Recently a state appellate court issued an opinion in a case in which a woman appealed a directed verdict in favor of a defendant in a Georgia medical malpractice lawsuit involving the alleged negligence of an oral surgeon. The woman alleged that she suffered serious facial burns while undergoing oral surgery. The record indicates that the defendant provided the woman with treatment for severe jaw pain. After conservative treatment methods failed, the defendant performed intraoral surgery to address the issues causing her pain. Right after surgery, the defendant noticed that the woman’s face was swelling, but attributed it to normal swelling following this type of surgery. When the swelling and pain did not resolve, the surgeon referred her to a plastic surgeon, and she was subsequently diagnosed with second and third-degree burns. The woman filed a lawsuit against the oral surgeon seeking damages for her injuries under Georgia medical malpractice laws.

During the trial, the defendant testified that he was aware that a piece of the saw could overheat and potentially burn the patient, but that during the plaintiff’s surgery, he never felt the tool heat up. During testimony, he claimed that he did not know how the burns happened, but the only logical conclusion is that the handpiece malfunctioned and transmitted heat to the part that was lying on her face. He said he understood that these tools could overheat, and he took the necessary steps to prevent overheating and injury to the patient.

The plaintiff presented an expert who opined that the woman suffered burns because the handpiece overheated. The expert explained that because the tools are known to overheat, the applicable standard of care requires surgeons to take steps to prevent the tool from burning the patient. The expert concluded that the surgeon breached his standard duty of care because there are ways to take measures to prevent the tool from contacting the skin. However, he conceded that his opinion was based on the fact that the plaintiff suffered a burn during surgery. The defendant moved for a directed verdict, claiming that the plaintiff was basing her case on a res ipsa loquitor theory, which is not applicable in Georgia medical malpractice cases.

Recently, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued an opinion in an appeal stemming from a personal injury lawsuit a plaintiff filed against the Georgia Department of Public Safety (GDPS). According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered injuries when he was involved in a car accident with a fleeing criminal in October 2014.

Pursuant to Georgia law OCGA section 50-21-26, the plaintiff provided the relevant administrative agency with ante litem notice of his intent to file a personal injury lawsuit against the GDPS. However, he failed to provide all of the information that the statute requires and subsequently withdrew his initial filing. After that, in 2017, the plaintiff sent a proper ante litem notice to the agency and renewed his action. In response, the GDPS filed a motion to dismiss, based on the untimely notice. The plaintiff argued that OCGA section 9-3-99 tolls his time for filing ante litem notice, because he was a victim of a fleeing criminal’s crime.

The Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA) provides that individuals having a tort claim against the State cannot bring an action against the State without giving the appropriate agency written notice of the lawsuit within 12 months of the date of the loss. However, the OCGA section 9-3-99 provides an exception to the period of limitation with respect to causes of action that arise out of a crime. The statute of limitations is tolled from the date of the incident until the act has been prosecuted or otherwise becomes final, so long as it is not more than six years after the original event.

When someone is injured in a car accident by a reckless, careless, or negligent driver, Georgia state law allows them to file a personal injury suit to recover for their injuries. These suits can be crucial for injured victims in helping them get their lives back on track. Often, car accident injuries result in significant medical expenses, lost wages, and even sometimes funeral and burial expenses. Filing a personal injury suit against the at-fault driver is often the only way that a family can avoid severe financial hardship in the aftermath of accidents.

However, to file a personal injury suit, the plaintiff must notify the defendant of the suit. It would be unfair to allow plaintiffs to move forward with a lawsuit without the other party knowing and able to defend themselves, and so our court system requires notice to be served on the defendant. However, in some cases, defendants may avoid getting served because they do not want to be sued. They may conceal their location, or leave the state and go somewhere unknown, to avoid being served notice. Many times, they may think that if they cannot be served, they cannot be sued, and the suit will eventually go away. However, Georgia law accounts for this tendency, and allows those who exercised due diligence in determining that the defendant was either out of state or avoiding service to serve notice in another way—through publication in a newspaper.

This was the option attempted by the plaintiff in a recent Georgia appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured by the defendant in a car accident and attempted to file suit. However, she was unable to find or track down the defendant to serve him with notice, and so after trying for a while, she requested permission to serve notice through publication.

