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Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit requiring the court to determine whether the defendant landowner was immune from liability under Georgia’s recreational-use statute. Ultimately, the court determined that the recreational-use statute did provide immunity to the landowner, and the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

Four-WheelerThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who died while riding a four-wheeler on the defendant’s property. The deceased was a member of a hunting club that was set up by a friend. The friend had arranged to lease some of the defendant’s land solely for the purposes of hunting. The lease contemplated that others would be accompanying the decedent’s friend, but no one else was granted explicit permission to use the land in the lease.

On the day of the accident, the plaintiff’s husband was riding a four-wheeler, scouting out a good location to hunt. During his scouting expedition, the man ran over an old well and fell inside, where he sadly died.

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Recently, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued a written opinion in an important Georgia premises liability case discussing the applicability of the state’s Recreational Property Act (RPA) to a slip-and-fall case arising out of an accident occurring at a free concert put on by a local university. The court ultimately determined that the RPA did not shield the university from liability because, although entry to the concert was free, the university may have been furthering its economic interests in putting on the concert.

Stadium SeatingThe RPA

Georgia’s Recreational Property Act grants immunity to landowners who open their land for recreational purposes to the general public. In order to qualify for this immunity, a landowner must not charge a fee or receive an economic benefit for the use of their land. The stated purpose of the statute is to encourage landowners to open up their land to the public without fear of incurring financial liability should an accident occur.

The Facts of the Case

A woman was attending a free “Second Sunday” concert at a local park that was put on by a university. The park was owned by the local government, but the university had permission to use the park for the concert event. There were vendors at the concert who sold food, drink, and merchandise, but none of them paid the university. However, in a grant proposal, the university did note that its “community economic development resources” could potentially be monetized, resulting in “potential for additional revenue streams for the university.”

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As a general matter, Georgia medical malpractice lawsuits must be filed within two years from the date the claim arises. In most cases, a patient will be aware of a doctor’s negligence in the immediate aftermath of a surgery or procedure. In this situation, the claim is said to arise on the day the surgery or procedure is performed.

Dentist's ChairIn other situations, however, a plaintiff may not realize that they have been a victim of medical malpractice until a later date. This may be because they did not suffer any symptoms until months or years later or because after the error, they were treated by the same physician and did not discover the error until they received a second opinion. In some rare cases, the treating physician actively covers up their alleged negligence through fraud. In each of these cases, the statute of limitations can be extended.

A recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Georgia illustrates how a plaintiff’s late-filed claim against a dentist was excused based on the dentist’s fraud in covering up his own potential negligence.

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In personal injury cases, before a case reaches trial, the parties engage in the discovery process. Discovery is the stage of litigation at which the parties exchange requested information that is relevant to the case or may lead to the discovery of other relevant evidence.

Defective TireThe rules of discovery require that parties make certain evidence available for the opposing side, even if that evidence is not favorable to the party that possesses the evidence. Along those lines, the rules prohibit the destruction of discoverable evidence. A recent Georgia personal injury case takes a look at when a plaintiff’s obligation to preserve evidence arises.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was involved in a serious car accident after the tread on one of his vehicle’s tires separated. After the accident, the plaintiff’s husband was taken to the hospital, where he remained unresponsive for several days.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving a plaintiff’s claims against two insurance companies. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff did not properly notify either of the insurance companies about the accident until after the deadline set forth in the policies had expired. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s claims against the insurance companies were barred.

Mailed ServiceThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was working as a truck driver when he was rear ended by another driver while waiting at a red light. The force from the collision pushed the plaintiff’s truck into the rear of another vehicle, causing the plaintiff to sustain a serious injury to his neck. The accident occurred in December 2013.

