A little-known agency responsible for evaluating and awarding claims against the state approved some $8 million in settlements to members of the Alabama public on Monday.
The Alabama Board of Adjustment in Montgomery OK’d payouts to some 227 claimants who filed claims against 29 state agencies.
The board processes claims of injury by state employees, agencies, or institutions in lieu of a trial, since the state in most cases cannot be sued due to the legal doctrine of “sovereign immunity.” An award from the board, therefore, is most often the only remedy a citizen has for a claim against the state.
State Auditor Jim Zeiger, who sits on the four-member panel which votes to approve or deny claims, said in a release his 10-month tenure on the BOA was like a “baptism by fire,” hearing more than a thousand petitions this year.
“I felt like Judge Judy. These were everyday people trying to prove damage from actions of state agencies or employees,” Zeigler said “It was almost like a small claims docket.”
“The cases ranged from broken windshields due to gravel from state vehicles to wrongful death,” said Zeigler.
Zeigler’s office of State Auditor represents one permanent seat on the board. The others are held by the State Treasurer and Secretary of State, plus the State Finance Director, an executive position appointed by the Governor.
Besides claims from citizens, the Board of Adjustment is also designated in state statute as the “awarding authority” for benefits to families of police offices and firefighters killed in the line of duty and National Guardsmen who perish while “quelling a riot, rout or civil disturbance.”