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Purchase of Insurance Does Not Waive Sovereign Immunity, Georgia Court Finds

The town of Alpharetta, Georgia, didn’t waive its sovereign immunity when it obtained an insurance coverage coverage, an appeals court docket stated Thursday, two years after a person drowned in a metropolis pool.

In Sharma vs. Metropolis of Alpharetta, the state appellate court docket’s First Division upheld a trial court docket’s dismissal of a lawsuit introduced by the drowning sufferer’s partner. The partner argued that town held premises legal responsibility and was negligent in lifeguard coaching and supervision when Amit Sharma drowned in Could 2019.

The spouse additionally argued that town had waived its proper to sovereign immunity, or safety from lawsuits, when it bought a legal responsibility insurance coverage coverage with State Nationwide Insurance coverage Co.

The coverage contained this language: “The issuance of this insurance coverage shall not be deemed a waiver of any statutory immunities by or on behalf of any insured, nor of any statutory limits on the financial quantity of legal responsibility relevant to any insured had been this coverage not in impact; and as respects to any ‘declare,’ we expressly reserve any and all rights to disclaim legal responsibility by motive of such immunity, and to say the constraints as to the quantity of legal responsibility as is perhaps offered by regulation.”

As in most states, the state Structure and state legal guidelines decree that municipalities are protected against legal responsibility damages by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Waivers of sovereign immunity should come from the Normal Meeting, Appeals Court docket Choose Elizabeth Gobeil defined within the opinion.

The legislature has even declared {that a} municipality doesn’t hand over the immunity by buying legal responsibility insurance coverage, though questions could come up if the insurance coverage coverage wording is ambiguous, the court docket stated.

Sharma’s attorneys argued that the coverage was, in truth, ambiguous, as a result of it referred to “statutory immunities,” and sovereign immunity is a constitutional creation. The trial court docket and the appellate court docket disagreed, noting that the immunity is embedded within the state structure and statutes.

“This court docket can discern no cheap various that means to this provision aside from the categorical intention to protect town’s sovereign immunity the place permissible underneath the regulation, and to stop the acquisition of the coverage from increasing town’s legal responsibility in any method,” the appeals court docket famous.

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GEORGIA

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