The Georgia Court of Appeals recently allowed a county to escape liability for drainage problems resulting from a pipe in the opinion in Liberty County v. Eller, 2014 Ga. App. LEXIS 424, 6-8, 2014 WL 2884097 (Ga. Ct. App. June 26, 2014). In the Eller opinion, the court considered a claim that a county had caused damages to private property due to a pipe that had been negligently installed more than four (4) years prior to filing suit. The Court held that all parts of the claim other than the claim for inverse condemnation due to a nuisance were barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Then, turning to the claim of inverse condemnation from a nuisance, the court dismissed the claim under the statute of limitations, which was four (4) years, holding that claim was time-barred.
In reaching its conclusion in Eller, supra, the Court went to great lengths to distinguish the case from a continuing nuisance due to a lack of maintenance of a pipe. The court noted the statute of limitations would not have barred a continuing nuisance claim for lack of maintenance, stating as follows:
Landowners may show a continuing nuisance through evidence that an existing condition, such as a culvert or drainpipe, was improperly maintained. Kleber, supra, 285 Ga. at 417 (1); see alsoColumbus v. Cielinski, 319 Ga. App. 289, 292 (1) (734 SE2d 922) (2012) (homeowner's claim for continuing nuisance based on improper or negligent maintenance of drainage system not barred). To the extent, however, that landowners complain about the mere presence of a culvert or drain pipe “due to improper installation, their nuisance claim is permanent in nature.” Kleber, supra, 285 Ga. at 416 (1).Eller, supra, The court noted that the statute of limitations for a claim based on a permanent nuisance based on the existence of a pipe, as opposed to maintenance, runs at installation. Id.