Supreme Court of Georgia Eliminates Direct Appeals from Denials of Immunity at Motion to Dismiss Stage


By: Andy Treese

Since 2009, government defendants in Georgia state courts have been authorized to directly appeal from denials of immunity-based motions to dismiss.  The underlying premise has been that such rulings, though not “final orders,” fell within a narrow category of “collateral orders” which were effectively final and therefore subject to immediate appellate review.  Board of Regents v. Canas, 295 Ga. App. 505 (2009).

No more.  Last week, the Supreme Court of Georgia held that a denial of immunity raised in a motion to dismiss is not directly appealable as a collateral order, expressly overturning Canas and at least twenty subsequent cases.  The cases are Rivera v. Washington (S15G0887) and Forsyth County v. Appelrouth (S15G0912)(consolidated for appeal) and the opinion is available here.  The Court signaled in its ruling that any reform of the appellate scheme will require legislative action, and the ruling appears to foreclose direct appeals as to the denial of sovereign, official, qualified, or any other immunities asserted by a motion to dismiss.  The result is that interlocutory review remains available through the discretionary appeal process, which the Georgia Supreme Court encourages trial courts to liberally grant.

This severely undermines the power of state-law immunities asserted in Georgia by way of motions to dismiss; future opinions will have to explore whether this ruling applies to summary  judgment orders.