Can you sue for damages directly under the state constitution?
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has recognized that it has the power to create an implied constitutional right of action for damages in certain situations but has declined to do so when there exists a federal claim under Bivens or Section 1983 that could remedy the state constitutional violation.
Can you sue under a state tort claims act?
The Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act revokes sovereign immunity in enumerated instances of negligence. The law governing municipal liability in Pennsylvania is similar, making the government entity liable to the same extent a private person would be in those situations.
Are there exceptions to the state tort claims act?
Pennsylvania and its employees are not liable for intentional torts. While municipal employees can be liable for intentional torts, municipal entities are not. Both Pennsylvania and municipal employees enjoy immunity defenses against negligence claims.
The Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act: Broad Immunities and Exceptions
The Pennsylvania Tort Claims Act (“PTCA”) abrogates sovereign immunity in enumerated instances of negligence “where the damages would be recoverable under the common law or a statute creating a cause of action if the injury were caused by a person not having available the defense of sovereign immunity.” 1 Unfortunately, this waiver does not include intentional torts. 2 Uniquely, employees are also protected by sovereign immunity so that Commonwealth employees are immunized from liability for their own intentional torts. 3 Immunity defenses can be asserted in limited negligence claims brought against Commonwealth employees. 4
The Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (“PSTCA”) governs municipal liability in Pennsylvania. It is structured similarly to the PTCA in that it waives government immunity in enumerated instances of negligence, making the government entity liable to the same extent a private person would be in those situations. 5 Municipal employees are liable in all the same enumerated instances of negligence. 6 They can assert immunity defenses to these claims, such as discretionary-function immunity and good-faith immunity. 7 Unlike Commonwealth employees, municipal employees may be personally liable for intentional torts that constitute “crime, actual fraud, actual malice or willful misconduct,” and immunity defenses are not available in these cases. 8
Jones v. City of Philadelphia: Hope for the Future?
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recognized in Jones v. City of Philadelphia that it has the power to create an implied constitutional right of action for damages in certain situations, but it has declined to do so when there exists a federal claim under Bivens or 42 U.S.C. § 1983 that could remedy the state constitutional violation. 9 Jones provides hope for plaintiffs in the future because not only did the Court recognize that it has the power to create constitutional tort claims; it hinted that in some circumstances the Pennsylvania Constitution may mandate a damages remedy. 10
Take Action in Pennsylvania
We need individuals from all walks of life who are dedicated to justice to help us #EndQualifiedImmunity. Sign up to stay updated on ways to help end Qualified Immunity in Pennsylvania!Sign Up