity

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Alabama Boating Accident Lawyers: Blackwell Law FirmOn any given day, Lake Guntersville is filled with boaters and fishermen. Through the years, I’ve handled numerous personal injury cases involving boat or jet ski crashes on our northern Alabama lakes. Why do I mention Lake Guntersville? It is a huge and beautiful lake created by one of the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) dams. Beyond our rivers and lakes, the TVA operates power plants and other facilities across our region. TVA supplies our electricity like any other power company. Over many decades, the TVA fueled economic development in our region.

What happens when the TVA is negligent and an innocent person is hurt or killed? After all, the TVA is a government agency. Does the TVA enjoy the immunities of our government? Does “sovereign immunity” shield the agency from accountability? Can the TVA be held responsible for the damages it causes (just like any other company)?

A recent U.S. Supreme Court case addressed this very issue. What happened? TVA employees were raising a downed power line that had been submerged in the Tennessee River. A man named Gary Thacker drove his boat into the area and hit the power line. Thacker suffered serious personal injuries and his passenger died in the crash. Thacker sued the TVA for his injuries. The local Federal District Court dismissed his case on the grounds of sovereign immunity. The Court of Appeals affirmed that dismissal. Looks like Thacker’s case is over. But, wait! His attorney appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m always impressed by an attorney who will fight for his or her client.

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Blackwell Law Firm in HuntsvilleSovereign immunity. Most personal injury lawyers shudder at the phrase! We occasionally deal with this issue in our personal injury cases. When we do, we are usually explaining to callers the difficulty or impossibility of suing the state for damages.

How about a slightly different issue — tribal sovereign immunity. Native American tribes are not independent political entities. They are not states, like Alabama. They have often been called “domestic dependent nations” and are subject to control by the U.S. Congress. Tribes retain some historic sovereign authority unless Congress acts. If you find the relationship confusing, you would not be the only one.

A current case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court presents an interesting issue of tribal sovereign immunity. It involves a car accident and the Poarch Creek tribe in Alabama. The Alabama Supreme Court framed its decision like this:  The doctrine of tribal sovereign immunity affords no protection to tribes with regard to tort claims asserted against them by non-tribe members.