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Georgia Supreme Court Determines Police Officer Entitled to Official Immunity in Dog Bite Case

The Supreme Court of Georgia recently released their opinion in the personal injury case of Eschleman v. Key, in which a young boy was bitten by an official police dog. The defendant was a police officer who worked for a Georgia County police department. In addition to her normal law enforcement duties, she also housed the police dog after its shift. This particular dog was utilized to assist in the investigation and apprehension of those who were suspected to be involved in criminal activity.

IMG_2065During the times that the dog was not “at work,” he resided with the officer at her home. In 2011, the police officer put the dog in the kennel outside her home. However, she did not properly close the kennel door. As a result, the dog escaped from the kennel and began roaming the neighborhood. Unfortunately, the dog ended up coming into contact with a young boy and subsequently biting him, evidently severely injuring him. The family brought a suit against the police officer, but the officer asserted her official immunity to avoid liability.

Official Immunity in Georgia

In Georgia, government officials may assert their privilege of governmental immunity when a party attempts to name them as a defendant in a personal injury lawsuit. According to the Supreme Court of Georgia, this privilege applies when a government official or entity was carrying out a governmental task that was discretionary (rather than ministerial) when the injury to someone else occurred.

Procedural Posture and Supreme Court of Georgia’s Decision

In the above case, the boy’s family brought a personal injury suit against the police officer, alleging that the officer failed to properly restrain the dog. The officer moved to dismiss the case based on official and governmental immunity, but both the trial and appeals courts denied her motion. The Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the lower court’s decision, based mainly on an analysis of whether the officer’s act was ministerial.

The Court explained that if the act was considered ministerial, an immunity defense would not be viable. The court ultimately found that the act was discretionary and based its decision on the fact that there were several ways the dog could have been restrained and housed. The officer had discretion to house the dog in any reasonable manner, and therefore the mere act of taking and caring for the dog was not ministerial. As a result, she was due the privilege of official immunity.

Do You Believe You are a Victim of an Accident Involving a Government Official?

If you are a victim in an accident caused by a government official or entity, you should consider contacting one of the dedicated attorneys at Miller Legal Services. The attorneys at Miller Legal Services have a significant amount of experience handling personal injury claims of all varieties. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you suffered. Cases involving governmental immunity can be extremely complicated, and it is important you contact an attorney to discuss your rights and remedies. Call us today at 23287 to schedule a free initial consultation.

See Related Blog Posts:

Georgia Court Decides Important Case Involving Uninsured Motorist Protection, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 12, 2015.

Atlanta Driver Arrested After Driving Wrong Way on Highway, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 8, 2015.