The Georgia Supreme Court recently decided a case that better defines when a teach or other public official can be held liable in a personal injury or accidental death case. The case will be important for future and current personal injury cases involving public officials and employees, like teachers. It will be important for any Atlanta personal injury lawyer to be aware of and understand this case.
The case began as a result of a tragic death involving a young student in a classroom. In October of 2008, the teacher left the classroom for an unexplained reason for a few moments. After she left, two students began roughhousing and horseplay, with one student breaking his collarbone as a result. In a tragic accident, the broken collarbone severed an artery in the student, and he died as a result.
No one ever wants to get the news of a child’s death, and if it happens at school, it is that much more painful because children should be safe at school. Following an investigation into what happened, the child’s parents sued the teacher and school for what happened, claiming that the teacher was negligent in leaving the class unattended.
Courts Dismiss Cases
When the case was brought in court, the judge at the trial court level dismissed the lawsuit against the teacher. That judge ruled that the teacher was acting in a discretionary capacity in choosing to leave the classroom unattended, and as a result, was granted immunity from the Georgia Constitution, Article I, Section II, Paragraph IX (d). That portion of the Georgia Constitution grants immunity to public officials acting in a discretionary way.
This immunity granted by the Georgia Constitution to public officials is not absolute. Public officials like teachers can be held liable for the personal injuries they cause when those injuries result from an official’s ministerial acts, or if the official acts with malice or intentionally hurts another. Before drawing any conclusions, however, it is important to talk with an Atlanta personal injury lawyer over whether an official could be held liable under this definition of the law.
The Difference Between Ministerial and Discretionary Acts
In this and similar cases in which a person suffers an injury due to the negligence of a public official, the question of liability will rest on whether the official was acting in a ministerial or discretionary way. The difference between these terms can be very difficult to discern. Essentially, the difference is that ministerial acts are those that a public official must perform, and discretionary acts are those in which an official uses his or her judgment to act in some way.
Your Personal Injury Attorney Serving Atlanta
As you can see from this case, personal injury cases can become quite complex when we try to understand who should be made responsible for injuries caused. The answer to that question depends heavily on a number of factors, and must be analyzed by a qualified personal injury attorney serving Atlanta. That is the kind of service we offer at The Angell Law Firm. We help those injured in accidents receive the compensation they deserve. Contact us today so we can help you understand what your options are.
(image courtesy of Celia Ortega)