State Tort Claims Act — Supreme Court allows some procedural grace
The Georgia State Tort Claims Act includes a minefield of procedural requirements for presuit notice of claim and service of claims and suits upon various officials. However, a recent decision written by Supreme Court Chief Justice Leah Sears avoids draconian literalism in at least one of those procedural requirements. It is so technical, and the Department of Administrative Services is so painstaking in flyspecking cases for technical defects, we never handle a tort claim against a state agency without not just rereading the statute but practically diagraming the sentences in the applicable sections of the statute.
OCGA § 50-21-35 states:
In all civil actions brought against the state under this article, to perfect service of process the plaintiff must both: (1) cause process to be served upon the chief executive officer of the state government entity involved at his or her usual office address; and (2) cause process to be served upon the director of the Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services at his or her usual address. The time for the state to file an answer shall not begin until process has been served upon all required persons. A copy of the complaint, showing the date of filing, shall also be mailed to the Attorney General at his or her usual office address, by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested and there shall be attached to the complaint a certificate that this requirement has been met.
In Camp v. Coweta County, S05G0892, decided January 17, 2006, the Supreme Court held:
Because the statute clearly differentiates between the mailing requirement and the requirements for service of process, we hold that mailing a copy of the complaint to the Attorney General is not necessary to perfect service. Also, because no statutory authority prohibits a late mailing or the filing of an amended complaint, we hold that a plaintiff should be allowed to cure a defect in his compliance with the mailing requirement so long as the delay in providing a copy of the complaint to the Attorney General has not caused prejudice to the State.
This is a sensible decision allowing the injury victims a modicum of procedural grace. However, we will still diagram the sentences in the statute every time we handle one of these cases.
The Shigley Law Firm represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks).