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A delivery driver brought a claim against a gas station after he was hit by another car while he was at the gas station. The driver had come to the station to deliver gasoline and was measuring the station’s gas levels when a customer’s car backed into him. He then brought a premises liability claim against the station.

Fueling UpIn the recent case, a Georgia appeals court considered whether the station could be held liable for having created a hazard that increased the driver’s risk of injury. The delivery driver had come to the station to deliver gasoline, and after filling out forms and making the delivery, he went to measure the station’s gasoline tank levels. He was required to do this both before and after delivering the gas. When he went to measure the tank levels after the delivery, he brought an orange traffic cone with him and placed it in the tank area. The tank area was located in the parking spaces near the front of the store. The driver was measuring the tank level when he dropped a tank cap into the tank well. As he got onto his hands and knees to retrieve it, another car backed into him, injuring him.

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In a recent case, a Georgia court of appeals upheld a jury award against a doctor after a patient underwent a procedure to relieve back pain. The woman alleged that she suffered catastrophic brain damage from oxygen deprivation after she had a procedure done to relieve her back pain. While her lawsuit was still pending, the woman died, and her husband then amended the lawsuit to add a wrongful death claim.

Operating RoomAccording to the allegations, the woman experienced chronic back pain and began being treated by an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist in 2008. The doctor gave her two epidural steroid injections during two separate visits at that time. When the woman went to receive a third injection, the procedure did not go according to plan. The doctor was running late, and the woman ended up waiting about 50 minutes in the operating room after she had begun receiving a pain reliever and propofol, a medication that decreases consciousness and memory.

The doctor began the procedure about 10 minutes after he arrived, and the oxygen monitor signaled that the woman’s oxygen level had dropped below 90 percent. The doctor told the nurse to increase the woman’s oxygen flow, and he concluded she was still breathing. The surgical tech was concerned the woman was not breathing and asked the doctor several times if she could turn the oxygen level up higher, but he told her not to do that. The doctor continued the procedure and maintained that the woman was still breathing despite poor oxygen readings. The doctor finished the procedure and then gave the woman sedation reversal drugs and increased her oxygen flow.

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The parents of a seventh grader filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a teacher after their child died under her care. The parents alleged that the teacher, who left her classroom unsupervised in violation of a school policy, caused the death of their child. In a recent opinion, a Georgia appeals court dismissed the lawsuit, finding the teacher was entitled to official immunity. The teacher was working at Benjamin E. Mays High School, a public school in Atlanta. The child was a seventh-grade student in the teacher’s classroom, which shared a bi-fold wall with another classroom.

ClassroomAccording to the allegations, one afternoon, the teacher left the classroom. While the teacher was gone, the child and another student engaged in horseplay. The child fell, and the other student landed on top of him. The teacher returned about 15 minutes later and then left again. The child then collapsed and became unconscious. The teacher returned about 15 minutes later and called 911. The child was pronounced dead at the hospital. The autopsy revealed that he died from blood loss, resulting from the dislocation of his collarbone.

Purportedly, the teacher originally was not truthful when asked about the incident, telling the principal she was in the classroom the entire time. Soon afterward, it was revealed that the teacher had left the classroom. It was unclear why the teacher left the classroom. In her deposition, the teacher said that she had asked the teacher in the adjoining room to listen for her class when she left the first time, but not when she left the second time. The school had a policy that stated that students were never to be left in the classroom unsupervised.

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In a recent case in front of a Georgia appellate court, a man filed a premises liability claim against the property management company that managed his apartment complex after he was shot when his home was burglarized. However, in the case of George v. Hercules Real Estate Services, Inc., the court affirmed a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the property management company.

Door KnobAccording to the facts as recounted in the most recent court opinion, the plaintiff moved into an Atlanta apartment in November 2010. On June 11, 2011, the plaintiff’s apartment was burglarized between midnight and 2:00 a.m. The property management company repaired the front door and installed a metal burglar guard. The plaintiff also bought a gun after the incident for protection. On July 27, 2011, the man was home with a friend when someone knocked on his door. He looked outside but could only see that someone was outside, and he could not see who it was. He opened the door and propped his foot against it, but a second person appeared, and the two forced their way into the man’s apartment. The plaintiff shot at the intruders, but they fired back, and the plaintiff was shot four times.

