Georgia Court Upholds County Immunity, Tosses $5.1 Million Award

March 25, 2009

The Georgia Supreme Court has affirmed sovereign immunity and thrown out a $5.1 million jury award to the family of a man killed while performing community service in DeKalb County.

Vincent Currid died in October 1999 from injuries sustained after he fell from a county garbage truck while performing community service for a drunken driving conviction.

The high court’s decision found that the county was shielded from liability from the lawsuit filed by Currid’s family under sovereign immunity rules.

Currid’s family argued that assigning him to the sanitation truck and not giving him any training constituted gross negligence, which should have defeated the protections afforded DeKalb under the Community Service Act and the waiver that decedent signed.

A DeKalb County jury ruled that the county should pay $5.1 million in damages.

That was later reversed by a Court of Appeals that found the county retained its immunity.

The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals. Because the Community Service Act does not contain language providing for an express waiver of a county’s sovereign immunity and the extent of such waiver, the Court of Appeals properly concluded that no
waiver of DeKalb County’s sovereign immunity was shown, the high court ruled.

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