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Lawsuit Notice Requirements to Georgia Counties Expanded by Appellate Court

Proper notice to governmental defendants in Georgia is an important legal requirement which must be addressed well before suit is filed. The Georgia Court of Appeals issued a ruling in Davis v. Morrison, A17A2095, 2018WL796323, which apparently expands the existing ante litem notice requirements under O.C.G.A. 36-11-1 to include individual notice to sheriffs who are sued in their official capacity. 

Davis was an automobile wreck case in which the plaintiff was struck by a sheriff’s deputy while the deputy was driving a county-owned truck and on business related to his duties as sheriff. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 36-11-1, the plaintiff sent a proper and timely ante litem notice was timely served on the County, and addressed to the County Board of Commissioners, the County Administrator, and the County director of human resources. It is undisputed that the sheriff’s department was not served an ante litem notice. Plaintiff sued the County and the deputy individually and in his capacity as an employee of the county. The defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing (i) that the County cannot be liable for the negligence of the deputy sheriff; (ii) that the deputy sheriff cannot be sued the official capacity as an employee of the County; and (iii) even if Plaintiff had named the Sheriff of County, Plaintiff did not properly serve the sheriff (as opposed to the County) with an ante litem notice.

The Trial Court held that because no ante litem was served on the sheriff, plaintiff was barred from recovery, citing O.C.G.A. §§ 36-11-1, 36-92-1 and Ray v. City of Griffin, 318 Ga. App. 426 (2012). Curiously, the trial court made this finding in exactly one sentence, with no discussion of how it arrived at this conclusion. Ray v. City of Griffin only discusses O.C.G.A. § 36-92-1; there is no ante litem discussion.

Anti litem notices are required notices that must be given to governmental entities before they can be properly sued in Georgia. Great care must be used in identifying and notifying potential governmental entities that a lawsuit is being contemplated by the injured party. Sometimes the governmental entity does not identify itself as such and it is impossible to ascertain from the information supplied to the public that the potential defendant is, in fact, a governmental entity and entitled to anti litem notice.

Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of negligence for over 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities such as Alpharetta, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.

The City of Atlanta is one of the entities that must be supplied with anti litem notice, as are some of the other municipalities that operate in and around the Atlanta metropolitan area. Because of this, it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible to best protect all of you legal rights.