Court Rejects Government Claim of Immunity in Recent Accident Case

Earlier this month, a Georgia appellate court issued an opinion in a personal injury case that arose after the plaintiffs were involved in a serious accident involving a large piece of construction equipment that was left near the highway. The case is important to Maryland truck accident victims because it shows the type of analysis courts conduct when a government defendant claims official immunity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were involved in an accident with a parked construction vehicle while traveling on the highway. At the time, they were traveling at approximately 35 miles per hour, and the road and weather were clear. Suddenly, the plaintiff driving the vehicle saw a “blur” and tried to avoid what ended up being a construction vehicle. The plaintiff was unable to avoid the vehicle, and the plaintiffs were injured as a result.

The construction team was working to fix a leaking pipe under the road’s surface. The team used a track hoe to break the asphalt and dig down to the pipe. The dirt that was removed from the hole was placed on the roadway. The team parked the excavating vehicle on the roadway but behind the dirt pile. No warning signs were placed in advance of the dirt pile.

The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against the employee responsible for using the construction vehicle and parking it on the road. The plaintiffs claimed that the defendant’s negligence in failing to place warning signs resulted in the accident. The defendant, a government employee, claimed that he was entitled to official immunity because the alleged act of negligence involved a discretionary act that was carried out in pursuit of his official position.

The Court’s Decision

The court determined that the defendant was not entitled to official immunity. The court explained that, when a government employee is alleged to have acted negligently, the question is whether the alleged act of negligence was ministerial or discretionary. If the act was ministerial, the court explained, the government employee will not be entitled to official immunity. However, if the act involves the exercise of discretion, immunity will attach.

Here, the court determined that the act of placing warning signs in advance of a construction zone was not discretionary. The court explained that the defendant had been instructed by a supervisor to place warning signs but had failed to do so. The mere fact that the supervisor did not explain exactly where to place the signs did not transform the ministerial act into a discretionary one. Thus, the plaintiffs’ case was permitted to proceed toward trial or settlement negotiations.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Construction Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland truck accident involving construction equipment, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated team of Maryland personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers has extensive experience representing accident victims in cases against those responsible for their injuries. We have represented thousands of clients and have a successful track record across all areas of Maryland personal injury law. To learn more, call 410-654-3600 to schedule your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Maryland Truck Driver Claims Faulty Brakes Were Responsible for Serious Multi-Vehicle Accident, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published February 19, 2018.

Truck Driver Is Investigated Following Deadly Train Accident, Maryland Trucking Accident Lawyer Blog, published February 5, 2018.

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