In a recent Georgia appellate case, a plaintiff appealed a trial court’s summary judgment motion in favor of Atlanta Gas Light Company (AGL). Following a natural gas explosion, the plaintiff filed a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit against AGL. The record shows that a woman owed a rental home and in preparation for new tenants, she called the company to set up gas service at the residence. Before turning on gas service, the company sent a field specialist to conduct a safety check on the residence’s fuel line and appliances. During the inspection, he noticed that the supply line improperly led to the furnace, the gas line lacked a sediment trap, and the thermostat was inoperable. Based on his inspections, he turned off the supply valve and posted a warning that explained that the owner should not connect or use the appliance until it underwent repairs.

Shortly afterward, the owner’s step-son went to the property to prepare for new tenants when he noticed the warning and that the property did not have hot water. The owner contacted a repair service to fix the furnace. The technician noticed the warning, inspected the appliances, and returned to perform the work. However, the technician improperly completed the job, and the house experienced a gas explosion about nine months after AGL turned the gas on. The plaintiff suffered severe injuries, and two of her family members died in the blast.

The woman filed a lawsuit against the repair company and AGL. The repair company settled its case with the woman, and AGL moved for summary judgment, arguing that they did not breach their duty to the woman.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case after the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of a car insurance company in a contract dispute. On appeal, the court was tasked with addressing whether a date on an insurance policy was a scrivener’s error. The evidence shows that a man applied for a car insurance policy on February 23, 2017. On his application, he indicated that he requested bodily injury and property damage coverage, but he rejected uninsured motorist coverage, and excluded his wife as a covered party. There were various dates and times noted on the application; however, the most pertinent date was next to his applicant’s statement that was dated May, 23, 2017.

According to the court’s opinion, the policyholder’s wife suffered injuries in a car accident on March 31, 2017, and thereafter requested coverage. The claimant filed a lawsuit after the company denied coverage. The insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the policyholder specifically excluded his wife from coverage. The claimant argued that the discrepancy of the dates in the insurance application creates an ambiguity regarding the effective date of coverage, and should preclude summary judgment.

Under Georgia law, courts should construe ambiguous insurance contracts in favor of the insured and against the insurer. This generally means that when a contract provision can be interpreted in two different ways, it should be construed in favor of the insured. However, this principle is limited to reasonable interpretations.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from a Georiga motorcycle accident. Tragically, the motorcyclist died from injuries he suffered after colliding with a car. The motorcyclist’s representatives filed a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against two of the car’s occupants, however, a trial jury found in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial and a subsequent appeal based on the fact that the trial court inappropriately allowed a non-expert witness to testify to the motorcyclist’s speed. Further, they argued that the trial court should have declared a mistrial after testimony that the motorcyclist would have been cited for driving under the influence of methamphetamines, if he survived the accident.

At trial, the defendants presented several witnesses that testified that based on the sound of the biker’s engine, they believed that he was traveling around 80 to 100 miles per hour. The plaintiffs argued that the testimony was inadmissible because the witnesses did not see the biker. Under, OCGA section 24-7-701, non-expert witness testimony must be:

  • Rationally based on the witness’s perception,

Recently, a Georgia woman filed a lawsuit against a hotel after she sustained injuries when she slipped and fell on a wet sidewalk outside of the hotel. The hotel appealed after a trial court denied its motion for summary judgment. The appellate court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff had superior knowledge of the hazardous condition and if she assumed the risk of the hazard.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her grandchildren were staying at the hotel when they decided to go to the pool after dinner. After spending time at the pool, the plaintiff and her grandson decided to go back to their room. They took the same path to the hotel room that they had taken on their way to the pool. The woman’s grandson did not dry off and was walking in front of the plaintiff when the woman noticed that part of the sidewalk’s surface was peeling off. She warned her grandson to slow down, however, she ended up slipping and falling, resulting in serious injuries.

The woman filed a negligence lawsuit seeking to recover for the damages she suffered as a result of her fall. In support of her claim, she provided an expert affidavit, which stated that the defendant failed to maintain the sidewalk safely. The expert opined that the sidewalk’s deteriorated paint increased the likelihood that it would become slick and unsafe when it was wet.

