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Garden City v. Herrera

Court of Appeals of Georgia

November 18, 2014

GARDEN CITY
v.
HERRERA

Respondeat superior. Chatham State Court. Before Judge Sapp.

Judgment reversed.

Oliver Maner, Patrick T. O'Connor, James P. Gerard, Benjamin M. Perkins, for appellant.

Charles M. Cork III, Gautreaux & Adams, Jarome Gautreaux, CarterFranklin, Brent C. Carter, for appellees.

DILLARD, Judge. Doyle, P. J., and Miller, J., concur.

OPINION

Page 151

Dillard, Judge.

Garden City, Georgia (the " City" ) appeals the trial court's denial of its motion for summary judgment in a negligence action brought by Ann J. Herrera, as conservator of adult ward Lisa Nicolle Muse. On appeal, the City argues that the trial court erred in (1) finding that it [329 Ga.App. 757] could be held liable because the requirements of the borrowed-servant rule were not satisfied, and (2) failing to apply the rules of contract construction in making that determination. For the reasons set forth infra, we reverse.

Viewed in the light most favorable to Herrera (i.e., the nonmoving party),[1] the record shows that on March 25, 1994, the City and Chatham County, Georgia (the " County" ) entered into a County-City Agreement for Drug Enforcement Activities (the " Agreement" ). This Agreement resulted in the formation of the Counter Narcotics Team (the " CNT" or " Drug Unit" ), a multijurisdictional task force.[2] And under the terms of the Agreement, the City had the right to assign at least one of its police officers to the CNT for a 27-month " tour of duty," which could be extended if necessary. Officers who were assigned by the City to the CNT remained employees of the City, and while the CNT's commanding officer and the City's police chief could both remove an assigned officer from his tour of duty, only the City could terminate an assigned officer's employment as a City officer. However, during an officer's tour of duty, the City conferred " exclusive directive supervision and authority" over the officer to the CNT commander.

In 2007, the City hired Judd Robert West as a police officer, and shortly thereafter, the police chief assigned him to the CNT. And in accordance with the Agreement, the CNT

Page 152

commander had " exclusive directive supervision" over West during his tour of duty.

In July 2010, while assigned to the CNT, West was involved in a motor-vehicle collision with a car driven by Muse. At the time of the accident, West was driving from the location of one task-force operation to another pursuant to orders given by his supervising CNT officer. Subsequently, in June 2012, Muse, through Herrera, filed a complaint to recover damages for serious injuries that she suffered as a result of the accident, naming several defendants, including the City and the County.

After discovery, the City moved for summary judgment, arguing that, at the time of the accident, West was a " borrowed servant" of the County, and under the borrowed-servant rule, the City was not liable [329 Ga.App. 758] for any injuries sustained by Muse. The trial court denied the motion, finding that there was a jury question regarding whether, at the time of the collision, the County retained the exclusive authority to discharge West from his duties, which is a requirement of the ...


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