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Governmental Tort Immunity

Sovereign immunity may also apply to federal, state, and local governments within the United States, protecting these governments from being sued without their consent. The idea behind domestic sovereign immunity—also called governmental TORT immunity—is to prevent money judgments against the government, as such judgments would have to be paid with taxpayers' dollars. As an example, a private citizen who is injured by another private citizen who runs a red light generally may sue the other driver for NEGLIGENCE. But under a strict sovereign immunity doctrine, a private citizen who is injured by a city employee driving a city bus has no CAUSE OF ACTION against the city unless the city, by ordinance, specifically allows such a suit.

Governmental tort immunity is codified at the federal level by the FEDERAL TORT CLAIMS ACT (28 U.S.C.A. § 1291 [1946]), and most states and local governments have similar statutes. Courts and legislatures in many states have greatly restricted, and in some cases have abolished, the doctrine of governmental tort immunity.

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