Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine of ancient origin. Under this doctrine, a sovereign cannot be sued for its own acts or omissions, including non-payment of an outsourcing service fee.
Waivers of Sovereign Immunity
Sovereign immunity is not absolute. It can be waived.
Sovereign immunity can be waived by statute. The Federal Tort Claims Act, for example, permits certain non-contractual claims against the U.S. federal government, subject to certain administrative procedures.
Sovereign immunity can also be waived by implication. A government’s submission to arbitrate disputes by arbitration in a foreign country constitutes a waiver that is generally recognized and enforced in foreign countries.
Under classic public international law, sovereign immunity is honored only if the government is acting in a governmental capacity when it does the act or omission that harms the claimant. This principle was adopted in the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which continues to generate litigation.
Dealing with Government Buyers
Providers of goods or service to governments should consult with a lawyer on the rights and remedies that may be enforceable against a governmental purchaser.