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By: Amy B. Cowan
In recent years, the Georgia Court of Appeals has consistently held that Georgia’s municipal ante litem notice statute requires that any notice of claim served upon a city must contain the specific amount of monetary damages sought stated as an offer of compromise which the city can accept. The Court’s most recent decision is no different. In Tanks v. Nesmith, 359 Ga. App. 596 (2021), the Court considered the express statutory requirement that ante litem notice to a city must contain “the specific amount of monetary damages being sought from the municipal corporation” sufficient to “constitute an offer of compromise.” O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5 (e). The case involved ante litem notice sent to the City of South Fulton related to damages suffered in a motor vehicle accident. The notice stated: “Amount of Loss Claim: $75,000.00, Grady Memorial Hospital bill in excess of $10,000.” The Court held that the ante litem notice was insufficient under O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5 (e) because it did not contain the total amount of damages sought and the “unknown” number above $75,000.00 was too indefinite to constitute an offer of settlement. Because the notice lacked a specific offer of compromise available for acceptance by the city, the Court affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the lawsuit against the city. This case serves as an important reminder that attorneys representing cities should carefully examine the contents of any ante litem notice received to determine compliance with the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5.
The Georgia Court of Appeals is currently considering a similar case involving O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5(e). A decision in Hall v. City of Blakely, Case No. A21A1133, on appeal from the Superior Court of Early County, should be reached by November 2021.