Governmental Immunity

Posted on: May 2nd, 2016 by James Haug

Suing the Federal Government, the State of Georgia, or a Georgia county or city can be a confusing, lengthy, time-consuming process.  It is therefore important to hire an attorney who knows the rules and process.

In cases where the federal government causes personal injury to an individual, the government is generally immune from lawsuits because of the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, the injured individual may be able to bring a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act, or “FTCA.” In other words, an private individual can not sue the federal government unless the FTCA allows it.  The FTCA allows certain kinds of lawsuits against federal employees who are acting within the scope of their employment. For example, if an individual has a potential personal injury claim against the United Post Office after slipping and falling, that individual will have to file suit under the FTCA.

Similarly, the State of Georgia and its counties are subject to being sued under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, or “GTCA.”  It applies when officers and employees of the state and state agencies act negligently, but does not apply to officers and agents of counties, municipalities, hospital authorities, and school boards. It can be complicated as it requires a notice of claim to be made to the government, provides for a limit on liability. As an example, an injured individual may sue under the GTCA if she suffers a personal injury as a result of an automobile accident caused by a state government official while driving as part of his job.

When suing a Georgia City, there are still other rules to consider. An important point to consider when suing a city in Georgia is that the injured individual has to prove more than ordinary negligence. For example, in one case, an individual was injured in a car accident because the city failed to trim a dogwood tree that was blocking a stop sign. The court dismissed the suit, holding that it could not impose standard of ordinary care rather than proper standard requiring showing that maintenance of the defect exceeded mere negligence.