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Sovereign Immunity: The King Can Do Wrong

The principal of sovereign immunity, which prohibits the suing of the state or political subdivisions (boroughs, cities, school districts, etc.), has been around for a long time and grew out of the old English theory of “the King can do no wrong.” That got tossed out by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in 1978 and after a couple of years of proving that the King could do a lot of wrong, the Legislature passed two laws. One gave immunity back to the state with certain exceptions and the other gave immunity back to political subdivisions, also with certain exceptions. These exceptions allow the injured to sue the state or city.

In the last 20 years, rulings of the Commonwealth Court (which hears all appeals concerning the state or political subdivisions) have greatly narrowed two of these exceptions. One says that you can sue the state for a dangerous condition of realty owned by PennDOT, and the other is for the operation of a motor vehicle by a political subdivision.

Both of these exceptions were restored to their proper breadth in two recent cases by the Supreme Court.

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Knee Injuries Greatly Increase the Development of Arthritis

Herr & Low has represented injured people for over 30 years and that long view informs what we do. We know, from clients who have kept in touch or returned to see us later, that an injury to a joint will cause problems down the road. A report in the New York Times now gives … Read more

Birchfield and Blood Draws – New Developments in DUI law

The United States Supreme Court’s recent decision in Birchfield v. North Dakota deemed warrantless blood draws in driving under the influence arrests unconstitutional. This has far-reaching consequences in Pennsylvania, a so-called “implied consent” state, in which a motorist is deemed to have consented to a test of his blood or breath in the event of a suspected DUI.

Prior to the Supreme Court’s Birchfield decision, anyone stopped for a suspected DUI who refused a blood draw would potentially be subject to increased criminal penalties as if he or she had registered a blood alcohol level of .16% or higher, the highest tier for DUI sentencing purposes. Warnings given to motorists made this clear in advising of their “right” to refusal. In sentencing terms, refusals for a first offense called for a mandatory 72 hours incarceration and a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000. Both minimum and maximum penalties increased dramatically for second and subsequent offenses.

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Textalyzers: New Technology May Raise Privacy Concerns

It’s no secret these days that smartphones play a major role in our lives. Look around you at any restaurant, grocery store, or simply walking down the street and you’ll likely see dozens of people, heads down, intent on their screens. Increasingly, states are passing laws to make sure that this same scene isn’t repeated … Read more