quick facts

Washington state has a relatively plaintiff friendly government-liability landscape, waiving sovereign immunity broadly, without limiting the damages plaintiffs can collect, and generously indemnifying government employees. The Washington Tort Claims Act (“WTCA”) provides: “The state of Washington, whether acting in its governmental or proprietary capacity, shall be liable for damages arising out of its tortious conduct to the same extent as if it were a private person or corporation.” 1 Despite this broad language, however, the State and its employees enjoy a variety of common-law immunity defenses, including immunity for discretionary acts, the public-duty doctrine, judicial immunity, and legislative immunity. 2 Moreover, government employees in Washington will rarely be on the hook to pay judgments for their own torts committed within the scope of employment. Actions against state officers, employees, volunteers, and foster parents must be defended and indemnified by the State. 3

The WTCA provides specific procedures for payment of judgments against the State. These judgments are not enforceable by the usual procedures for execution of judgments and must be paid out of a special liability account. 4

Like the State, counties, cities, and towns do not enjoy complete immunity from lawsuits. 5 But they do enjoy the same common-law immunities as the State, including immunity for discretionary acts and the public-duty doctrine. 6