Recently, a Georgia appellate court issued an opinion in an appeal of a trial court’s summary judgment ruling in favor of a defendant in a premises liability lawsuit. According to the facts as laid out by the court, a grocery store employee drove and parked his work truck in the store’s parking lot. During his daytime shift, he and another co-worker were clearing debris from a bridge on the store’s property. While they were working, the employee noticed a car approach his work truck, and he witnessed the driver get out of his vehicle and into his work truck. The employee approached his truck, and the man in the driver’s seat shot him.

The man’s wife filed a premises liability lawsuit against the store, claiming that they were negligent in failing to maintain, inspect, secure, and manage the parking lot. Further, she claimed that they were negligent in failing to remediate a history of crime in the vicinity. The defendants filed a motion contending that the victim voluntarily chose to join an affray and failed to exercise due care by approaching the man who shot him. The trial court found in the defendant’s favor, noting that the employee put himself in the situation where he was shot. The plaintiff appealed.

In front of the appellate court, the plaintiff claimed the lower court improperly granted summary judgment to the defendant because the employee did not willingly join in a fight and that there was at least a jury question regarding whether his behavior was reasonable. Under Georgia law, after a plaintiff meets the elements of a tort action, they must also overcome any contributory negligence claims. To overcome a defendant’s affirmative contributory negligence defense, the plaintiff must prove that they used ordinary care for their safety and to avoid consequences of a defendant’s apparent negligence. Defendants must present “plain, palpable, and undisputable” proof that a plaintiff failed to exercise ordinary care.

The state’s high court recently issued an opinion in a Georgia drunk driving accident. According to the court’s opinion, one of the defendants in the case was driving his cousin’s vehicle when he crashed into the plaintiff’s car. Evidently, the defendant was drinking with his cousin, when his cousin gave him his car keys and asked him to drive. The cousin knew that the defendant was intoxicated, did not have a driver’s license, and had a history of recklessness. The driver collided with the plaintiff’s car, resulting in serious injuries.

Following the accident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver for negligence, and also the driver’s cousin for negligent entrustment. At trial, the court found that the defendants were acting while under the influence of alcohol and that they acted with willful misconduct, malice, and wantonness. The plaintiff challenged the punitive damages award he received.

Georgia law permits plaintiffs to obtain punitive damages in very limited circumstances. One such situation is in cases that involve intoxicated defendants. In these cases, the court will permit punitive damages to deter, penalize, or punish a defendant. Plaintiffs must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants acted in a way that showed willful misconduct, malice, wantonness, and conscious indifference. Generally, Georgia limits the damage awards to $250,000, but there are exemptions in cases where the accident resulted from the defendant’s intoxication. The court may award punitive damages against an “active tortfeasor,” but not to other defendants in the action. However, the term “active tortfeasor” is not limited to drunk drivers.

Salmonella is one of the many intestinal infections that can result in sickness and deaths to millions of people in the United States every year. Salmonella infections typically occur when a person consumes food that contains the bacteria. However, it can also incur when someone ingests the feces of an infected animal or human. Those who have suffered sickness or severe illness related to salmonella should contact a Georgia product liability attorney to discuss their rights and remedies under the law.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), salmonella bacteria cause over 1.30 million infections, 26,500 hospitalizations, and over 400 deaths in the United States every year. The vast majority of the cases are related to ingesting contaminated food. The most common sources of salmonella are under-cooked or raw eggs, milk, meat, contaminated water, and raw fruits and vegetables. Individuals who contract the bacteria may experience diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and cramping. These symptoms typically begin between 6 hours to 6 days after infection and can last up to a week. This bacteria can be deadly to vulnerable individuals, including pregnant women, young children, older adults, and those with underlying health conditions. Some people may recover without treatment, but it is essential that individuals consult with a health professional to ensure that they do not suffer complications.

According to a recent news report, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a press release indicating that 68 people across nine states had suffered illnesses after consuming bagged peaches. The FDA believes that the bagged peaches contained salmonella. The packaging company packed the peaches in two-pound plastic bags starting at the beginning of June. Many of the victims purchased the products at Aldis; however, the packing company stated that the peaches were sold to stores in 16 states.

