In a recent, significant decision, West v. City of Albany, 2017 WL 875033 (Ga. Mar. 6, 2017), the Georgia Supreme Court addressed whether ante litem notice, pursuant to OCGA § 36-33-5, is required in a suit against a municipality when the alleged wrongdoing was intentional rather than negligent. In an unprecedented decision, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously held that ante litem notice in a suit against a municipality is required only for negligent—and not intentional—acts. 


In West, a former city employee brought suit in federal court against the City of Albany (the “City”) under the Georgia Whistleblower Act alleging retaliation for disclosing financial irregularities. The City moved to dismiss the action given the Plaintiff’s failure to provide ante litem notice. The following question was certified to the Supreme Court of Georgia: “Is a plaintiff required to provide a municipal corporation with ante litem notice pursuant to OCGA § 36-33-5 in order to pursue a claim against it for money damages under the [GWA]?”


Georgia’s ante litem statute requires that notice be given to the municipality being sued within six (6) months of the underlying action and state “the negligence which caused the injury.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court held that Georgia’s ante litem statute “applies only to damages caused by negligence, not intentional acts.” In so holding, the Georgia Supreme Court overruled several decades of precedent. West is significant given that due to the Supreme Court’s strict construction of Georgia’s ante litem notice statute, in regards to cities, only applies to negligent, and not intentional, acts.[1]


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Author: Matt Wayne


[1] The same does not hold true for claims against counties because the plain language of the county ante litem statute makes clear that notice is required for all claims: “[a]ll claims against counties must be presented within 12 months after they accrue or become payable or the same are barred[.]” O.C.G.A. § 36-11-1.