BARNES, P. J., MCMILLIAN and MERCIER, JJ.
Barnes, Presiding Judge.
Lewis, individually and on behalf of her minor daughter,
filed a personal injury suit against the City of
Cartersville, Georgia, alleging that the City was liable for
injuries her daughter sustained in an automobile collision,
and that the City had waived its sovereign immunity by
operation of law and through the purchase of municipal
liability insurance from Atlantic Specialty Insurance
Company. While the personal injury suit was pending, Lewis
filed the present declaratory judgment action against the
City and Atlantic, seeking a determination that the City had
available $5 million in insurance coverage to cover the
claims in the personal injury suit and had waived its
sovereign immunity up to that amount. Atlantic filed a motion
to dismiss in the declaratory judgment action, contending
that Lewis lacked standing to seek declaratory relief and
that the action was not ripe for judicial review because
Lewis had not yet obtained a judgment against the City in the
underlying personal injury suit. The trial court denied
Atlantic's motion to dismiss, and later, on cross-motions
for summary judgment filed by Lewis and Atlantic, the court
determined that there was $5 million in insurance coverage
available to cover the claims in the underlying personal
injury suit and that the City had waived its sovereign
immunity up to the full policy limit. Atlantic appeals these
rulings by the trial court in the declaratory judgment
reasons discussed below, we conclude that Lewis did not have
standing to bring this declaratory judgment action in the
absence of an unsatisfied judgment against the City in the
underlying personal injury suit. Consequently, we vacate the
trial court's order on the parties' cross-motions for
summary judgment reaching the merits of the parties'
dispute over insurance coverage and sovereign immunity,
reverse the trial court's denial of Atlantic's motion
to dismiss, and remand with direction that Lewis'
declaratory judgment action be dismissed for lack of
facts relevant to the present appeal are largely undisputed.
In 2013, the City purchased an insurance policy from Atlantic
that included several different types of liability coverage,
including business auto coverage with a $1 million policy
limit and umbrella liability coverage with a $4 million
policy limit, for a total policy limit of $5 million. The
coverage provided by the policy remained in effect on the
date of the automobile collision out of which this litigation
business auto coverage and excess liability coverage parts of
the policy both contained an endorsement entitled
"Georgia Changes - Protection of Immunity." The
policy endorsement stated that Atlantic had no duty to pay
out any damages on behalf of the City "unless the
defenses of sovereign and governmental immunity are
inapplicable to [the City]." The endorsement further
stated that the "policy and any coverages associated
therewith [did] not constitute, nor reflect an intent by [the
City], to waive or forego any defenses of sovereign immunity
and governmental immunity available to [the City]"
pursuant to any statute or the common law.
Personal Injury Suit.
March 2014, a City police officer was driving her patrol car
through an intersection when she collided with another
vehicle in which Lewis' four-year-old daughter was a
passenger. Lewis' daughter was severely injured as a
result of the collision.
August 2015, Lewis, individually and as next friend and
guardian of her minor daughter, filed a personal injury suit
for damages against the City in the Superior Court of Bartow
County, alleging that the police officer's negligent
driving had proximately caused her daughter's injuries
and that the City was vicariously liable for the
officer's negligence. Lewis also alleged that the
insurance policy purchased by the City from Atlantic covered
the automobile collision and that the City had waived its
sovereign immunity to the full extent of the coverage
City answered, denying any liability for the automobile
collision and asserting sovereign immunity as a defense. With
respect to sovereign immunity, the City denied that its
immunity had been waived to the full extent of the liability
insurance it had purchased (i.e., $5 million), but admitted
that it had automatically waived its immunity in a lesser
amount by operation of law. The City also filed a notice of
non-party fault as to the driver of the vehicle in which
Lewis' daughter had been a passenger, alleging that the
driver was wholly or partially responsible for the injuries
sustained by the daughter in the automobile collision.
Declaratory Judgment Action.
the personal injury suit against the City was pending, Lewis
separately filed the present declaratory judgment action
against the City and Atlantic in the Superior Court of Bartow
County. Lewis sought a declaration from the court that the
insurance policy purchased by the City from Atlantic provided
up to $5 million in coverage for the claims in the underlying
personal injury suit and that the City had waived its
sovereign immunity up to that amount.
answered, denying that the City had waived its sovereign
immunity up to the full policy limit of $5 million.
Additionally, Atlantic asserted, among other defenses, that
Lewis was not in privity of contract with Atlantic and that
the doctrine of sovereign immunity limited the coverage
afforded by the insurance policy. Atlantic also filed a
motion to dismiss the complaint, arguing that Lewis lacked
standing and that her declaratory judgment suit was premature
because she had not yet obtained a judgment against the City
in the underlying personal injury suit. The trial court