June 22, 2015
Several articles on this site have mentioned Common Law, which is essentially a large set of legal precedents and concepts inherited from England and developed over centuries by English courts, magistrates, and judges. Much of the personal injury law currently in effect in Calgary, such as the definitions of "negligence" and "duty of care," are directly taken from Common Law concepts.
One interesting element of Common Law is notably lacking throughout modern Canada, however, and especially lacking in Alberta's Municipal Government Act. This is the concept of "sovereign immunity," or the notion that governments—from the federal government to provincial governments to municipal governments like the City of Calgary and its agencies—are immune from civil lawsuits simply because they are the government. While this concept is still very much in effect in many parts of the world where legal structures were developed from Common Law, and was still in effect in Canada until recently, most governments in Canada are now vulnerable to suits for their negligence.
That doesn't mean it's easy to sue a government or government agency in Canada, though, and special rules often apply. Alberta doesn't spell out any special rules or immunities for governments within the province, but even in Calgary (a city that has to follow the rules set by the Alberta government) there can be some complications depending on the nature of the suit.
Two Prominent Suits Against the Calgary Police
To illustrate this point, let's look at two lawsuits recently filed against the Calgary police. While it's impossible to know the full facts of these cases or to predict an outcome of an actual case, simply taking the plaintiff's stories at face value demonstrates where complications in suing government officials and agencies can occur.
In one case, a man who had mistakenly fallen under suspicion by the Calgary Police was knocked unconscious and sustained several serious personal injuries when police officers forcibly pulled him from his truck. According to the injury victim, he was not told to step out of the truck and wasn't given a chance to cooperate with officers. He was also told—while recovering from his injuries in a Calgary hospital—that no charges were being filed against him.
In the other case, an illegally parked vehicle was approached by Calgary Police officers. The driver attempted to flee the scene, driving directly at one of the officers. The officer fired his service weapon, striking the driver in the neck and causing him to become paralyzed from the neck down.
In both cases, the plaintiff must prove that the police acted with negligence—that their actions were not reasonable according to standard Calgary Police procedure for the incidents they were involved in—for a lawsuit to be successful.
Call Calgary Personal Injury Lawyers with Experience Before You File
The lesson? While Governments, including the City of Calgary and its agencies, might not enjoy sovereign immunity, they do in specific cases have broader license to act in certain situations that reduces their exposure to lawsuits. Whether you have been injured while travelling on a City Bus, fallen on a City sidewalk, or been injured in a motor vehicle accident that occurred as a result of poor road maintenance, contact an experienced Calgary firm that handles plaintiff-side personal injury to learn what notice requirements you must meet to bring a suit and to give yourself the best chance at success in such suits.
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