Sovereign Immunity Waiver Bill Passes House

HB 311 passed the House of Representatives yesterday. This bill would waive the sovereign immunity of the state, counties and cities in certain circumstances. Persons would be able to sue a county (and other governments) asking for a court order to stop the county from violating a provision of the U.S. or state Constitutions, a state statute, a state regulation, or a local ordinance other than a zoning ordinance. Lawsuits by parties that actually enter into written contracts with counties and other governments would be able to sue regarding those contracts (consistent with existing law as interpreted by the courts).The bill adds a requirement of prior notice before any such lawsuit could be filed. In addition, the bill allows an unsuccessful bidder to challenge the award of a contract (but not for monetary damages), only if that lawsuit is filed within 10 days of the awarding of the contract.

The county would still be able to assert any other defenses against such lawsuits, other than sovereign immunity. This bill is in response to several Georgia Supreme Court decisions in the last few years that removed citizens’ and others’ ability to ask for such court decisions. This bill would not waive sovereign immunity for claims seeking monetary damages. It would also expand the immunity of county officials and employees from lawsuits brought against them in their individual capacity. For further information, please discuss this bill with your county attorney.