Governments May Be Liable in Cases of Gross Negligence

In many cases, it is difficult to prevail in a lawsuit against the government. This is because federal, state, and local governments are all entitled to a certain level of immunity. Generally speaking, this means that as long as a government employee is acting within the scope of his or her employment when an injury to another person occurs, the government is not liable, even if the employee acted negligently, or without reasonable care. In Illinois, this is called qualified immunity.

water-tower-1-1489002While qualified immunity shields governments from having to compensate many injured parties, the immunity enjoyed by governments does not protect against liability in every single case. In some cases, if a government employee’s actions are particularly egregious, the government may be liable for damages. In these situations, an injured party must prove that the government acted with utter indifference or a conscious disregard for the health and safety of others or their property. In Illinois, this may also be referred to as gross negligence, or willful and wanton conduct.

Illinois, like many other states, provides qualified immunity to its government employees so that they may carry out their jobs without fear of being sued. However, as we have seen in cases involving police misconduct, sometimes this immunity backfires, and state employees act as though they are above the law entirely.

According to one news source, recent events in Flint, Michigan, may also rise to this level. In 2011, the governor of Michigan appointed “emergency managers” to take over and run the city, due to its financial woes. In 2014, those managers decided to make the Flint River the city’s new source of drinking water in order to save money. Immediately, residents began noticing changes in their water, and they responded vocally. The state government downplayed these complaints, despite the river’s reputation as highly polluted and early indications that the lead level in the water had increased.

In September 2015, a study confirmed residents’ fears. The amount of lead in the city’s drinking water had increased so much that Flint’s children were at a significantly higher risk of lead poisoning. On top of this, there have been allegations that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality knew of the unsafe lead levels in the water but tried to conceal the risks from the public. The city has since switched back to its original water supply, but not before residents have reported a host of illnesses, as well as deaths, that they believe are directly attributable to the lead in the water.

As result of these illnesses, a lawsuit has been filed against 14 state officials, including the governor of Michigan, in U.S. District Court in Detroit. The suit is seeking an order that certifies the case as a class action. In a class action lawsuit, an individual or individuals sue on behalf of other injured parties who have similar injuries that have been caused by the same source. It is designed to consolidate the large number of lawsuits that might be filed against the same defendant for related personal injury claims.

Have You Been Injured Because of the Actions of a Government Employee?

Sometimes high level government employees come to believe they are above the law. They believe that since they are charged with enforcing the law, it does not apply to them. With the right lawyers, this is not the case. The lawyers at Moll Law Group have the experience, courage, and wherewithal to take on the government when its employees have abused their discretion. Our attorneys are experienced and available to proceed with cases against the government, individually and by class action litigation, no matter how complex the case. For a free consultation, call Moll Law Group at (312) 462-1700.

See More Posts:

Common Carriers Must Take Reasonable Care or Face Liability, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 12, 2016.

State-Owned Railway Is Protected by Sovereign Immunity, Supreme Court Decides, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 9, 2016.

Illinois Protects Police with Partial Immunity in Police Misconduct Cases, Illinois Injury Lawyer Blog, January 16, 2016.