Georgia Supreme Court to hear arguments in woman’s case against Peach schools

bpurser@macon.comFebruary 3, 2014 

The Georgia Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments Tuesday in a Peach County case in which damages were denied a woman who fell on school property and broke her ankle. A ruling is expected to be issued at a later date.

Donna Austin sued Peach County schools and several school officials after she fell when she stepped off a sidewalk near the gym May 21, 2010, following a Peach County High School graduation.

Her leg was caught in an “opening of the curb” and she filed a lawsuit, arguing school officials had a responsibility keep the property in a safe condition. But school officials argued protection under the doctrine of official immunity, according to a summary of the case provided by the Georgia Supreme Court’s public information office.

Such “immunity protects public officials from personal liability for discretionary actions taken within the scope of their jobs as long as they are not done with malice,” the summary stated. But “public employees are not immune from liability if they are negligent in performing ministerial actions and cause injuries or damage.” Austin argued keeping the property safe was a ministerial action.

The appellate court ruled both the school system and school officials were immune to damages.

The state Supreme Court is reviewing the case to determine whether the appellate court erred in affirming the trial court’s order that dismissed Austin’s lawsuit based on official immunity, the summary stated.

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