For centuries, people could not sue the government for actions the government took that harmed them. It was part of English common law that carried over to the United States.
Today, United States citizens have the ability to sue the government for compensation if they are harmed. The types of claims that can be made and the burden of proof varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Georgetown garbage trucks
Such is the case in Georgetown, Kentucky. According to a lawsuit filed in December 2017, Brandon Harris was northbound on U.S. 25 in September 2014, driving a garbage truck owned by the City of Georgetown. The truck’s wheels reportedly left the pavement and Harris overcorrected.
This action put him into the southbound lane where he struck a garbage truck owned by Central Kentucky Landfill and Hauling and driven by Ora Kenneth Blankenship. Kim Smith, driving an automobile behind Blankenship’s truck, was caught in the accident and suffered fatal injuries, according to police.
In the December lawsuit, Blankenship contends he now suffers from back, joint and neural pains as well as depression, PTSD, pain and anguish, loss of enjoyment of life and impairment of earning capacity. The lawsuit names both Harris and the City of Georgetown
Prior to the accident, residents had protested about the number of trucks driving to the Central Kentucky Landfill on U.S. 25. Guardrails have since been erected along the highway.
Suing the government
Blankenship can sue the City of Georgetown thanks to the Kentucky Constitution, which allows the state to set the rules under which citizens can sue government entities.
While a lawsuit involving garbage trucks might seem cut-and-dried, imagine a citizen suing the city because an ambulance caused an accident while on the way to an emergency. Imagine a citizen suing for water damage because of water sprayed on the house while firefighters battled a blaze next door. Imagine a citizen slipping at the landfill and suing for injuries.
The law must provide guidance for a variety of scenarios. If you have a reason to sue the government – whether it be a city, school district, township, county, commonwealth, state or the federal government itself – you need proper legal representation. It’s always a good idea to talk to a qualified lawyer when you have a reason to sue the government.