Select Page

"AtlantaI write this
personal injury blog from Atlanta, Georgia, and recently I have posted several entries about the liability of Georgia
cities that do not construct or maintain their roads properly. In one
recent case I did, the City let a stop sign fall down and my client was
seriously injured in a car wreck because the other driver did not realize
she needed to stop when she got to the intersection. The City’s
maintenance at that intersection had been so poor that in fact the stop signs on
both sides of the intersection had fallen down.

In order to prove that a City is liable for poor road maintenance that
caused a car accident in Georgia, the plaintiff has to show that the City
had notice of the defect. But how do you prove that a Georgia City had
“notice” of a problem with a road that ended up causing a
car crash?

Under Georgia law, notice is “imputed” to an entity, like a
City, “‘from the knowledge of its own agents or employees.’
City of Rome v. Stone, 46 Ga. App. 259 (5a) (167 SE 325) (1933).”
Crider v. City of Atlanta, 184 Ga. App. 389, 361 S.E.2d 520, 521. The Crider case involved a car
accident in Atlanta, Georgia. The Stone case involved a
car wreck in Rome, Georgia.

Cf.,
Fairburn v. Cook, 188 Ga. App. 58, 65, 372 S.E.2d 245, 252 (Ga. Ct. App. 1988) (notice
could be found from testimony of the city administrator, superintendent
of utilities and chief of police “that they had long been aware
of the visibility problems at the intersection in question, having personally
observed that a driver approaching the intersection could not always see
the traffic lights placed there.”)

In
Carter v. Mayor & C. Alderman of Savannah, 407 S.E.2d 421, 424, 200 Ga. App. 263, 266 (1991), the plaintiff presented
an affidavit of a witness who stated “that the subject stop sign
may have been missing for a period of at least one week prior to the date
of the accident.” The Carter case, of course, involved a
car accident in Savannah, Georgia. The plaintiff had provided evidence that “City employees were required
to report missing and damaged street signs” to the City. Id. According
to the plaintiff’s evidence, “during the week prior to the
accident, the street, which is located in a business district, was routinely
patrolled by police officers; and that during the week preceding the accident,
Sutlive Street was cleaned by a street sweeper employed by the City.”
Id. On those facts, the Carter court concluded that summary judgment was
inappropriate. (In other words, the court found that the plaintiff had
presented enough information to take the issue to a jury and let the jury
decide the case.)

If the plaintiff can show that the City itself caused the road defect,
then the “the municipality is chargeable with knowledge thereof,
and no notice to it need be shown, such notice being necessarily implied,
as the acts of its agents are the acts of the municipality.”
English v. City of Macon, 259 Ga.App. 766, 767, 577 S.E.2d 837, 838 (2003) (emphasis added). See alsoCity of Vidalia v. Brown, 237 Ga.App. 831, 833, 516 S.E.2d 851, 853 (1999) (“a city is liable
for defects in streets and sidewalks negligently caused by its own agents
or employees”) (involving a
car accident in Vidalia, Georgia).

In the
English case, the City’s director of public works testified that he had
no record of a complaint about the uneven sidewalk where plaintiff had
tripped, but the plaintiff testified that the city itself had “repaired”
the sidewalk and left it uneven. Noting “the City denied neither
a recent repair to the sidewalk or that such repair left the sidewalk
uneven,” the court reversed a grant of summary judgment to the city.
English, 259 Ga.App. at 768, 577 S.E.2d at 839 (2003).