In a recent opinion, the Court of Appeals of Georgia addressed the state’s fraud exception for tolling the statute of limitations in medical malpractice cases. Evidently, a woman appealed a trial court’s granting of summary judgment in favor of a hospital. The woman appealed on the basis that the statute of limitations should not bar her claim because the hospital engaged in fraud.

According to the court’s opinion, the woman’s husband was experiencing abdominal pain and was transported to a hospital. During his stay, a doctor ordered a CT scan, and he underwent several other tests and examinations. The hospital did not administer the CT scan until four days after the initial physician’s order. The CT scan revealed that the man was suffering from a colon perforation, and he required two surgeries. During the last operation, physicians discovered that his condition was terminal, and he passed away several hours later.

The man’s wife filed a lawsuit about four years later against the hospital, alleging that the hospital was negligent in caring for and treating her husband. The hospital moved to dismiss the case based on the state’s statute of limitations. Georgia law requires that medical malpractice claims must be filed within two years after the date of the incident giving rise to the action occurs. In most cases arising from negligent treatment or misdiagnosis, the statute of limitations begins running at the time of the misdiagnosis or negligent treatment.

A state appellate court recently issued an opinion addressing an issue that frequently comes up in premises liability cases.  Specifically, the case involved the “superior knowledge” requirement.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered injuries when he fell through a skylight that he was dismantling at a church. The church recently purchased a building from a defunct hospital, and the plaintiff, another church member, and a pastor undertook the disassembling. The plaintiff volunteered to remove the structure based on his previous experience working with a contractor to rebuild a shed at his house. The pastor at the church used a forklift to lift the plaintiff and the other church member onto the roof. No one was wearing a hardhat or any other safety harnesses. The plaintiff did not hear a warning to watch out for a skylight and subsequently fell through the light and suffered severe injuries. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the church and the hospital. He alleged that the church was liable because he was an invitee of the church, so the hospital and the church owed him a duty to exercise reasonable care to make sure that the roof was safe.

Under Georgia law, the crux of a premises liability lawsuit often hinges on the property owner’s superior knowledge of the dangerous condition. Plaintiffs cannot recover damages if they could have avoided their injuries by exercising ordinary care. Furthermore, Georgia courts generally look at whether the plaintiff exhibited common sense to prevent their injuries. Usually, Georgia slip and fall cases involve two types of cases:  static defect claims and foreign substance claims.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Georgia released an opinion in a Georgia dog bite case. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was walking her dog when another dog escaped its owner’s yard and attacked her. The woman suffered various injuries as a result of the attack, and she subsequently filed a lawsuit against the dog’s owners.

After her initial complaint, the woman amended her lawsuit by adding the dog owner’s landlord. She alleged that the landlord was liable under OGCA § 44-7-14 because he failed to keep the property in proper repair. Specifically, the plaintiff argued that the dog was able to escape because the landlord failed to fix a broken gate latch. The landlord filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that although he breached his duty to repair the gate, the plaintiff did not show that the dog ever exhibited dangerous propensities or that the landlord knew of any dangerous tendencies. The trial court granted summary judgment in the landlord’s favor, and the plaintiff appealed. The appellate court reversed the ruling, and the defendant appealed.

Generally, under Georgia law, individuals who suffer injuries because of a dog bite or attack must establish that the dog was dangerous or had vicious propensities, that the owner had superior knowledge of the dog’s dangerous tendencies, and that the owner acted negligently. Georgia dog bite lawsuits can be challenging because proving viciousness is difficult, especially if the attack occurred in a Georgia county without a “leash law.” Furthermore, plaintiffs often face difficulties establishing that the dog owner had superior knowledge of the animal’s dangerous propensities. Plaintiffs may face even more barriers to recovery when they try to hold a negligent landlord liable for their injuries.

Georgia does not experience many incidents of winter weather; however, that is all the more reason that car accidents are more frequent during these times. The United States Department of Transportation reports that every year, over 135,000 people suffer injuries, and over 1600 people die in weather-related accidents. Fatal accidents are most likely to occur during the winter season when ice or snow is present. Drivers must take proper steps to avoid a Georgia weather-related car accident. Georgia drivers that fail to do so may face liability for the injuries that their negligence causes.

