Hello there, welcome to legal break! I’m Maureen Akers and with us today Gary Bruce, as always, thank you so much for joining us again Gary. Gary Bruce discusses public safefty issues including whether a city has immunity from tort liability and more specifically, whether the city can be held liable for wrongful injury or death. While cities are generally responsible for their negligence, Columbus is treated as a county and, therefore, is not reponsible except in certain situations, inlcluding motor vehicle wrecks and collisions.
Gary also reminds viewers that whenever someone contemplates bringing suit against the government, there are certain written notices that must be provided pursuant to a statute – to specific entities – within a required time frame. This can be as soon as six months from the date of the incident. Cities have no tort immunity in Georgia and counties have instances when they can be responsible to the citizens. It is always best to talk to a lawyer early on after an incident to make sure you do not lose the case to statutory deadlines.
Maureen: Hello there, welcome to legal break! I’m Maureen Akers and with us today Gary Bruce, as always, thank you so much for joining us again Gary.
Gary: Good to be here, thank you for having me.
Maureen: We are talking about issues that are concerning to some of our viewers, and as matter of fact today we have a viewer that wrote in asking about the City of Columbus. Could they be held liable for a wrongful death if they were negligent in pursuing or fixing a public safety issue? Kind of a loaded question huh?
Gary: So the issue is – are city’s responsible to the citizens? Are they like a corporation or another entity, or they like any normal human? And the answer is yes and no. So cities are generally responsible for their negligence in Georgia. Columbus, though, is treated like a county and counties are not responsible to citizens for their negligence, except when operating motor vehicles. They do have responsibility unless they’re pursuing someone in a chase or something. So then there are protocols and issues there that I don’t think we can really get into and I’m not prepared to answer.
So the truth is if they’re on an emergency run or something, that’s an exception. But if an officer is just driving through town and runs into the back of you, then the city would be responsible for that. So the answer is – I don’t know given every situation is different, but certainly there are arguments to be made based on the question for both sides.
Maureen: Right, so then does the city enjoy any kind of immunity from this tort liability?
Gary: Well yeah that’s exactly the point, the city wouldn’t. So the City of Manchester may be responsible for something that the City of Columbus wouldn’t be because Columbus is treated like a county.
Maureen: And that’s our consolidated government that we’ve had many years?
Gary: That’s right, and it is specifically carved out to be a little bit of an exception. There’s been some movement in the Georgia Legislature to treat all municipalities and county governments the same because it seems either they’re not responsible or they are responsible. But make it consistent because it’s a little bit different. I will point out that in any kind of government action there are notice requirements. Including cases against the state of Georgia where you have to make sure there’s written notice given to the proper authorities, in the proper manner, disclosing the exact information they ask for, in a timely manner that is not two years. It’s sometimes six months.
Gary: So there are there are lots of issues dealing with suing a city or a municipality; a government entity of any kind.
Maureen: If you think you have something, be sure to check it out. Thank you so much, and we look forward to seeing you on the very next Legal Break!