The Supreme Court of Georgia recently issued an opinion discussing whether an assumption-of-the-risk jury instruction was appropriate in a medical malpractice lawsuit. According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff visited a care clinic after experiencing chest pain. The clinic’s doctor prescribed the man a blood pressure medication and referred him to a heart surgeon. The heart surgeon’s test revealed that a portion of the plaintiff’s heart was experiencing diminished blood flow. The surgeon advised the plaintiff to continue using the blood pressure medication, an additional blood pressure medication, and a blood clotting medication. He did not warn the plaintiff of the medications’ side effects of dizziness or losing consciousness. The surgeon also performed a procedure, during which he discovered a 99% blocked artery.

Following the procedures, the surgeon provided the plaintiff with post-surgical instructions, stating that he was not to engage in risky activities, including lifting more than ten pounds, bending, or stooping for one week. A discharge nurse also discussed these limitations, and the plaintiff acknowledged his understanding. However, there were conflicts of what precisely the discharge recommendations stated.

About five days after the procedure, the plaintiff was hunting in rough terrain and fainted while he was on an 18-foot deer stand. He sustained serious injuries from the fall, including fractured vertebrae. The plaintiff sued the cardiology office and his surgeon, alleging that he suffered injuries because the surgeon prescribed too much blood pressure medication.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an opinion addressing whether Georgia’s dog bite statute violates the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The facts indicate that a man was walking his leashed dog when another dog attacked him and his dog. The attack resulted in serious injuries to the man and fatal injuries to his dog. Before the attack, the dog was kept in the yard of a towing company, which was about 1,000 feet away from the plaintiff’s home. On the day of the incident, the dog escaped from the towing company yard and was not on a leash or under the control of his owners. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the towing company owners alleging that they were liable under OCGA section 51-2-7.

The relevant part of Georgia’s dog bite statute, section 51-2-7, provides that anyone who owns or keeps a vicious animal, and who by carelessness or allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injuries to another person, may be liable for any resulting damages. Plaintiffs who wish to pursue claims under this statute must prove that the animal had a vicious propensity. The statute specifies that plaintiffs can meet this burden by showing that the law required the animal to be at heel or on a leash, per a city, county, or government ordinance.

In this case, the defendants filed a motion in limine seeking to prohibit the plaintiff from relying on the presumption of viciousness created by the statute. They argued that section 51-2-7 was facially invalid under the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. The defendants maintained that the statute violated the Due Process Clause because it did not provide defendants with an opportunity to present rebuttable evidence that the animal had never previously shown a dangerous or vicious propensity.

Recently, a top Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official advised the public that the country is still experiencing a concerning rise in coronavirus cases. The Georgia governor extended the state’s Public Health State of Emergency for an additional two weeks after health officials reported the highest daily total of Covid-19 cases shortly before July 4th. The state of emergency will continue through August 11th, which would allow public and private sectors to engage in comprehensive testing, obtain additional supplies, and ensure that healthcare facilities have adequate staff. The order requires people to continue to social distance and bans gatherings of more than 50 people, unless there are at least 6 feet between each individual. The measure also requires that medically fragile individuals and those living in Georgia nursing homes to shelter in place.

Health officials report that although the rise in cases is mainly among younger people, older and medically fragile people are still more likely to experience hospitalization and death. Reports also indicate that the most significant Covid-19 clusters occur in nursing homes, prisons, and factories. These locations experience higher clusters because of the inability to coordinate social distancing amongst the populations or the ability to shut down. Moreover, nursing homes with large outbreaks often experience high rates of death compared to the community-at-large.

Georgia nursing homes must engage in steps to prevent the virus from entering the facilities and treat those who contract the virus. Although the governor issued an order protecting healthcare workers from liability during this outbreak, facilities may still be responsible under certain circumstances. Generally, the order covers Georgia hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, personal care homes, surgical treatment centers, specimen collection centers, birthing centers, and other similar institutions. The order limits civil liability for services that healthcare workers provide or perform during the state of emergency, however, it does not protect works for claims that they engaged in willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith.

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