What is Governmental Immunity?

In the general sense, governmental immunity is the idea that the government is protected, or immune, from being sued on certain types of matters.

The law categorizes lawsuits based on the underlying reason for the claim. For example, breach of contract claims are treated differently than personal injury claims. In Indiana, a person generally can bring a lawsuit against the state for claims arising out of a contract that the person has with the state. However, if a person wants to bring a lawsuit against the state for personal injuries, the state may argue that it is immune from suit.

The Indiana legislature has passed laws listing particular types of personal injuries for which the state cannot be sued or held legally liable. For example, Indiana asserts that it cannot be sued for injuries resulting from the State’s failure to make an inspection of any non-governmental property to determine if it contains a hazard to health or safety, even if the Indiana Department of Environmental Management had reason to suspect hazardous chemicals on the property. (Ind. Code 34-13-3-3(12))

Even in situations in which a person can sue the state, Indiana has passed laws capping its monetary liability to restrict the amount of money that can be obtained regardless of the severity of the claim.

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