Experiencing the loss of a loved one may be one of the most difficult things anyone has to navigate in their lives. Occasionally, when someone passes, it is the result of negligence, carelessness, or recklessness of another party. When this is the case, the deceased’s family and loved ones may potentially have the ability to file a Georgia wrongful death claim. Although wrongful death cases are common across the United States, state rules often differ based on unique statutes, and Georgia is no exception.

In a recent news report, a major car accident left at least four dead in its wake. Just after midnight, the driver of a pickup truck slid into an oncoming lane of traffic and was hit by another vehicle. The driver of that vehicle and his passenger were killed, while his other passenger was in serious condition. The pickup truck’s two passengers were declared dead on the scene, while the driver was airlifted to a local hospital.

Georgia wrongful death lawsuits can be complex. State law only allows specific parties to bring wrongful death claims. Additionally, regardless of how many children are present in the family, the spouse is automatically entitled to receive nothing less than one-third of the total amount of damages in Georgia. If the deceased person is unmarried, wrongful death claims can be brought by surviving parents or the designated representative of the deceased’s estate.

The availability of evidence in a Georgia personal injury case can often make or break a lawsuit, especially when a party is acting in reliance on the opposition for certain information pertinent to the case. Unfortunately, bad actors will occasionally engage in the “spoliation of the evidence,” which can often have significant consequences in the course of a lawsuit.

In Georgia, “spoliation of evidence” can arise in many settings. According to Georgia law, spoliation involves “the destruction or failure to preserve evidence that is necessary to contemplated or pending litigation.” This could mean that an individual purposely destroyed or chose not to preserve necessary evidence – common examples are intentionally getting rid of camera footage or destroying paperwork.  In addition, the evidence in question must be necessary and serve a central purpose in the case. A spoliation of the evidence claim can only prevail if the individual in control of the evidence is aware that there is or could be a lawsuit. As long as a claim is “reasonably foreseeable,” then they are responsible for saving relevant documents and materials.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, a couple sued a restaurant entity for negligence after their minor son was injured on an outdoor restaurant playground at one of the restaurant’s franchise locations. While waiting on a table, the children played on the outdoor playground. It was a sunny, 80- to 90-degree day, and one of the plaintiffs concluded that the floor was “pretty warm, but no big deal.” Soon after, he discovered that the bottom of his 19-month-old son’s feet were badly burned. His son was subsequently taken to a local emergency room for treatment.

With the school year well underway, many students have returned to their college campuses. Whether your child is just starting their college journey or returning for their final year, no one expects to get hurt while living on campus. However, when these accidents occur, those responsible for causing the accident can often be held liable for any resulting injuries.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals opinion, a student sued a university after she suffered an accident in her dorm room. When the student moved in to begin her freshman year of college, her dorm room had two raised beds. One of the beds was higher than the other, and by the time the plaintiff arrived, her roommate had already chosen the lower bed. Initially, the plaintiff wanted to lower her bed, and submitted an online maintenance request, but the school never fulfilled the request. In addition, there was no ladder for the plaintiff to climb into the bed. Thus, to get onto her bed, the student had to step on a desk first and then climb in.

Following a Halloween party and a few drinks, the plaintiff arrived home and fell asleep. She fell out of her lofted bed, blacked out, and suffered serious injuries. After the accident, the plaintiff had to medically withdraw from her classes and was only able to return briefly in the spring before withdrawing again because of the severity of her injuries. For the brief time the plaintiff was back at school that Spring, she purchased a bed rail on her own and lowered the height of her bed to that of her roommate’s. Subsequently, the plaintiff sued the university, claiming it was negligent in failing to provide safety rails on the raised bed. She argued that the university’s failure to do so was the proximate cause of her injuries. The university appealed after unsuccessfully moving for summary judgment.

With everyone glued to their devices more than ever, it’s no surprise that distracted driving accidents are on the rise. Even though many cars have hands-free answering mechanisms or navigation systems, accidents can still happen when drivers get distracted at a red light to check a text message or make a call. When these accidents happen, they can often be devastating. Those responsible for a distracted driving accident can be held accountable for their actions through a Georgia personal injury lawsuit.

