Sheriff — Not of the Locality, Not of the Commonwealth: Doud v. Commonwealth of Virginia


The Virginia Supreme Court has issued new opinions for September, but none are cases involving local governments, at least not on appeal. Here is the link to the opinions of the Virginia Supreme Court: (see article below for link).

There is one opinion, however, that will be of interest to local government attorneys — Doud v. Commonwealth, Record No. 100285, opinion by Senior Justice Russell. The Doud v. Commonwealth opinion addresses the topics of sovereign immunity, the need for a clear and express waiver thereof, and the relationship between a sheriff/constitutional officer and the Commonwealth under the Virginia Tort Claims Act.

This case arose from alleged injuries against an inmate caused by the actions of the County Sheriff’s deputies. Originally, Russell County, the Sheriff and a host of others were named as defendants, but all except the Commonwealth were nonsuited before the circuit court’s final order. In this order, the circuit court dismissed the remaining claim against the Commonwealth of Virginia on sovereign immunity grounds.

On appeal, the issue presented was “whether such an express waiver of sovereign immunity renders the Commonwealth liable for the negligent acts or omissions of deputies and jailors employed by a county sheriff.” The Court recited the strength of sovereign immunity and again reiterated the need for a clear and express waiver of sovereign immunity. The Virginia Tort Claims Act (VTCA) waives sovereign immunity for certain cases against the Commonwealth and, as applicable here, “employees.”

Please see full article below for more information.

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