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By: Ali Sabzevari
The doctrine of sovereign immunity set forth in the Georgia Constitution is often asserted as a defense to state law claims against counties. But in certain circumstances, an Act of the General Assembly can operate to waive a county’s entitlement to sovereign immunity. Thus far, the circumstances in which a county waives its sovereign immunity is extremely limited. The Georgia Supreme Court, however, has recently expanded these circumstances, and therefore county liability, in its interpretation of the Georgia Whistleblower Act, O.C.G.A. § 45-1-4.
The Georgia Supreme Court held in Colon v. Fulton Cnty., 751 S.E.2d 307 (2013) that the Georgia Whistleblower Act sets forth a specific waiver of the County’s entitlement to sovereign immunity. Colon is a case where Fulton County employees brought an action against the County, asserting that it retaliated against them after they reported to their supervisors that various county personnel were violating law, rules, and regulations, and were fraudulently wasting and abusing county funds and public money.
Although the Georgia Supreme Court’s holding enhances the protections afforded to county employees, it also increases liability to counties by creating another circumstance in which counties are not protected by sovereign immunity.
For more information, contact Ali Sabzevari at 770.303.8633 or [email protected].