In some cases, a slip and fall or another accident takes place on government property, such as a school or a public park. Although private landowners are usually required to keep their property reasonably free of dangers for lawful visitors or else provide warnings, different rules apply when the property owner is a local or state government entity. The doctrine of sovereign immunity shields governmental entities from being sued for their negligence, even if they are clearly at fault, except when the entity has waived its immunity from suit.
The North Carolina Tort Claims Act provides the exceptions to sovereign immunity from tort claims. It allows recovery for injuries caused by the negligence of state officers, employees, or agents who are acting within the scope of their duties in situations that would make the state liable if it were a private individual. However, the Tort Claims Act doesn’t waive immunity for a state employee’s intentional misconduct. Moreover, as with lawsuits against private individuals, a plaintiff’s contributory negligence completely bars his ability to recover damages.
Governmental immunity shields local governments, such as cities, from injuries caused by employees in the scope of their duties when they are performing “governmental functions.” However, it doesn’t protect local governments from tort claims based on an employee’s performance of proprietary functions. Factors that may show whether a governmental actor was acting in the scope of proprietary or governmental powers include whether the activity was one typically provided by a particular entity, if the actions were ones in which only a governmental entity could engage, whether a substantial fee had been charged, and whether a profit had been turned.