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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who was struck by a hit-and-run driver. While the identity of the driver remained unknown, the plaintiff was able to obtain the license plate of the car as the driver left the scene. In a case against the vehicle’s owner, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed toward a trial or settlement, finding that she has a legally cognizable claim.

Rear-View MirrorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was struck by an unidentified male motorist. However, as the hit-and-run driver fled the scene, the plaintiff was able to obtain the license plate of the vehicle and provided it to the responding police officer. The officer looked up the vehicle’s information, finding the owner’s name, and determined that the vehicle was owned by a woman who the plaintiff acknowledged was not driving at the time of the accident.

Once the plaintiff had the owner’s name, she then sought insurance information for the vehicle. The insurance request came back with another woman’s name. The plaintiff initially filed a personal injury lawsuit against the woman who insured the car. Later, she asked the court to add the vehicle’s owner to the case as well. The court denied the plaintiff’s request to add the vehicle’s owner, finding that the issue was moot because the owner was not an “indispensable party” because she was not driving the car.

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Last month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a case that was brought by a woman who was struck by the defendant’s vehicle at night. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to give rise to a material issue of fact, and thus the trial court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s case rather than allow it to be heard by a jury.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

After returning home from work on a November evening, the plaintiff decided to talk a walk along the road near where she lived. The plaintiff was wearing all black, and it was about 7:30 at night. The plaintiff was walking alongside the road on a worn footpath, since there was no sidewalk in the area where she was walking. She passed a crosswalk, determining that it was not a good place to cross due to the fact that it was located at the top of a small hill, and visibility was reduced. Instead, the plaintiff walked for a few more minutes along the road before attempting to cross.

The plaintiff looked both ways before starting to cross the four-lane road. She noticed the defendant’s vehicle approaching but decided to cross anyhow. Once she reached the median, she again looked and saw that the defendant’s vehicle was still approaching. The plaintiff testified that she could not tell how fast the defendant’s vehicle was moving, but she would not have begun to cross if she thought the vehicle was speeding. However, as the plaintiff started to cross, she was struck by the defendant’s vehicle. The responding police officer cited the plaintiff for “darting” out into traffic and for walking on the roadway while intoxicated. The defendant was not cited.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was brought by a college student who slipped and fell while walking from one class to another on a rainy day. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff presented enough evidence to survive the defendant’s summary judgment challenge, allowing her case to be submitted to a jury.

Rainy DayThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a student at Georgia Perimeter College. At the time she arrived at school, it was a nice day with clear weather. The plaintiff attended her first class, which was in a windowless classroom. After her first class ended, she went to her second class, which was in the same building and was also in a windowless classroom. Her second class ended at 11:15. During this time, the weather changed, and a rainstorm rolled in.

While the plaintiff was on the way to her third class, she slipped and fell in a puddle of water. The size of the puddle was contested, with the plaintiff claiming it consisted of “standing water,” and a professor who came to her aid estimating that there was less water present, about as much as if a wet paper towel had been wiped across the floor. The area where the plaintiff slipped was not near a door, and the water had been tracked in by fellow students.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that was brought by a man who was paralyzed from the waist down after undergoing surgery that was performed by the defendant doctor. The court was tasked with determining whether the trial court was proper to exclude the testimony of one of the plaintiff’s witnesses because the plaintiff had failed to disclose the name of the witness during pre-trial discovery.

Pile of PapersUltimately, the court concluded that the trial court was within its discretion to prevent the witness from testifying, and it affirmed the jury’s defense verdict.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff began seeing the defendant doctor in 2004 for neck and back pain. In 2009, the defendant diagnosed the plaintiff with degenerative disc disease and recommended surgery. After the surgery, the plaintiff experienced complications, eventually requiring a subsequent surgery, which was also performed by the defendant. After the second surgery, the plaintiff was paralyzed from the waist down.

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Last month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a medical malpractice case that was brought by a man who developed a stage IV sacral ulcer (bed sore) while under the care of the defendant health care provider. Ultimately, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint because the expert affidavit that is required to be filed with medical malpractice actions was lacking in specificity.

Hospital BedThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was admitted to the defendant health care provider while he was unconscious. During his stay, he developed a stage IV sacral ulcer, which he claimed was caused by the negligence of the provider’s staff. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the health care provider, alleging that the hospital “had failed to properly assess and treat the ulcer and had failed to appropriately advocate for his care while he was unconscious.”

In support of his claim, the plaintiff submitted the affidavit of a nurse. The affidavit – which is required in all medical malpractice cases – stated that, in the nurse’s opinion, the hospital was negligent because it failed to “properly assess and treat [the plaintiff’s] wounds; and appropriately advocate for an unconscious patient to ensure that said patient received the monitoring and treatment required.”

