Since we recently had the opportunity to review the literally hundreds of immunities in Virginia’s laws as summarized in Suing the Unsuable¹, in The Virginia Trial Lawyer’s publication, The Journal, we thought we’d share some of the quirkier aspects of Virginia’s legal protections.

In this article, we have compiled a list of 7 interesting and unusual immunity protections found in Virginia’s laws.

First though: what is legal immunity and why do we have it?

WHY DOES LEGAL IMMUNITY EXIST?

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “You can’t sue the King,” but here in Virginia, we don’t live in a kingdom, nor under sovereign rule. Historically, the king, queen or other sovereign (the “royalty”) was immune from civil or criminal prosecution.

States like Virginia have chosen to implement similar protections for themselves and their employees. Even today, despite most people, companies, and even state government agencies having insurance coverage, there exist classes of people that the legislature continues to protect and types of claims that the legislature has chosen to restrict.

It’s obvious why legal exceptions were put in place for some situations. The so-called “Good Samaritan” law is an example of this.

GOOD SAMARITAN IMMUNITY LAW IN VIRGINIA

Virginia has what is commonly known as a Good Samaritan Law – a protection for people who help in emergency situations. Specifically, it provides “immunity for persons providing good faith volunteer services at the scene of an emergency.” This is codified at: Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-225(A)(1) (1950).

Examples of Good Samaritan Acts

  • * If you, with your current CPR training, jump in to help a drowning victim, you can’t be sued for accidentally injuring that person while administering chest compressions.
  • * The same thing goes for performing the Heimlich maneuver to assist a stranger who is choking.
  • * Defibrillators are now commonly available as emergency medical equipment so that a lay person can help a person having a heart attack. On the theory that inexperience or incorrect usage of the machine shouldn’t mean a volunteer is sued for their offer to help, Virginia’s Good Samaritan law provides protection for such volunteers.

SEVEN INTERESTING AND UNUSUAL IMMUNITY LAWS IN VIRGINIA

In other situations, immunities have been granted in order to encourage certain educational or recreational activities or to protect classes of people. Here are some of the more interesting and unusual immunities in the law in Virginia.

  1. 1. What ox? In Virginia, if you are a sponsor of an oxen activity, you are protected by law from any liability arising from those activities or oxen, thanks to the OX ACTIVITY LIABILITY ACT. Code Ann. § 3.2-6301 (1994).
  2. 2. That dog won’t hunt! Breeders are not responsible for acts or defects of their breed stock, so you can’t sue for a dog that won’t hunt. Va. Code Ann. § 3.2-6593.1 (2021).
  3. 3. Being closed is a valid excuse. Repealed in 2010: Banks that chose to close on Saturdays are not liable for delays in financial transactions to the next business day. Va. Code Ann. § 6.1-5.4 (1966)
  4. 4. Ignorance is bliss! Pay day and short term lenders are not liable civilly if found to have used inaccurate information from the applicant or a database. Va. Code Ann. § 6.1-453.1, 6.2-1810 (2008) & Va. Code Ann. § 6.2-1816 (2002).
  5. 5. Virginia is for lovers of rocket science. Immunity for providers of space flight activities. New in 2007 at Va. Code Ann. § 8.01-227.9 (2007).
  6. 6. Your way is OK. Immunity for landowners granting right-of-way for the Appalachian Trail across owned land. Va. Code Ann. § 10.1-203 (1971)
  7. 7. So what if it’s dark in here? Immunity for cave owners allowing free use of cave for recreational or scientific purposes, even if the owner knows of the cave explorer’s inexperience. Va. Code Ann. § 10.1-1008 (1979)

  1. Wason, W. B. (2023). Suing the Unsuable. The Journal30(1). Accessed online January 8, 2024.

 

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