Sunday, February 28, 2010
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Marilyn Summerlin sued the Georgia Pines Community Service Board over the death of her son, George Clayton Summerlin, who was a patient at Georgia Pines, a mental health and drug addiction center, when he died unexpectedly. She claimed that two health care associates working at the center through a contract with ATC Health Care Services, had acted negligently and were responsible for George's death. Georgia Pines filed a motion in court to dismiss the case on the ground that the state facility was protected from liability under sovereign immunity, claiming that under the "Georgia Torts Claims Act," Georgia Pines could be held liable only if the two workers were "state employees." Under the Act, immunity is waived only for state employees, meaning state employees can still be sued and held liable for certain wrongdoing while on the job. Georgia Pines argued the health workers were "borrowed servants" and not state employees. The trial court denied Georgia Pines' motion to dismiss the case, but the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed that decision and ruled in the State's favor.
In today's unanimous decision, written by Justice Hugh Thompson, the high court finds the Court of Appeals was wrong. "Because we conclude that borrowed servants are included within the definition of an 'employee' for purposes of the Tort Claims Act, we hold that the Court of Appeals erred by reversing the trial court's denial of the board's motion to dismiss," the opinion says.
(From the Georgia Supreme Court)