Buying insurance doesn’t waive sovereign immunity, Georgia court says
The city of Alpharetta, Georgia did not waive its sovereign immunity when it obtained an insurance policy, an appeals court said on Thursday, two years after a man drowned in a swimming pool municipal.
In Sharma vs City of Alpharetta, the state appeals court’s first division upheld a trial court’s dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the wife of the drowning victim. The wife claimed the city was in charge of the premises and was negligent in training and supervising lifeguards when Amit Sharma drowned in May 2019.
The wife also argued that the city waived its right to sovereign immunity, or protection from lawsuits, when it purchased a liability insurance policy from the State National Insurance Co.
The policy contained this wording: “The issuance of this insurance should not be construed as a waiver of any statutory immunity by or on behalf of an insured, nor of any legal limit on the monetary amount of liability applicable to any insured. if this policy was not in force. effect; and with respect to any “claim”, we expressly reserve the right to refuse any liability on the basis of such immunity and to assert any limitations as to the amount of liability which may be provided for by law. “
As in most states, the state constitution and state laws decree that municipalities are protected from liability damages by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Waivers of sovereign immunity must come from the General Assembly, Court of Appeal judge Elizabeth Gobeil said in the opinion.
The lawmaker has even said that a municipality does not waive immunity by purchasing liability insurance, although questions may arise if the wording of the insurance policy is ambiguous, the court said.
Sharma’s lawyers argued that the policy was, in fact, ambiguous, as it referred to “statutory immunities,” and sovereign immunity is a constitutional creation. The trial court and appeals court disagreed, noting that immunity is enshrined in the state’s constitution and statutes.
“This court can discern no other reasonable meaning to this provision other than the express intention to preserve the sovereign immunity of the city where the law permits, and to prevent the purchase of the police from extending liability. of the city in any way, “the appeals court said. Noted.
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