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State may not pay damages in wreck that killed wife of Braves trainer | News

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State may not pay damages in wreck that killed wife of Braves trainer
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DAWSONVILLE, GA - "I was heartbroken," said Jan Venable of Dawsonville.

She contacted 11Alive News to express her condolences for the death of 54-year-old Kathy Porter.

The wife of Atlanta Braves trainer Jeff Porter died Saturday evening when their family's SUV was hit by a speeding Georgia State Patrol car near the State Capitol in downtown Atlanta.

Venable doesn't know the Porters, but she has a warning that even if the trooper is found at fault, the victim's family might not receive any compensation from the state.

"There's a lot of people that have no clue that this policy is with the Georgia State Patrol," Venable told us Tuesday afternoon.

What she's referring to is the Sovereign Immunity Law that can protect the state from having to pay any damages done by a law enforcement officer, even when at fault.

11Alive News did a story on Venable's daughter, Chrissy, in 2006 when her car was hit by a State Trooper doing a u-turn in the highway.

"He said the sun was in his eyes," Chrissy's mother recalled.

Her daughter wasn't hurt, but despite a flurry of formal complaints, the Venable family never got a penny for $3,000 damage to their car.

They still have the email from the Auto Liability Manager of the Department of Administrative Services saying it was due to "an application of the laws on immunity".

According to that email, "the Georgia Tort Claims Act provides in OCGA 50-21-24 that the state waives immunity with the following exceptions: losses resulting from civil disturbance, riot, insurrection, or rebellion, or the failure to provide, or the method of providing law enforcement, police, or fire protection."

"We believe the trooper was in such a situation when this loss occurred," the state wrote.

"I got in touch with everyone, state senators, everyone, and...nothing," said a still frustrated Venable.

Her family is just one of scores of examples where the State of Georgia uses the Sovereign Immunity Law to avoid paying damages, even when a law enforcement officer may be to blame.

Blame hasn't been determined yet in the State Patrol wreck that killed Kathy Porter last Saturday.

But her husband is getting prayers from Jan Venable.

"He's got to face what I faced; the only thing is that he lost his wife," she said.

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