The Georgia Court of Appeals recently determined that a plaintiff’s failure to originally identify the correct governmental agencies in a personal injury suit against the state does not necessarily constitute grounds for dismissing the suit. The court held that the correct standard is to determine if the plaintiffs adequately investigated their claims or if the state had suffered prejudice.
In Young v. Georgia Dept. of Natural Resources, the plaintiff, Young, was injured at the Georgia National Fairgrounds in Perry, Georgia. Young brought suit for negligence and filed ante-litem notices with the Department of Administrative Services and the Georgia National Fairground. This ante-litem notice is a necessary step in suing the state for a tort. Upon realizing these were not the correct agencies sometime later, Young filed suit against the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Georgia Agricultural Exposition Authority (GAEA) which were the correct agencies.
The DNR and GAEA asked for the case to be dismissed, since Young had failed to identify the DNR and GAEA as the target agencies as required by the anti-litem statute. The trial court granted the motion by reasoning that a plaintiff must strictly comply with the anti-litem statute which waives the state’s sovereign immunity. The court further explained that the failure to include the DNR and GAEA rendered the original anti-litem notices invalid, and the plaintiff could not remedy the problem by later attaching the correct agencies.
The Court of Appeals disagreed. It held that the trial court should have conducted an inquiry into whether Young adequately investigated his claim or whether the state had suffered prejudice as a result of originally naming the wrong agencies. In doing so, the judgment was overturned and sent back to the trial court for the correct analysis to be conducted.
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