The plaintiff alleged the company was negligent in failing to keep the premises in proper repair, failing to provide adequate security, and failing to keep the premises safe. In support of his claim, he provided evidence that there had been prior crimes at the apartment complex before this incident occurred.

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On March 6, 2012, an woman was driving her four-year-old nephew to a tennis lesson when she was hit by another car. As the woman was waiting to make a left-hand turn, a pickup truck crashed into the back of the car. The gas tank of the Grand Cherokee the woman was driving, which was located behind the rear axle, was punctured as a result of the collision. Soon afterward, gas began to leak, causing the Jeep to catch fire. The woman was able to escape, but tragically she could not save her nephew, who was in the backseat.

Grand CherokeeThe child’s parents filed a lawsuit against Chrysler, alleging that it acted with a reckless or wanton disregard for human life in its design or sale of the Grand Cherokee and breached a duty to warn the public of the danger. The case went to trial, and the jury found in favor of the parents. On appeal, Chrysler argued the court should not have allowed the jury to hear evidence about 17 other rear-end collisions involving Jeeps. In Chrysler Group LLC v. Walden, a Georgia appeals court found the trial court properly allowed the jury to hear the evidence.

To support the claim that Chrysler knew of the danger of the gas tank’s location, the parents submitted evidence of 17 other crashes involving Jeeps in which the Jeeps were rear-ended and gas leaked. In those cases, the fuel tanks were also located behind the rear axle. In those incidents, the Jeep was rear-ended, and fuel escaped from the tank. The parents also presented evidence that Chrysler had notice of those crashes before this tragic crash occurred.

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In a recent case, after a 19-year-old was injured while riding a horse at a summer camp, he brought a lawsuit against the individual who provided the horses. The boy had been riding the horse at the camp where he worked as a camp counselor in the equine activities program. He had been out on a trail ride with the horse when the horse jumped over a small stream. The boy lost his balance and fell off the horse, and the horse landed on top of him. The defendant had contracted with the summer camp to provide the horses.

HorseThe boy sued, alleging negligence and willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons riding the horse. The defendant moved for summary judgment, based on the immunity granted by Georgia’s Equine Act. The Equine Act limits the liability of those involved in equine activities but provides for some exceptions. The boy argued that two exceptions applied in his case.

First, he claimed the defendant was liable because he provided an animal but failed to make reasonable efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the activity and to safely manage the animal. The court found that in this case, the defendant provided the horse to the camp, and the camp supervisor assigned the particular horse to the boy. Thus, since the defendant did not assign the horse to the boy himself, the exception did not apply. Another exception exists when a person willfully or wantonly disregards the safety of the participant. Here, this horse had been provided to the camp for two previous summers, and there was no evidence of previous incidents with this horse. As a result, the second exception also did not apply. The court noted that the boy’s injuries resulted from the inherent risks of equine activities, which is the type of injury the Act was meant to protect. Accordingly, the boy could not recover from the defendant under the Act.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a slip-and-fall case requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff’s evidence was sufficient to survive a summary judgment challenge filed by the defendant. In the case, Pipkin v. Azalealand Nursing Home, the court determined that the plaintiff established a genuine issue of fact regarding the condition of the floor where she fell, and it was not proper for the trial judge to resolve the issue through summary judgment.

Wet FloorThe Facts of the Case

Mr. Pipkin was taken by ambulance to the defendant nursing home. His wife, the plaintiff, was following the emergency medical technicians as they took her husband into the facility. As Mrs. Pipkin rushed down the hallway after her husband, she slipped and fell outside the nursing home’s shower room.

Mrs. Pipkin recalled that she had stepped on something “slick” that made her fall. Her son also testified, and he explained that when he came to his mother’s aid, he noticed that the floor underneath her was wet and that she was lying in a puddle of clear liquid.