In a recent Georgia news report, a serious crash occurred involving distracted driving. Evidently, the driver of a tractor-trailer crashed into the victim’s car inside a roundabout, causing both vehicles to slide into a nearby ditch. In the ditch, the tractor-trailer rolled on top of the victim’s car, and a rescue team had to remove the driver from her car. After being pulled out from roughly 20 feet down a hill, the victim was transported to a local hospital. Following the accident, the tractor-trailer driver admitted to investigators that he was using his cell phone and didn’t realize he was entering a roundabout intersection.

In Georgia, a new distracted driving law called the “Hands-Free Georgia Act” was passed in 2018 to curb rates of distracted driving accidents. Although it was illegal to text and drive in Georgia before the passing of this law, the Act now makes it illegal to use a mobile device while driving, unless you have a hands-free or Bluetooth system installed in your vehicle.

When medical malpractice occurs, it is often at the hands of a physician or medical professional employed by a larger hospital or practice. Following an incident of medical malpractice, many potential plaintiffs in Georgia are interested in bringing legal action. One of the options available is to directly bring a claim against the physician who caused the accident and also sue the physician’s employer for allowing the malpractice to occur in the first place. When a plaintiff brings an action against someone’s employer in addition to the employee themselves, this claim is known as vicarious liability.

In a recent Georgia court decision, a plaintiff sued a defendant hospital for vicarious liability following a medical accident involving his wife. After giving birth, the plaintiff’s wife was treated by the two physicians who were the defendant’s employees. As a result of their actions, the woman suffered a catastrophic brain injury that led to her entering full cardiac arrest. Subsequently, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim, arguing that the defendant was vicariously liable for the actions of the doctors who treated his wife.

However, when filing his claim, the plaintiff only listed the hospital and one of the doctors who treated his wife as defendants, while the complaint itself only contained allegations against another doctor’s conduct who was not named as a defendant. In addition, the plaintiff did not bring any independent allegations of negligence against the hospital, just vicarious liability claims. Following the trial, the lower court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. The defendants appealed and argued that the plaintiffs failed to properly present a claim for vicarious liability.

In Georgia, accident victims often face challenges when trying to recover for their injuries and losses. The majority of these issues arise from inadequate insurance coverage. Although the law requires Georgia insurance companies to provide under or uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage, many claimants face difficulties evoking the coverage. The three main issues that arise in these situations concern the stacking of commercial and personal insurance policies, recovering against an uninsured motorist, and uninsured motorist offsets.

Stacking occurs when insurance companies provide coverage to a driver under more than one policy. This is usually applicable when a driver suffers injuries when operating a non-owned vehicle with permission from the vehicle’s owner. In these situations, most policies consider the non-owner driver an additional insured under the policy. Issues typically arise when there is proration among more than one insurance company or policy. However, it is essential to note that there are exceptions to the general rule that “insurance follows the car.”

Exceptions and exclusions to UIM coverage may apply in situations where the car owner is a dealership, or the policy provides for specific exclusions. The law provides that Georgia statute OCGA § 33-7-11 covers UIM litigation, and resolution of coverage disputes must comport with the policy’s terms. A recent state court opinion stemming from a coverage dispute illustrates the common challenges that claimants face when evoking coverage.

The government should do the bare minimum to maintain roads and public works infrastructure. Following an accident where an injury occurred due to poorly maintained roads or other public works issues, many plaintiffs consider filing a lawsuit against their local city or municipality. If successful, these claims can often serve as a wake-up call for local governments and encourage them to take further steps to ensure the public’s safety. However, personal injury lawsuits in Georgia against a municipality can often be complex and must adhere to specific legal rules and procedures.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, two plaintiffs sued their local city and its public works superintendent for injuries one of the plaintiffs sustained when their vehicle ran off the road. The plaintiffs alleged that the poor configuration of the roadway and deficient signage caused their vehicle to run off the roadway and crash into an embankment. In the plaintiffs’ complaint, they provided a general estimate of medical expenses, lost wages, and total damages incurred from the accident. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint against the city and the public works superintendent because the plaintiffs failed to include the specific amount of monetary compensation and damages they sought from the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the court had to consider whether the plaintiffs’ complaint complied with the rules concerning the “specificity of damages” requirement. The court ultimately affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that their complaint lacked the specificity necessary to comply with Georgia rules. Providing an estimate of damages, the court reasoned, did not substantially comply with the requirements of specificity in Georgia.

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