Although some accidents may not be anyone’s fault, many accidents can be avoided if motorists engage in safe driving practices. Even though blizzards are rare in Georgia, many regions experience snow every year, and the mountainous areas experience frequent snowfalls totaling almost 20 inches a year. Accumulated snow can pose many hazards to Georgia drivers and passengers, especially those that do not have experience navigating these weather conditions. Many drivers do not reduce their speed, and this can result in a loss of control and collisions. Additionally, many drivers fail to keep a safe following distance, and this can result in difficulty braking in time and subsequently rear-ending other drivers.

Ice and freezing rain are much more common than snow in the state, and these conditions are often more dangerous than snow. Inexperienced and unsafe drivers should take precautions before getting on the road. Precautions include things such as, making sure they clear their windshields and mirrors, have appropriate tires, and working headlights.

Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an insurance dispute. According to the court’s opinion, a woman suffered injuries while she and her husband were visiting their friend’s home to look at a pickup truck he owned. When the couple arrived, the truck’s owner moved the car about eight feet forward so that they could walk around and inspect the vehicle. The owner parked the car on an incline, placed it on neutral, and set the emergency brake. The owner asked the woman to pull the “hood latch” but warned her to avoid the emergency brake. However, the woman inadvertently pulled the emergency brake, and the vehicle rolled off and ran her over. The couple filed a lawsuit against the owner, alleging that the woman suffered multiple injuries and damages because of the owner’s negligence. The truck owner sought coverage under his homeowner’s policy; however, the insurance company denied coverage.

When an individual suffers injuries or damages in a Georgia accident, they may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or a claim for damages with the other party’s insurance company. In many cases, the at-fault party’s insurance provider will try to deny coverage by pointing to specific terms in the insurance contract. Often this leads to undue delays and requires the injured party to endure a lengthy legal battle with the at-fault party or their insurance company.

In this case, the insurance company argued that in addition to other circumstances, their policy does not provide coverage for injuries that arise out of the “ownership, maintenance, use, or loading of motor vehicles.” The trial court found that the truck was in “use” when the accident occurred, because the parties were evaluating the vehicle’s operability and functionality. The appeals court found that there are ambiguities regarding the term “in use.”

Sometimes, accidents happen out of pure chance or bad luck, with no one to blame. Often, however, accidents resulting in injuries are preventable and caused by someone else’s negligence. In these cases, Georgia law allows the victim, hurt because of someone else’s actions, to file suit to recover monetary damages. Damages in a Georgia personal injury accident can cover past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. For this reason, these civil suits are incredibly important to victims and their families in the aftermath of an accident, especially a costly one. Thus, plaintiffs must understand all the rules governing personal injury lawsuits fully, because one mistake could result in the case being dismissed, and the plaintiff barred from recovery.

One of the important aspects of filing a suit to keep in mind is the rules governing notice. Plaintiffs, when they file a lawsuit, are required to notify the other party. The rules of notice may change depending on the defendant. For instance, in Georgia, a plaintiff filing a suit against a city must do so per Georgia Code § 36-33-5-(e). This notice must be ante litem, or given in advance of the filing of the case. This means plaintiffs have to let the city know they intend on suing the city before the actual lawsuit can be filed. This notice must include a number of specific things, and failure to properly notify a city properly will result in the claim being dismissed, regardless of what the city did.

For example, take a recent Georgia Appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she attended a street festival in the city. During this festival, she stepped into a hole in a crosswalk area and suffered a broken leg, requiring surgery and physical therapy. According to the plaintiff, residents complained about this hole to the city previously, but the city failed to fix it. The plaintiff, intending to sue the city for negligence, filed a complaint and provided ante litem notice to the city. However, the court ultimately dismissed her case, because she failed to include everything needed in the notice. Specifically, OCGA § 36-33-5 (e) requires a plaintiff to include the specific amount of monetary damages sought from the city, and the plaintiff only said that “the value may exceed $300,000.00.” Because of this, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed and she was unable to proceed in her suit against the city, even though she had been injured.

