Michael Neff and Shane Peagler, along with co-counsel Brian Spears, recently obtained victories at the Georgia Court of Appeals in Glass v. Gates, 311 Ga.App. 563 (2011) and then in Gates v. Glass, S12G0133 (July 2, 2012). The cases addressed situations when a county waives sovereign immunity through the purchase of insurance.
In writing the unanimous decision of the Georgia Supreme Court, Justice Thompson recognized that the legislature intended to allow counties to purchase insurance above the legally-required limits, and that a county waives its sovereign immunity up to the limits of that insurance policy. In so doing, a county may purchase insurance for “any motor vehicle” under O.C.G.A. § 33-24-51.
Neff, Peagler, and Spears argued that the trial court erred in applying a limited definition of “motor vehicle,” found in O.C.G.A. § 36-92-1 to the phrase “any motor vehicle” in O.C.G.A. § 33-24-51, which has been historically used more broadly. Both the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court agreed that the trial court should have used the broader definition.