In West v. City of Albany, 2017 WL 875033 (Ga. March 6, 2017), the Georgia Supreme Court addressed whether an injured party was required to provide notice of intent to sue a city when the alleged wrongdoing was intentional rather than negligent. In an historic decision, the Court unanimously held that the ante litem (pre-suit) notice required for bringing suit against a municipality applies only to allegations of negligence, not to intentional acts.
Posted by Susan J. Levy
In the early 90’s, the Georgia General Assembly recognized that because of the scope of the State government’s responsibilities, it could potentially face tremendous financial exposure if subjected to unlimited tort liability. Consequently, the General Assembly enacted the Georgia Tort Claims Act (“GTCA”) which struck a balance between the two: a limited waiver of sovereign immunity. “The stated intent of the [GTCA] is to balance strict application of the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which may produce ‘inherently unfair and inequitable results,’ against the need for limited ‘exposure of the state treasury to tort liability.'” Norris v. Ga. Dept. of Transp., 268 Ga. 192, 192 (1997).
The State of Georgia, including all State agencies like the Department of Human Resources or Department of Transportation, is entitled to sovereign immunity except to the extent sovereign immunity has been waived by the provisions of the Georgia Tort Claims Act (“GTCA”). [See also A Practitioner’s View of the Georgia Tort Claims Act, Georgia State Bar Journal (1992)] The GTCA provides that the exclusive remedy for torts committed by a State employee is an action against the agency. Under the GTCA, the State has agreed to waive sovereign immunity for the torts of State officials and employees subject to certain exceptions and limitations. However, no tort action can be filed against the State without first providing ante-litem notice. O.C.G.A. §50-21-26(a). This is an absolute jurisdictional requirement.