Government claims sovereign immunity in suit filed by woman alleging battery at work


The American Samoa government has responded to a civil lawsuit filed by a woman two years ago claiming three counts of battery, pain and suffering and negligence and naming the government and Mac Tiatia as defendants.

Barbara Taulafoga’s claim was filed through her lawyer Mark Ude while Chief Assistant Attorney General Sara Sayles is representing the government in this matter.

Taulafoga claimed that she worked together with Tiatia at the LBJ Tropical Medical Center, where Tiatia allegedly physically beat her (battery) and that the defendant Tiatia as an employee of the American Samoa Government acted in an irresponsible and negligent manner.

The complaint claims that by the failure of the government to be sufficiently involved regarding the behavior of its employee Tiatia, the Government was negligent in its supervision of it employees.

Plaintiff claims that the government has the duty to supervise its personnel and insure its employees do not violate the law, and the government breached their duty by failing to discipline or terminate Tiatia for his actions.

The government in response filed a dismissal motion against this lawsuit claiming that Taulafoga’s claims are excluded from the High Court’s jurisdiction by sovereign immunity, and Sayles argues the claims are barred under the American Samoa Tort Liability Act.

“The plaintiff’s sole claim against the government is that of negligent supervision, which arises out of the alleged battery and is therefore also excluded from this court’s subject matter jurisdiction.

“Even if the court determines that the alleged negligent supervision did not arise [it] still lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the claim because the government does not owe an independent duty to the plaintiff, and plaintiff’s alleged injury was not foreseeable” according to the dismissal motion.

The government claims that the plaintiff has not even alleged battery against the government directly. “Nevertheless, the government cannot be held liable for Tiatia’s alleged battery of the plaintiff because it is immune from such claims.”

Sayles noted that the court must look beyond the language of the complaint and examine the actual basis of the claims.

Chief Assistant AG Sayles moved for the court to dismissed this civil claim.


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