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Georgia Regional Transportation Authority v. Foster

Court of Appeals of Georgia

October 10, 2014

GEORGIA REGIONAL TRANSPORTATION AUTHORITY
v.
FOSTER

Cert. applied for.

Statute of limitation. Fulton State Court. Before Judge Dixon.

Samuel S. Olens, Attorney General, Kathleen M. Pacious, Deputy Attorney General, Loretta L. Pinkston, Kirsten S. Daughdril, Senior Assistant Attorneys General, Dennis, Corry, Porter & Smith, Grant B. Smith, Brent M. Estes, for appellant.

Joyce W. Bergman, for appellee.

ELLINGTON, Presiding Judge. Phipps, C. J., concurs. McMillian, J., concurs in judgment only.

OPINION

Page 863

Ellington, Presiding Judge.

Pursuant to a granted application for interlocutory appeal, the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority (" GRTA" ) appeals from an order of the State Court of Fulton County denying GRTA's motion for judgment on the pleadings, contending that the instant action is time-barred because it was filed outside the applicable limitation period. Because the trial court erred in denying GRTA's motion for the reasons set forth below, we reverse.

The facts relevant to this appeal are undisputed.[1] Plaintiff Dana Foster's tort claim arises from an incident that occurred on August 16, 2011, when she was a passenger on a GRTA bus. Foster alleges that the driver accelerated suddenly and unexpectedly, causing her to fall and suffer injuries. On February 10, 2012, Foster sent notice of her claim to GRTA and the Risk Management Division of the Georgia Department of Administrative Services. There is no evidence that the State responded to the ante litem notice. On September 18, 2013, [329 Ga.App. 259] more than two years after the incident giving rise to her

Page 864

claim, Foster filed the instant personal injury suit against GRTA.

GRTA moved for judgment on the pleadings, arguing that Foster's lawsuit was time-barred because it had been filed after the running of the two-year statute of limitation applicable to tort claims brought against the State, OCGA § 50-21-27 (c).[2] Foster concedes that her complaint was filed outside the two-year period, but contends that the running of the limitation period was tolled pending the State's response to her ante litem notice of claim, pursuant to OCGA § 36-33-5 (d),[3] a tolling provision which expressly pertains to suits against municipal corporations. Foster argues that OCGA § 36-33-5 (d) applies to claims brought against the State under the Georgia Tort Claims Act (" GTCA" ) by virtue of this provision of the GTCA: " All provisions relating to the tolling of limitations of actions, as provided elsewhere in this Code, shall apply to causes of action brought pursuant to [the GTCA]." OCGA § 50-21-27 (e). Foster argues that the plain language of this provision means that any tolling provision found in any title of the Georgia Code applies to claims brought under the Act. We disagree.

" Although appellate courts generally do not construe statutory language that is plain and unequivocal, judicial construction is required when words construed literally would defeat the legislature's purpose." (Punctuation and footnote omitted.) Echols v. Thomas, 265 Ga. 474, 475 (458 S.E.2d 100) (1995).

[I]n construing language in any one part of a statute, a court should consider the entire scheme of the statute and attempt to gather the legislative intent from the statute as a whole. Different parts of a statutory scheme should be ...

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