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In a recent case, a woman sued a tire manufacturer after her husband died in a tragic car accident. She alleged that the company was liable based on negligent design and manufacturing, strict liability, and failure to warn, arising from the tire’s tread separation. The parties exchanged discovery, and during that period, the company learned the woman had kept only the “carcass” of the tire from the accident. The issue arose whether the woman should have retained the entire vehicle, and if so, whether she should face any court sanctions for destroying the vehicle.

TireApparently, after the accident had occurred, a service came to transport the wrecked car. The owner of the service later told the woman she was incurring a daily storage fee to keep the car there. The company’s owner offered to sell the car to a salvage yard in exchange for waiving the fee. The car had been totaled, so the woman did not see any reason to keep the car and agreed to allow the owner to sell the car. At the time, the woman’s husband was still alive in critical condition and had told the woman the tire had blown up and caused the accident. Thus, thinking the tire may be a necessary piece of evidence, the woman told the owner to keep the left rear tire. Although the tire itself was saved, the remnants of the detached tread, the other tires, and the wheel on which the tire was mounted were all destroyed.

Because of the woman’s actions, evidence relevant to the lawsuit had been destroyed. As a result, the tire company moved to dismiss the complaint or to bar the woman from presenting evidence to rebut the company’s defense as a sanction for the woman’s conduct. A Georgia court denied the company’s motion and declined to sanction her for her conduct. A Georgia appeals court upheld the decision. The court agreed that it was not reasonably foreseeable for the woman at the time to have known litigation would occur. Thus, her duty to preserve evidence was not triggered, and she was not sanctioned.

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The details are important in personal injury lawsuits. A recent case demonstrated how a lawyer’s small misstep caused one family to be stuck with inconsistent jury awards. In Small v. Sayre, the state’s supreme court ruled that since the lawyer for the plaintiffs failed to raise a challenge to the damages awards before the trial court, the issue was waived on appeal.

Car AccidentThe family brought a claim against a driver after they were injured in a car accident. The husband was driving when he was rear-ended, and he, his wife, and his daughter were injured. They sued the other driver for their injuries, and the case proceeded to trial. After the trial, the jury found the other driver was negligent and awarded each person compensation for their injuries. The jury awarded the wife damages for past medical expenses and pain and suffering, but it did not award her any future economic or non-economic damages. The jury also awarded damages to the husband but awarded him damages for past pain and suffering without an award for any past economic damages or any future damages.

After the verdict, the family appealed the decision. They argued that the damages awards were inconsistent and that they were not supported by the evidence. However, the lawyer failed to challenge the potentially inconsistent verdicts in the trial court. The lawyer failed to make a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or ask for a new trial. Because of the misstep, the family’s arguments were waived on appeal. As a result, the Supreme Court affirmed the verdicts as the jury decided them.

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In Barnes v. Smith, a recent case in front of the Georgia court of appeals, a woman filed suit against the owner of a tavern in Rockdale County, Georgia. The woman was injured in a car accident with a drunk driver who had been drinking at the tavern. The driver drank at the tavern in the afternoon and returned at around 11:00 p.m. that night, when he drank half of a beer and another “Jager bomb” drink. The bartender who served the driver noticed that the driver’s eyes were glassy and that he was acting belligerent. She tried to take the driver’s car keys and offered to call him a cab or drive him home. The man refused. Then, the bartender tried to prevent him from leaving, but the driver was able to leave despite her efforts. The bartender did not call the police at any point.

Liquor BottlesThe plaintiff filed suit under Georgia’s Dram Shop Law, O.C.G.A. 51-1-40. Specifically, the claims were against the bar, the company that owned the bar, and the sole shareholder of that company. The plaintiff also alleged the tavern negligently trained and supervised its employees.

At trial, the bar and the shareholder moved for summary judgment, claiming that the plaintiff did not make out her claims and that the case should be dismissed. The trial court agreed and dismissed all claims against these two defendants. The plaintiff appealed the dismissal against these two parties. In a recent opinion, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with the defendants, finding that there was not sufficient evidence to prove the woman’s negligent supervision claim. The woman had to provide evidence that the business knew or should have known of the bartender’s likelihood to engage in the behavior that resulted in the woman’s injuries. The woman did not provide any specific evidence that the bartender required additional supervision based on her history.

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