United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Columbus Division
D. LAND CHIEF U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
and George Botta crashed while riding their bicycles east on
Barnes Mill Road in Hamilton, Georgia where a bridge crosses
over Palmetto Creek. They claim a road defect caused the
wreck, and they seek to hold the City of Hamilton (the
“City”), Harris County (the “County”)
and the County public works director, Mike Brown, liable for
their injuries. Defendants assert the defenses of sovereign
and official immunity and ask the Court to grant summary
judgment in their favor based upon these defenses. For the
reasons explained in the remainder of this order, the Court
grants the motions of the County (ECF No. 17) and Brown (ECF
No. 18) but denies the City's motion (ECF No. 30).
judgment may be granted only “if the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a). In determining whether a genuine
dispute of material fact exists to defeat a motion
for summary judgment, the evidence is viewed in the light
most favorable to the party opposing summary judgment,
drawing all justifiable inferences in the opposing
party's favor. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc.,
477 U.S. 242, 255 (1986). A fact is material if it
is relevant or necessary to the outcome of the suit.
Id. at 248. A factual dispute is genuine if
the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to return a
verdict for the nonmoving party. Id.
time of the accident, George was riding a tandem bicycle with
a blind military veteran. His wife, Eugenia, followed behind
them. When they reached the western side of the bridge that
crossed Palmetto Creek, George steered his bicycle toward the
center of the road to avoid some gravel. His front wheel
lodged in a substantial crack in the road. He lost control of
his bicycle and veered to the right. Eugenia then collided
with George's bicycle. All three occupants were hurled
over the bridge guardrail onto the rocks, debris, and creek
The City's Summary Judgment Motion
City moved for summary judgment based on O.C.G.A. §
32-4-93(b). That provision states: “A municipality is
relieved of any and all liability resulting from or
occasioned by defective construction of those portions of the
. . . county road system lying within its corporate limits .
. . unless the municipality constructed or agreed to perform
the necessary maintenance of such road.” Id.
Palmetto Creek represents the boundary between the City to
the east and unincorporated Harris County to the west. For
purposes of its motion, the City agrees that the accident
occurred inside the city limits. Thus, the only issue
presented by the City's motion is whether the relevant
portion of the bridge is part of the “county road
Georgia law, the state Department of Transportation (the
“Department”) must “prepare and distribute
to each county a map showing all the public roads on its
county road system including extensions into
municipalities” at least every five years. Id.
§ 32-4-2(a)(1). The Department must also “keep
written records of the mileage . . . on all public roads on
each of the county road systems.” Id. §
32-4-2(b). The “official record of a county road
system” consists of the map and the Department's
written mileage record. Id. § 32-4-2(f).
Accordingly, the Court looks to the map and written record to
determine whether the bridge is part of the municipal or
county road system.
accident location appears as follows on the Department's
official 2016 map:
Pis.' Resp. Br. in Opp'n to City's Mot. for Summ.
J. Ex. IB, Enlarged Shot of 2016 Gen. Highway Map of Harris
Cty., ECF No. 46-3. The map does not clearly show whether the
accident occurred on road 205 (part of the County road
system) or on road 20501 (part of the municipal road system).
See Hill Aff. ¶ 8, ECF No. 45-1 (explaining the
difference between roads “20501” and
“205”). The official map is therefore
neither party offered any evidence of the Department's
“written record of the mileage” of the County
road system. But, the Bottas did point to the
Department's written records of the City road system,
which indicate that the City owns .576 miles of Barnes Mill
Road. See Hood Dep. Pls.' Ex. 8, Email from B.
Stephens to R. Hood (Sept. 6, 2017), ECF No. 39 at 190-91.
And based on the Bottas' expert's calculations, that
distance includes the area of the bridge where the accident
occurred. Hill Dep. Def.'s Ex. 14, Photos 51-52, ECF No.
49-2 (showing Bottas' expert standing at .576-mile mark).
Thus, a reasonable jury could conclude that the
“official record” of the County road system does
not include the portion of the bridge where the accident
occurred. Accordingly, it is not part of the “county
road system lying within [the] corporate limits” of the
City so as to confer immunity under O.C.G.A. §
32-4-93(b). Therefore, a genuine factual dispute exists as to
whether the portion of the bridge was part of the
“county road system” within the City's
limits, and the ...