Can state governors be held liable in wrongful death suits where the deaths are proven to be a direct result of violating all known medical advice and scientific assessment?

I remember that anti-science does have the legal precedent of parents praying for their child instead of seeking medical treatment. https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/08/12/most-states-allow-religious-exemptions-from-child-abuse-and-neglect-laws/

Currently, 19 states and territories have no religious exemptions to civil child abuse and neglect statutes.

What about criminal negligence for not even bothering to assess the risk by doing stratified random testing of 1500 people in the five largest cities of a state?

If any deaths result in the Brian Kemp's plan to open up Georgia (when everyone says this is a bad idea) can federal criminal charges be brought against him for depriving these people of their civil rights?

  • Some keywords to start your research: "official acts immunity", "sovereign immunity". Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:29
  • It would depend on the laws of that state. The governor would likely be immune from individual liability. The state can only be sued if it has waived It's immunity for that type of action.
    – David Reed
    Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 19:39
  • I would focus your attention on the word "guideline". Commented Apr 21, 2020 at 20:50

1 Answer 1



A governor could not be held liable in a lawsuit on those grounds. Governors in every U.S. state have governmental immunity from liability in tort (and a lawsuit for wrongful death is a kind of tort lawsuit) for their official actions, and there is no U.S. state in which this kind of lawsuit would fall within an exception to that governmental immunity.

There is not private cause of action against a state government executive branch official under federal law for a violation of "Trump administration official guidelines for reducing the covid-19 mitigation." Indeed, it isn't clear that a federal statute creating such a private cause of action that purported to pierce a state law official's governmental immunity from liability, even if it were enacted, would be constitutional.

In contrast, if a corporation violated such a guideline, the violation of the guideline would be evidence of negligence, although probably not conclusive evidence, in a suit for wrongful death by a non-employee brought against the corporation.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Dale M
    Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 5:49
  • What about criminal negligence for not doing stratified random testing of 1500 people in the five largest cities of a state. This would provide 99% reliable estimates of the within 2% of actual infection rate risk. Taking potentially very risky actions without even bothering to quantify this risk sure seems like the potential for negligent homicide to me. legaldictionary.net/negligent-homicide
    – user28347
    Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 16:14
  • @polcott First of all, private individuals can't bring criminal negligence charges in the vast majority of states. Secondly, there is still governmental immunity from criminal liability for all discretionary policy decisions made in an official capacity by elected officials.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 22, 2020 at 18:25
  • @ohwilleke In the case of opening up the state of Georgia without even bothering to scientifically assess the risks by stratified random sampling of 1500 people in each of the five largest cities would seem so egregious that the outcry may cause a grassroots campaign to force the elimination of the liability shield. Thank God that Trump reined the knucklehead in.
    – user28347
    Commented Apr 23, 2020 at 0:21
  • @polcott For what it is worth, Trump first privately assured the Governor of Georgia that he would back his plan, and then publicly did the opposite.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Apr 27, 2020 at 2:54

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