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Earlier this month, a Georgia appellate court issued a written opinion in a premises liability lawsuit brought by a woman who slipped and fell after using the restroom in a fast-food restaurant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to establish that the fast-food restaurant had superior knowledge of the dangerous condition that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s fall. As a result, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

Slick FloorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff dined at the defendant restaurant and then went to use the restroom. In a pre-trial deposition, the plaintiff explained that she entered the restroom and proceeded directly to the handicap stall. She did not see any water on the floor as she entered the stall. After about five or ten minutes, the plaintiff exited the stall, took about two steps, and then fell backwards. She had slipped after stepping in a puddle of water. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of her fall and filed a premises liability lawsuit against the restaurant.

In a pre-trial motion for summary judgment, the restaurant argued that the plaintiff’s case was insufficient as a matter of law because she failed to prove a required element of a Georgia premises liability lawsuit. Specifically, the restaurant argued that the plaintiff failed to show that the restaurant had superior knowledge of the hazard.

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Nursing home arbitration clauses have recently come under heavy scrutiny. These clauses, which may act to prevent a party from filing a lawsuit in a court of law, are often contained in large blocks of small print, making it unlikely that the person signing the contract fully understands the importance of the rights they are giving up. As a result, courts routinely invalidate nursing home arbitration agreements when the inclusion and enforcement of the clause would violate general contract law.

Signature LineHowever, in a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion, the Court found in favor of a nursing home, upholding the arbitration agreement that the plaintiffs signed.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the surviving loved ones of two family members who died while in the care of the defendant nursing home. Prior to admitting their loved ones to the nursing home, they obtained a valid power of attorney document, giving them the ability to “dispose of all matters” related to their loved ones.

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In a recent decision, a Georgia court of appeals dismissed a woman’s lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT), finding that she failed to satisfy the requirements in her “ante litem,” or pre-lawsuit, notice. The woman sued the DOT, alleging that one of its employees had negligently caused a crash in which the woman was injured. The DOT argued that the case should be dismissed because the woman’s ante litem notice did not specify the amount of damages claimed.

Rule BookIn Georgia, the Georgia Tort Claims Act requires a party with a tort claim against the State to provide the State with written notice before filing the claim. The notice has to specify the “amount of loss claimed.” The notice must provide this information “to the extent of the claimant’s knowledge and belief and as may be practicable under the circumstances.”

In the woman’s ante litem notice, which she filed about a week after the crash, she stated that as a result of the collision, she suffered great pain and suffering. She claimed her total damages had “not yet been determined” because she was “still under the care of her treating physician,” and she would “claim the full amount of damages allowed by law.”

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The are many types of motor vehicle accidents, as well as many different causes. After an accident occurs, if the parties cannot come to an agreement on who is responsible, it is left up to a jury to determine who was at fault in causing the accident, who is entitled to receive compensation for their injuries, and how much each party should receive. While some accidents do not present much difficulty to the courts in determining who was at fault, at other times, the process can be quite complex. This is especially the case when there are multiple vehicles involved, or when the fault is shared among all parties.

School BusIn situations in which each motorist may be partially at fault for the accident, Georgia courts use the rule of “modified comparative fault” to determine who is entitled to recover and which damages they should receive. Under the doctrine, any party who is less than 50% at fault for the accident can seek compensation from the other parties involved. However, if they are successful, their damages award will be reduced by their own percentage of fault.

For example, if a motorist is involved in an accident with another driver and is determined to have incurred $500,000 in damages, but he is also determined to be 10% at fault for the accident, he will receive $450,000 instead of the total $500,000.

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Georgia courts have the power to issue legally binding rulings in the matters that are properly presented before them. However, before a court can hear a case and issue a ruling, certain procedures must be followed. One of the first procedures that must be followed in any personal injury lawsuit is for the plaintiff to serve notice of the lawsuit to each and every party who is named as a defendant.

Handing Off PapersIn Georgia, proper service must contain the parties’ names, the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney, and the time and date that the defendant must appear before the court. Service can be made by a sheriff, a process server, or anyone else specifically appointed by the court to effectuate service. If a plaintiff fails to properly serve one or more defendants, the plaintiff will almost certainly run into problems down the road. A recent case in front of the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates the issue of how improper service can significantly delay a plaintiff’s case and potentially result in an early dismissal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in an accident with a school bus. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that the school bus driver was negligent in the operation of the vehicle and that the school district was also liable through the theories of vicarious liability, negligent entrustment, and negligent hiring.

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