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.
During 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.