Gates v. GlassAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in "Glass v. Gates" to answer whether the definition of "any motor vehicle" in OCGA 33-24-51(a) continued to be the broader definition of the term provided for in prior case law, notwithstanding the 2002 passage of OCGA 36-92-1. As inmates at the Troup County Correctional facility, Jonathan Glass and Tony Smith were operating tractors when Smith's tractor got stuck in a ditch. Donrell Gates, Glass' detail supervisor, instructed the men to attach a chain to the tractors so Glass could use his tractor to pull Smith's from the ditch. As Glass did so, Smith engaged his tractor's bush hog, causing a rock to take flight and pierce Glass' throat. Glass bled profusely and died later that day. Plaintiffs, Glass' minor son and the executor of his estate, brought a wrongful death and survivor action against Troup County and Gates. The county sought summary judgment, claiming plaintiffs' claims were barred by sovereign immunity. The County asserted that by revising OCGA 33-24-51 (b) in 2002 (effective 2005), the legislature demonstrated its intent to apply the more narrow definition of "motor vehicle" found in OCGA 36-92-1 (6) in determining whether a local government waived sovereign immunity by purchasing liability insurance on a motor vehicle. The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment in favor of the County, concluding that the county did not waive sovereign immunity because neither a tractor nor a bush hog could be deemed a "motor vehicle" under OCGA 36-92-1. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that the broader definition of "motor vehicle" should have been applied under 33-24-51, and that therefore, the County waived its sovereign immunity as long as it purchased insurance for the tractor and bush hog used by Smith. The Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals' reasoning, and affirmed by answering the appellate court's original question in the affirmative.