The doctrine of sovereign immunity protects state and local governments from many lawsuits. In cases against the state, in order for a Maryland motorcycle injury claim to go forward in court, the government has to specifically waive immunity for such a claim. Sovereign immunity protects not only the state, but also its employees as long as they are acting in their official capacity and their actions are without malice or gross negligence.
Local governments, such as cities as counties are also generally protected by immunity. However, unlike the state government, under Maryland law, local governments only benefit from immunity when they perform governmental functions, as opposed to proprietary functions. Courts have held that governmental functions are those that are sanctioned by the legislature, are solely for the benefit of the public, and have no element of private interest. Other courts have stated that the distinction is between acts that are performed for the common good as opposed to those that are done for the benefit or profit of a corporation.
For example, the operation and maintenance of public parks, swimming pools, and police forces are normally considered governmental functions, and thus are protected under immunity. However, whether a function is governmental or proprietary is often not clear, and has been the subject of much litigation.