In March 2015, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who rear-ended him. However, at some point thereafter, the plaintiff realized that the at-fault driver may be uninsured or may not have enough insurance to cover his injuries, so the plaintiff named his own insurance carrier as a defendant in April 2015. At this time, the plaintiff also named his employer’s insurance carrier as a defendant.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to determine if the defendant, a local utility company, was entitled to government immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the utility was not entitled to immunity because the employee alleged to have caused the accident was not exercising his discretion as a government employee.

The Facts of the Case

Construction EquipmentThe plaintiff was injured in a car accident when she crashed into a pile of dirt and then into a back-hoe that the defendant utility company was using to replace a pipe underneath the road’s surface. According to the facts as laid out in the court’s opinion, the utility employee had removed the dirt covering the pipe and placed it in a large pile in front of the back-hoe. When the back-hoe was not in use, it was left on the shoulder of the road, partially in the roadway.

The plaintiff testified that she saw a “blur” and was unable to avoid the pile of dirt that was immediately ahead of her. After her car ran into the dirt pile, it then continued to crash into the back-hoe. The plaintiff’s car flipped over onto its side, and the plaintiff was injured as a result.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia dog bite case requiring the court to determine if the lower court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims seeking punitive damages from the defendant dog owner. Ultimately, the court concluded that the facts gave rise to a material issue regarding the dog owner’s knowledge of her pets’ propensity for dangerousness and whether her actions on the day of the attack showed a conscious indifference to the safety of others.

Mean Dog GlareThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was taking her son’s dog to the neighborhood dog park. The dog was a five-pound Yorkshire terrier. When she arrived, she noticed the defendant and her two larger dogs were already in the fenced-in park. The plaintiff asked the defendant if she was going to leave soon, and the defendant just shrugged.

A few minutes later, the defendant started to put her dogs on their leashes. However, as she opened the gate to exit the dog park, the two large dogs got away from her control and ran toward the plaintiff’s dog. The plaintiff’s dog was killed as a result, and the plaintiff was seriously injured. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking punitive damages.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an insurance dispute between an injured motorist and his insurance company. The case required the court to determine if the accident was covered under the driver’s policy or whether it was subject to an exception for vehicles being operated for hire. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance company failed to establish that the plaintiff was operating his vehicle for hire, and it found in favor of the plaintiff.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a motorist who had occasionally provided an elderly woman with rides from her home into town. The normal arrangement was the plaintiff would pick the woman up at her house and take her to town, and in exchange she would pay him $7.

One day, the plaintiff was driving near the woman’s home when he saw her walking along the roadside. He pulled over and offered to give her a ride into town. The woman accepted, and although she had intended to pay him for the ride, she never did because the plaintiff was involved in a minor accident along the way.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit involving the death of a student while at school. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the state’s official immunity doctrine as it applied to the defendant teacher’s decision to leave her classroom and ask another teacher to keep an eye on her students.

ClassroomUltimately, the court concluded that the school’s written policy to “never” leave the students unsupervised left some discretion in the hands of teachers. Thus, the teacher’s actions in leaving the class were discretionary, and she was entitled to official immunity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a student who died after falling and breaking his collarbone while in class. At the time of the accident, the teacher in charge of the class had left momentarily and had asked the teacher of a neighboring classroom to keep an eye on her students.

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Landowners have a duty to those whom they invite or allow onto their property. The nature and extent of the duty owed to a visitor depends on several factors, most notably the relationship between the parties. Thus, trespassers are owed the least amount of care and business invitees the most.

Broken GlassWhen someone is injured on the property of another party, they may be entitled to compensation through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit. However, in order to succeed in a lawsuit against a defendant property owner, the victim must establish that the defendant violated the duty owed to the plaintiff. Most often, this is by failing to take some corrective action regarding a dangerous condition on the property.

One element of a Georgia premises liability lawsuit that is a frequent subject of litigation is the “superior knowledge” requirement. Essentially, a premises liability plaintiff must not only show that the defendant landowner knew (or should have known) of the hazard, but also that the landowner had superior knowledge of the hazard. A recent case illustrates how the Georgia Court of Appeals applies this rule.

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