Property owners and business owners may be liable for injuries or other damages caused by third parties committing criminal acts against members of the public who have been invited onto their property. A recently released decision by the Court of Appeals of Georgia addresses the standards for pursuing a Georgia personal injury lawsuit against a property owner for injuries suffered by a lawful invitee to the premises as a result of the unlawful conduct of a third party.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a truck driver who had parked his truck in a lot owned by the defendant as part of an agreement between the defendant and the plaintiff’s employer. The plaintiff woke up in the middle of the night by a man who was parked against his truck and attempting to break-in. The plaintiff opened his door and stepped onto the other man’s truck. The other driver attempted to drive away from the attempted robbery, causing the plaintiff to fall under the moving truck and get run over, which resulted in serious injuries to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff sued the defendant property owner, alleging that the parking lot was supposed to be secure, and that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect him from any intervening criminal acts committed by third parties. Before trial, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment against the plaintiff, which was granted by the trial court, which determined as a matter of law that the criminal act was not foreseeable to the defendant, and therefore no cause of action existed.

Injury victims who are hurt as a result of the negligence of an employee of a government agency or municipality face additional hurdles in seeking recovery for their loss. A state appellate court recently released a decision in a Georgia premises liability case, siding with a Georgia city and illustrating this point. As a result of the recent ruling, the injured plaintiffs will be unable to pursue their claim against the city.

The plaintiffs in the recently decided case are a group of people who were injured when a dock ramp owned by the city of Savannah collapsed while the plaintiffs were waiting to board a ferry that was alleged to be a part of the city’s municipal road system. The dock collapse injured several people, who filed suit against the city and municipal transit authority operating the ferry, alleging that they negligently operated the ferry system. Before trial, the city disputed its liability for the claim, alleging that as a municipality it was immune from a negligence lawsuit. The trial court ruled against the city’s motion, finding that under Georgia law, a city can be sued for failure to maintain public roads, which includes ferries.

The city appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, claiming that they had sovereign immunity from the suit under Georgia law. The appellate court agreed with the lower court that the ferry system, and therefore the dock that collapsed, were part of the public road system as required by state law for the city to waive sovereign immunity. However, the court went on to find that the city ultimately was immune from suit because the city did not have notice of any defect in the ramp, nor should they have noticed it by practicing ordinary care and due diligence in maintaining the ramp and ferry system. Because the plaintiffs presented insufficient evidence to the court to demonstrate that the city should have known about the dangerous ramp, they will not be able to pursue their claim against the city.

Georgia negligence claims involving loss of life can become more complicated than accident lawsuits with only injuries. When a victim of negligence dies as a result of a car accident or other mistake, there may be separate lawsuits filed on behalf of multiple parties who could be entitled to compensation from the negligent party. The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently released a decision that addressed a dispute between the heirs to an accident victims estate and the beneficiaries of his wrongful death claim. As a result of the recent decision, the case will be remanded to a lower court for further proceedings.

The recently decided case involved claims which were initiated as a result of a man being killed in a Georgia motorcycle accident. The man was killed when he swerved to avoid a trash receptacle that a jury found was negligently left in the road by the defendant at trial. As a result of a settlement agreement made before trial, at trial, the plaintiffs accepted a judgment amount of $1,000,000, which was less than the $4,000,000 that the jury awarded. The settlement was to be divided between two separate claims against the defendant, the “wrongful death claim,” and the “estate claim.”

Because the decedent had executed a will that excluded his children before he died, any proceeds of the estate claim would be given exclusively to his surviving spouse. However, under the wrongful death claim, his four children would be entitled to some of the settlement proceeds. The settlement agreement itself did not state what portion of the $1,000,000 awarded would go to each claim, although the trial court entered a ruling that applied the entire settlement amount to the estate claim, therefore excluding the man’s children from any of the settlement proceeds. The children then filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, seeking a ruling that they were entitled to some of the settlement.

Not all injuries caused by Georgia car accidents are covered by the injury victim’s automobile insurance policy. However, other insurance policies may offer coverage to people injured by a motor vehicle in certain circumstances. The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently ruled that a property owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy could be responsible for injuries caused to a woman who was injured in the owner’s driveway when she was run over by the homeowner’s truck.

The plaintiff was injured while she was looking at her friend’s truck in his driveway. She claimed to have inadvertently released the emergency brake while the vehicle was in neutral and was subsequently run over by the car, suffering substantial injuries. The woman pursued a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the truck, as well as the insurance company who provided his homeowner’s coverage, seeking damages to compensate her for the injuries she sustained from being run over.

Before trial, the defendant insurance company pursued a ruling from the court to determine that they could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because of specific exclusions relating to motor vehicles in the homeowner’s insurance coverage at issue. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that because the injuries arose out of the “use” of a motor vehicle, that the policy exclusion applied and the plaintiff could not pursue a claim against the insurance company.