ZK Results – Attorney Danielle Zietak Obtains Dismissal for Out-of-State Defendant
In a lawsuit filed in Brooke County, WV, it was alleged that Plaintiff suffered injuries to his person and property when Defendant John Doe, an employee of Defendant PennDOT, allegedly backed a vehicle into Plaintiff’s driveway and yard, which were located in West Virginia. Defendant, an agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, filed a Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint for Lack of Jurisdiction due to interstate sovereign immunity, which protects one state from being sued in another state’s courts without the state’s consent. Likewise, Defendant argued, the suit against Defendant John Doe must be dismissed, as the suit against John Doe in his official capacity is, in essence, a suit against the State itself.
In response, Plaintiff argued that Defendants’ immunity is waived and if not, the Court should allow Plaintiff to engage in discovery to establish jurisdiction. Defendants responded that they had not consented to jurisdiction, nor waived immunity. Further, Defendants argued, the only way the West Virginia court could retain jurisdiction over the Pennsylvania state Defendants is if they had consented. As they had done no such thing, the Court lacked jurisdiction.
Judge Michael J. Olejasz agreed with Defendants and dismissed Plaintiff’s Complaint, recognizing that a state’s “sovereign immunity empowers it to ignore private suits brought against it in the courts of other states.”