MILLEDGEVILLE – A municipality can not claim sovereign immunity after a poorly maintained city vehicle resulted in the injury of a corrections officers.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled that the city of Milledgeville is not protected by sovereign immunity from a correction officer’s lawsuit, overturning a state Court of Appeals ruling. The officer, Lucious Primas, Jr., was injured with the van he was driving, contracted by the Georgia Department of Corrections from the city of Milledgeville, brakes failed causing the vehicle to strike a utility pole, injuring the officer.
Primas was driving the van in October of 2007 with a 5-person prisoner work crew when the accident occurred. He reported he suffered injury to his neck and shoulder.
The contract between the state corrections office and the city involved the city providing transportation for the corrections office for prisoner transportation. However, part of the contract, according to the supreme court, involved the expectation of proper maintenance of those vehicles.
An inspection of the van after the accident revealed a brake line had burst. Primas sued the city for negligence, asserting just normal inspections would have revealed the problem with the brake line. The city countered by filing a motion asking for a ruling that the city was protected by sovereign immunity. The motion was denied and appealed to the State Appellate Court, which reversed the lower court’s ruling. The appellate court claimed the lawsuit’s claim alleged negligent performance of a discretionary act.
However, the State Supreme Court, in its ruling, said the appellate court’s decision was flawed because it addressed official immunity, not sovereign immunity, which involves a different set of legal principles, definitions and precedent, according to the ruling summary.
Now the case will be returned to the appellate court for further action.