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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an accident that occurred when a suspect fleeing police struck the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The court was tasked with determining whether either of the sheriff departments that were involved in the chase could be potentially liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries based on a waiver of sovereign immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that one of the sheriffs involved in the chase may have acted with “reckless disregard for law enforcement procedures.” Thus, the department employing that sheriff was not entitled to summary judgment based on the department’s asserted immunity.

Sheriff DeputyThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were seriously injured in a car accident when their vehicle was struck by a motorist who had led police on a high-speed chase culminating in the suspect’s vehicle colliding with the plaintiffs’ as the two vehicles entered an intersection. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against two sheriff departments that were involved in the pursuit, claiming that the sheriffs involved in the chase acted recklessly in pursing the vehicle after it failed to stop.

The Chase

A Lamar County sheriff’s deputy attempted to pull over a motorist for a minor traffic infraction. The driver, however, failed to stop and took the Lamar sheriff’s deputy on a high-speed chase of up to 125 miles per hour. Throughout the chase, the suspect was driving very aggressively.

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In many Georgia medical malpractice cases, the testimony of at least one expert witness is required to establish certain elements of the claim. Thus, the selection and presentation of expert witness testimony is crucial. In order to be admissible, an expert’s opinion must be reliable. In Georgia, this means that the expert’s testimony “is the product of reliable principles and methods” and that the expert “applied the methods reliably to the facts” of the case.

StethoscopeA recent Georgia medical malpractice case illustrates the consequences of presenting an expert witness whose testimony is not admitted by the trial judge.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a mother who gave birth to a son who began to have seizures shortly after he was born. Subsequent testing revealed that the infant suffered from ischemic brain injury. The plaintiff filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendants, who provided the plaintiff with medical care during labor.

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All Georgia personal injury cases must be brought within a certain amount of time, as described in the applicable statutes of limitations. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases is two years from the date of the injury. While there are some exceptions to the two-year statute of limitations, that will be the governing statute of limitations in most personal injury cases.

Dilapidated GarageOther causes of action have different statutes of limitations. For example, lawsuits involving personal property are subject to a four-year statute of limitations. In some cases, it may not be clear which statute of limitations applies, and the parties must litigate the applicable statute of limitations. This was the situation in a recent Georgia personal injury opinion in which the parents of a child were seeking compensation for the medical bills they incurred after their son was injured in the plaintiff’s home.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs rented a home from the defendant. While the plaintiffs were living at the home, their minor son was injured when he leaned up against a brick wall and the wall collapsed. Initially, the parents filed the lawsuit on behalf of their minor son. However, once the son turned 18, the parents voluntarily withdrew the case so that their son could proceed on his own behalf.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia pharmacy error case, affirming the dismissal of a plaintiff’s medical malpractice claim due to insufficient evidence that the pharmacy violated a professional duty of care. The court based its decision on the distinction between affirmative evidence that would have shown that the pharmacist did not offer counseling to the plaintiff’s wife versus a total lack of evidence on the issue. Finding a lack of evidence was insufficient to establish a medical malpractice claim, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

PillsThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was prescribed medication by his physician, and the prescription was called in to the defendant pharmacy. The plaintiff’s wife went to pick up the prescription, and she was given a single bag with two bottles inside. Unbeknownst to her at the time, neither bottle bore her husband’s name, and both contained unprescribed medication.

The plaintiff took the medication later that day, again without noticing that they were the wrong prescriptions. Later that evening, the plaintiff’s wife found the plaintiff passed out on the floor of their home. It was later discovered that the medication he previously took was given to his wife in error.

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Earlier this month, the state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to discuss the fireman’s rule. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s allegedly negligent actions were both the cause of the incident necessitating the plaintiff’s presence at the scene as well as the cause of the plaintiff’s accident. As a result, the court determined that the fireman’s rule precluded the plaintiff’s recovery.

LawnmowerThe Facts of the Case

On the day of the accident, a motorist was traveling on a Georgia highway when he lost control after encountering a patch of grass clippings that had become wet and slick after a rainstorm. The motorist’s vehicle slid off the road, rolled over, and then came to a stop in a roadside ditch. The motorist called 911 for assistance.

The plaintiff received the radio call for assistance and sped to the scene, traveling at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. The plaintiff unfastened his safety belt so that he could more quickly exit his vehicle upon arrival, but as his vehicle encountered the same patch of wet grass clippings, he lost control. The plaintiff’s patrol car veered off the road and struck a tree, severely injuring the plaintiff.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia wrongful death case involving the plaintiffs’ claims that the defendant medical providers failed to provide appropriate care to their mentally unstable son, which resulted in his death. The case presented a unique opportunity for the court to discuss the doctrine of intervening cause, which acts to preclude a plaintiff’s case against a defendant when another party’s actions sever the causative chain of events initiated by the defendant.

