Georgia Law Review, Vol. 32, No. 4 (Summer 1998), pp. 1103-1194


The State's immunity from liability for the torts of its officers and employees claims legendary status in American law. Indeed, immunity's history now looms as daunting as the doctrine itself. As with most epochal accounts, this history varies according to version--versions, assuredly, for many tastes. In sum, nevertheless, the offerings attest to a legal principle persisting as (at least) the point of departure in most jurisdictions. Anchored in both history and rationale, therefore, state tort immunity long dominated the law of the United States. Over time, indeed, the doctrine's durability proved unequal only to that of its critics. Those critics conceded the precept of a limited sphere of legitimacy. They were unrelenting, however, in their devastating charges of doctrinal overreach. The attacks gradually took their toll, and, over the decades, various states moved in various ways to restrict their own tort immunities. Characteristic of American legal reform, there is a distinct history for each state.