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Georgia Supreme Court sides with property owner over state DOT

The Georgia Supreme Court upheld two lower court rulings Tuesday allowing a property owner’s lawsuit against the state to move forward. Cathy Mixon, who owns more than 18 acres of land in Ware County, sued the Georgia Department of Transportation in 2018 claiming a road-widening project was diverting water onto her land and diminishing its value.

The suit maintained that flooding resulting from the DOT’s failure to maintain a storm-water drainage system amounted to a taking of her property without adequate compensation.

The DOT countered that the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity — which protects the government or its departments from being sued without consent — barred her claims.

Both the trial court and the Georgia Court of Appeals sided with Mixon, resulting in the DOT appealing to the state Supreme Court.

In Tuesday’s ruling, the high court declared that sovereign immunity does not protect the state from being sued in certain circumstances.

“The Georgia Constitution provides that, as a general matter, ‘private property shall not be taken or damaged for public purposes without just and adequate compensation being first paid,’ ” Justice Nels S.D. Peterson wrote in the opinion.

“There is no suggestion in the record that [the DOT] has afforded Mixon compensation for this alleged taking; indeed, her complaint seeks money damages.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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