Highway TrafficThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a young man who was admitted to the hospital after he reported hallucinating and hearing voices. The doctors at the hospital evaluated the young man, diagnosed him with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and were planning on discharging him from the hospital later that day.

The plaintiffs asked the doctors if there was anything else they could do to help their son, and the doctors told them that they should schedule an appointment with a mental health care provider. At the plaintiff’s request, the doctors made an appointment at a nearby facility for the plaintiffs’ son to be seen. However, that facility was far away from where the plaintiffs lived, and the plaintiffs had an existing relationship at a university hospital closer to their home, so they made their own appointment at the university hospital.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit filed by the surviving spouse of a man who was killed in a farm accident. The case required the court to determine whether the defendant farm owner could be held liable for the death of the plaintiff’s husband. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s husband assumed the risks involved with the work he was doing at the time he died, and therefore his wife was not entitled to pursue a claim against the farm owner.

TractorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff’s husband was a long-time employee of the defendant farm owner. The defendant and his son trained the plaintiff’s husband on the various tasks that he was to perform around the farm, and they made all necessary tools available for use.

One day, the defendant asked the plaintiff’s husband to remove two large tires from a tractor. The defendant told the plaintiff, however, not to remove the wheels by himself and to get assistance from someone else around the farm. Later that day, the defendant’s father-in-law was playing with his granddaughter when he saw the plaintiff’s husband removing the wheels of the tractor by himself. One of the wheels was easily removed without incident, but the plaintiff’s husband was having difficulty removing the second wheel.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case involving a woman who fell while exiting the defendant church after a funeral. The court was tasked with determining whether the plaintiff’s allegations were sufficient to survive a defense motion for summary judgment, based on the allegation that the defendant had no knowledge of the dangerous condition. However, since the court concluded that the lack of a handrail may have constituted a dangerous condition, and there was evidence to show that the defendant had knowledge of the lack of a handrail, the court concluded that summary judgment was not appropriate.

Dark StairwayThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was attending a funeral at the defendant church. After the services, the plaintiff began to leave out the front door where she had entered. However, the deacon told her to exit out the back door.

As the plaintiff was leaving out the back door, there were two steps. The plaintiff testified that the steps were dark and steep, and she could not see how many there were. As she tried to navigate her way down the steps, she fell, resulting in serious injuries. The plaintiff also testified that she tried to reach for a handrail as she fell, but one was not installed.

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Although contract interpretation may not seem relevant in personal injury claims, contracts often come into play, particularly in Georgia car accident cases. In a recent case, a court considered the language of an insurance contract in determining whether a car crash was covered under the policy.

Side Impact CrashIn that case, an auction company was conducting an automobile auction when one of its employees struck audience members with a car. The employee said that the car’s accelerator stuck, which caused him to lose control of the car. The car was owned by a charitable organization, and the auction company argued that the claims against it were covered by the defendant’s insurance policy as the charitable organization’s insurer. The defendant claimed the incident was not covered, and the auction company brought a claim against the insurer.

The court looked at the insurance company’s contract to determine whether the auction company was insured under the policy. The policy listed the named insured as the charitable organization and its business as “used auto dealer.” The car was covered for the purposes of the policy. The policy stated that for covered vehicles, the insurer would pay all sums the “insured” was legally required to pay because of bodily injury or property damage, caused by an accident resulting from “garage operations.” The policy defined “insured” as:  the organization for any covered vehicle, and anyone else using a covered vehicle the organization owned, hired, or borrowed, with the organization’s permission, except if someone was selling, servicing, repairing, parking, or storing vehicles, unless it was part of the organization’s “garage operations.”

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case, raising the question of whether the accident victim was entitled to compensation from his own insurance carrier under the underinsured motorist clause of the insurance policy. The court ultimately determined that, although the insurance contract clearly prevented the plaintiff from being compensated given the specific facts of the case, that clause was unenforceable because it was contrary to Georgia’s Underinsured Motorist statute.

Rear-End AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a serious car accident. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the other driver. However, the plaintiff soon realized that the other driver did not have adequate insurance to compensate him for the injuries he sustained in the accident. The plaintiff received $25,000 from the other driver’s insurance company.

The plaintiff, who was employed at the time of the accident, also obtained workers’ compensation benefits in the amount of nearly $200,000. However, these benefits provided a weekly benefit that was less than what the plaintiff was normally earning, and they did not include any compensation for pain and suffering or future medical expenses. Thus, the plaintiff was still owed compensation for his lost wages as well as compensation for his pain and suffering and future medical expenses.

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