Department of Public Safety v. Ragsdale

Court: Georgia Supreme Court
Case Number: S19G0422
Decision Date: February 28, 2020
Case Type: Ante Litem Notice
In this case, the Plaintiff was injured in an accident caused by a man fleeing the police. The Plaintiff sued the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS), alleging its officers’ actions contributed to the accident and his injuries. The Supreme Court of Georgia addressed the question of whether a tolling period applies to certain deadlines that arise in personal injury claims against a government agency.

In this case, the accident took place on October 31, 2014. The plaintiff sent his notice to the DPS in December 2014, well within the six-month period, however the notice was incomplete. The Plaintiff therefore sent a second notice in March 2017. The DPS argued this notice was filed too late and moved to dismiss.
In response, the Plaintiff argued that since his injuries were the result of a criminal act (the driver fleeing the police), the six-month notice period should be tolled until the prosecution of the driver was finished. Both the trial judge and the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with this interpretation of the law and denied the motion to dismiss.

When the case came before the Supreme Court, it held that the tolling of personal injury claims for criminal acts only applied to a statute of limitations, not a pre-suit notice period. The Court noted that in prior cases, it has treated the notice period as a “condition precedent to bringing suit” against the government and “not itself a six-month statute of limitations.” Because the courts must construe the Georgia Tort Claims Act narrowly, the Supreme Court found it was compelled to find the Plaintiff’s lawsuit against the DPS was barred due to the late notice.