SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY-INDEMNIFICATION

May 22nd, 2017 by Rieders Travis in Sovereign Immunity

Soverign Immunity and an Indemnification Clause

Lewis v. Clarke, 2017 U.S. LEXIS 2796, 581 U.S. ___ (April 25, 2017) Sotomayor, J. We have never before had occasion to decide whether an indemnification clause is sufficient to extend a sovereign immunity defense to a suit against an employee in his individual capacity. We hold that an indemnification provision cannot, as a matter of law, extend sovereign immunity to individual employees who would otherwise not fall under its protective cloak.

This case arose in the context of an Indian tribe with gaming authority.

We have never before treated a lawsuit against an individual employee as one against a state instrumentality.  A civil rights suit under 1983 against a state officer in his official capacity does not implicate the Eleventh Amendment and a state’s sovereign immunity from suit.  Federal appellate courts that have considered the indemnity question have rejected the argument that an indemnity statute brings the Eleventh Amendment into play in 1983 actions.

In sum, although tribal sovereign immunity is implicated when the suit is brought against individual officers in their official capacities, it is simply not present when the claim is made against those employees in their individual capacities. An indemnification statute such as the one at issue here does not alter the analysis. Clarke may not avail himself of a sovereign immunity defense.

Attorney Cliff Rieders

Attorney Cliff RiedersCliff Rieders is a Nationally Board Certified Trial Lawyer practicing personal injury law. A large part of his practice involves multi-district litigation, including cases related to pharmaceuticals, vitamin supplements and medical devices. He is admitted in several state and federal courts, as well as the Supreme Court of the United States. Rieders is the past regional president of the Federal Bar Association and is a life member of the distinguished American Law Institute, which promulgates proposed rules adopted by many state courts. He is a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Justice, formerly Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association. As a founder of the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Authority, he served on the Board for 15 years.

Not only has Rieders held many highly esteemed, leadership positions, he authored legislation related to the Patient Safety Authority and the Mcare Act, which governs medical and hospital liability actions in Pennsylvania. He authored texts upon which both practitioners and judges rely, including Pennsylvania Malpractice Laws and Forms, and Financial Responsibility Law Issues in Pennsylvania, the latter governing auto and truck collisions in Pennsylvania. In addition, he wrote several books on the practice of law in Pennsylvania regarding wrongful death and survivor actions, insurance bad faith, legal malpractice claims and worker rights, among others. Rieders also serves as a resource to practitioners as a regular speaker for Celesq, an arm of the world’s largest legal publisher, Thomson Reuters West Publishing.

As recognition of his wide range of contribution to his profession and of his dedication to protecting the rights of his clients, he received numerous awards, among them the George F. Douglas Amicus Curiae Award, the Milton D. Rosenberg Award, the B’nai B’rith Justice Award, and awards of recognition from the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers. [ Attorney Bio ]