ANTE LITEM REQUIREMENTS UNDER THE STATE TORT CLAIMS ACT
The State Tort Claims Act waives the state of Georgia’s immunity from suit in the courts of this state. See O.C.G.A. § 50-21-23. This is a limited waiver of sovereign immunity and the most that any single claimant can recover against the State is $1 million. See O.C.G.A. § 50-21-29. By the terms of the State Tort Claims Act, the limited waiver of immunity only applies to the State and its agencies and departments. O.C.G.A. § 50-21-22(5). The State Tort Claims Act expressly includes claims against cities, counties and local government authorities.
Just as there are ante litem “minefields” that exist under Georgia law relative to claims against municipalities and counties, there is also an ante litem notice requirement under the State Tort Claims Act. These requirements are detailed in the statute and read as follows:
(1) Notice of a claim shall be given in writing within 12 months of the date the loss was discovered or should have been discovered; . . . ;
(2) Notice of a claim shall be given in writing and should be mailed by certified mail or statutory overnight delivery, return receipt requested, or delivered personally to and a receipt obtained from the Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services. In addition, copies shall be delivered personally to or mailed by first class mail to the state government entity, the act or omission of which are asserted as the basis of the claim. Each state government entity may designate an office or officer within that state government entity to whom a notice of claim is to be delivered or mailed;
(3) No action against the state under this article shall be commenced and the court shall have no jurisdiction thereon unless and until a written notice of the claim has been timely presented to the state as provided in this subsection;
(4) Any complaint filed pursuant to this article must have a copy of the notice of claim presented to the Department of Administrative Services together with a certified mail or statutory overnight delivery receipt or receipt of other delivery attached as exhibits. If failure to attach such exhibits to the complaint is not completed within 30 days after the state raises such issue by motion, then the complaint shall be dismissed without prejudice; and
(5) A notice of claim under this code section shall state to the extent of the claimant’s knowledge and belief and as may be practicable under the circumstances, the following:
(A) The name of the state government entity the acts or omissions of which are asserted as the basis of the claim;
(B) The time of the transaction or occurrence out of which the loss arose;
(C) The place of the transaction or occurrence;
(D) The nature of the loss suffered;
(E) The amount of the loss claimed; and
(F) The acts or omissions which caused the loss.
Even a cursory review of this statute indicates that it is extremely important that it be meticulously followed. Failure to scrupulously observe the statute’s requirements could result in the claim being rendered invalid by the courts. As is true in situations involving claims against municipalities and/or counties, it is important that citizens injured by state actors confer with counsel as soon as possible in order to preserve their legal rights to seek redress for their injuries and damages.