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Exceptions to Sovereign Immunity

In almost any lawsuit against a governmental entity, the government will argue that it is immune from the suit under sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity insulates the government from most suits for money damages. At the state level in Missouri, however, there are numerous exceptions to sovereign immunity in Section 537.600, RSMo.

For instance, under Section 537.600.1(2), the government may be liable for injuries caused by a “dangerous condition” of its property. To fit within this exception, a plaintiff needs to show that there was a (1) dangerous condition of the government’s property, (2) the injury directly resulted from the dangerous condition, (3) the dangerous condition created a foreseeable risk of the harm incurred and (4) the city had notice of the condition. State ex rel. Mo Highway and Transp. Com’n v. Dierker, 961 S.W.2d 58, 60 (Mo. 1998).

“Property” in this context includes both real and personal property. Delmain v. Meramec Valley R-III School District, 671 S.W.2d 415, 417 (Mo. Ct. App. 1984). Further, while “dangerous condition” often refers to the physical condition of public property, the placement of certain public property may constitute a dangerous condition. Alexander v. State, 756 S.W.2d 539 (Mo. 1988) (the placement of a ladder created a physical deficiency in the state’s property which constituted a “dangerous condition”).

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