Last month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a personal injury case involving a car accident between the plaintiff and an employee with the Department of Transportation. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff’s complaint did not conform to the mandatory procedural requirements of a complaint filed against a government entity. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed by the court.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was involved in an auto accident with an employee of the Georgia Department of Transportation. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries in the accident and filed a personal injury case against the Department under the theory of vicarious liability. Essentially, the doctrine of vicarious liability allows for a plaintiff to hold an employer responsible for the negligent acts of an employee.
Since the case named a government entity as a defendant, the plaintiff’s complaint needed to meet certain additional procedural requirements not present in cases against citizens or businesses. Generally, these additional requirements involve providing the government agency named as a defendant with appropriate notice of the lawsuit. This includes specifying the amount of damages the plaintiff is seeking.
In the plaintiff’s complaint, she listed the amount of damages sought as “the full amount of damages allowed by law.” Under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, the maximum amount of damages for this type of claim was $1 million. However, the plaintiff did not list the numerical figure anywhere in the complaint.
The Department asked the court to dismiss the plaintiff’s case, arguing that the plaintiff’s specification of damages did not comply with the rule. Specifically, the Department argued that a numerical figure must be listed, rather than the phrase “the full amount of damages allowed by law.” The trial court denied the Department’s motion, finding that the plaintiff was seeking $1 million in damages. The Department appealed.
The Court’s Decision
The court agreed with the defendant and reversed the lower court’s decision. The court explained that the procedural rules under the Tort Claims Act must be strictly followed. The court likened the case to one that had been previously decided, in which the plaintiff failed to specify damages because she did not yet know what her damages were. In that case, the court held that the plaintiff’s failure to comply with the rule – even though she honestly did not know what her bills would be at the time she filed the case – was fatal to the plaintiff’s claim.
Here, the court came to the same conclusion, finding that the “cap has nothing to do with the amount of a claim; rather it is a limitation on the amount that can be recovered.” As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.
Have You Been Involved in a Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Florida car accident and believe that a government employee or entity may be responsible for your injuries, you may be entitled to compensation through a Florida personal injury lawsuit. However, if you are naming a government entity as a defendant, you will likely need to comply with additional requirements. The skilled personal injury attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have extensive experience handling cases against government entities, and we know how to successfully navigate the unique legal landscape in which these claims arise. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Appellate Court Determines Water Company May Be Liable in Slip-and-Fall Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published May 4, 2017.
State Court of Appeals Invalidates Nursing Home Arbitration Contract, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 13, 2017.