SW Legal studies in Business

Building Inspector May Be Liable for Failing to Inspect Building

Georgia high court held that property owners could proceed with a suit against a county building inspector who failed to inspect a new barn they had built that collapsed. The public duty doctrine shields police officers from suit, but may not shield other government workers.

Topic Torts
Key Words

Negligence; Public Duty Doctrine; Building Inspection

C A S E   S U M M A R Y

The Clives had a contractor build a house and a barn on their property. When completed, Gregory, a building inspector for the county, inspected the house and issued a certificate of occupancy for it. He did not inspect the barn and no certificate was issued for it. During a storm, the barn collapsed and injured the Clives who sued, among others, Gregory. They asserted that if he had inspected the barn as he was supposed to do, he would have uncovered construction problems that could have prevented the collapse. The trial court dismissed the suit, holding that the public duty doctrine applied, and Gregory could not be sued. The Clives appealed. The appeals court reversed. Gregory appealed.


Affirmed. The public duty doctrine, which provides that there can be no liability based on a government’s duty to protect the general public, applies only to police protection services traditionally done by law enforcement personnel. That is, if a claim is made that police protection should have been provided to prevent a crime, there can be no suit. However, when non-police functions are involved the public duty doctrine may not shield employees from suit. If there is a duty to a particular individual, such as the Clives, then a relationship may be established with the government unit that gives rise to liability. The suit may proceed.


Gregory v. Clive, 651 S.E.2d 709 (Sup. Ct., Ga., 2007)

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