I am a
car accident attorney, representing car wreck victims in Atlanta, Georgia, and throughout the
entire state of Georgia.
In my last blog post, I talked about the fact that in Georgia, the law
is that once a City decides to put up a stop sign, it has to make sure
that that sign keeps standing. This holding overcomes the ancient rule
of sovereign immunity. Under Georgia’s rule, if a car accident happens
because the City puts up a stop sign, and then lets it fall down and does
nothing about it, then the injured person can file a lawsuit against the City.
You can certainly understand why a City would have a duty to keep the sign
up. After a sign has been up a while, the people in the community begin
to rely on it being there. If the stop sign falls down, however, someone
who is new to the community may come barreling through the intersection,
not even realizing that a stop sign is supposed to be there. The result
is terrible, but pretty predictable: a big car wreck, with serious injuries.
When a plaintiff has been injured in a car accident that happened because
a city let a stop sign fall down, then the Plaintiff has to prove one
of three things:
The City had actual notice that the stop sign was down
— or –
Actual notice can be implied if there is evidence that the City itself
knocked down the sign
— or –
The sign had been down so long that the existed the City or county certainly
ought to have noticed the problem and fixed it – long before the
car wreck happened.
In Nelson v. Spalding County, 290 S.E.2d 915, 249 Ga. 334  (1982),
the plaintiff offered evidence of the first kind I listed: evidence that
the city was given actual notice that the stop sign was down. The plaintiff
offered evidence “that the [stop] sign had been missing for several
days before the collision occurred. The wreck was on a Wednesday evening
and affidavits submitted by residents of the area state that the sign
had been down at least since Sunday.”
The county argued that it did not know that the stop sign was down. Nelson
brought in a witness, however, a local citizen who explained that he had
complained about the fact that the stop sign was down. The man had called
and talked to the secretary of the person who was in charge of replacing
stop signs. The secretary remembered the call, although she said that
she did “not recall whether the call was on the morning of the accident
or another day, but she remembers making up a work order which would be
dated.” Nelson v. Spalding County, 290 S.E.2d 915, 249 Ga. 334 (1982).
For reasons which were never explained, the work order was missing, which
meant that Nelson could not pin down the time the Secretary got the call.
The trial court had said that was not enough evidence to show that the
county had actual notice that the stop sign was down. The Georgia Supreme
Court disagreed. The Court held that a jury could reasonably conclude
that the county had gotten actual notice that the stop sign was down.