The Georgia Supreme Court has vacated a decision by the state Court of Appeals in a lawsuit filed by a corrections officer suing the city of Milledgeville, sending the decision of whether the city is protected by sovereign immunity back to the appellate court.
In 2007, Milledgeville had a contract with the Georgia Department of Corrections in which the city provided vehicles for corrections officers to transport inmates who performed labor, such as cutting grass, for the city. The city was responsible for maintaining the vehicles, according to a case summary.
Corrections officer Lucious Primas Jr. was driving a prison van Oct. 10, 2007, with a five-person prisoner work crew when the brakes suddenly failed. The van struck a utility pole and Primas allegedly suffered neck and shoulder injuries, according to the summary.
An inspection of the van later revealed the front brake line had burst. Primas sued the city for negligence, alleging an adequate inspection would have revealed the problem with the brake line, according to the summary.
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Milledgeville filed a motion, asking a judge to rule in its favor because the city alleged it was protected by sovereign immunity. The judge denied the motion and the city appealed to the Court of Appeals which reversed the initial ruling, finding that the city was immune from the lawsuit because Primas's claim alleged negligent performance of a "discretionary act," according to the summary.
Primas appealed to the state Supreme Court.
In an opinion released Monday, the court rued the appellate court's decision was "flawed" because it addressed official immunity, not sovereign immunity which involves different "legal principles, definitions and precedent." The court also failed to make a determination about whether the alleged negligence "arose out of the performance, or non-performance, of a governmental function."
The case was sent back to the Court of Appeals.