Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case involving the tragic drowning death of a young child at a condominium swimming pool. The case required the court to determine the condo association was liable for the child’s death. Finding that the association was not negligent in any way, the court dismissed the case against the association.

Pool WaterThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the father of a young boy who drowned in a swimming pool that was located at the condominium complex where his aunt lived. At the time of the accident, the aunt was not present, but the boy was with several other family members. According to the evidence presented at trial, the pool was very crowded on the day of the accident, and the young boy was under water for approximately five minutes before he was discovered. There was also some evidence suggesting that the person who called 911 was unable to promptly give the address of the condo complex, potentially delaying the arrival of emergency responders.

After his son’s death, the boy’s father filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association, claiming that the association was negligent for failing to have a lifeguard present, failing to have a safety rope distinguishing the shallow part of the pool from the deep part of the pool, and failing to post a sign with the pool’s address.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a college student who drowned while on a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica. The case required the court to decide if the defendant university could be held liable for the student’s death. Ultimately, the court concluded that the university could not be held legally responsible for the student’s death because he assumed the risk of danger by entering the water.

Crashing WavesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a 20-year-old student at a local Atlanta-area university. The student signed up for a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica. Prior to embarking on the trip, university staff went over a few of the dangers of swimming in the ocean, and they asked if all of the students were comfortable swimmers. All of the students indicated that they could swim.

During the trip, a professor accompanied several students to a beach recommended by hotel staff. The students went into the water and stuck together in a group. However, at some point, a rip current began pulling the students out to sea. The plaintiff’s son was trying to stay afloat when he was overcome by a wave. The others lost sight of him, and his body was discovered three days later.

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In a recent case, a Georgia court of appeals upheld a jury award against a doctor after a patient underwent a procedure to relieve back pain. The woman alleged that she suffered catastrophic brain damage from oxygen deprivation after she had a procedure done to relieve her back pain. While her lawsuit was still pending, the woman died, and her husband then amended the lawsuit to add a wrongful death claim.

Operating RoomAccording to the allegations, the woman experienced chronic back pain and began being treated by an anesthesiologist and pain management specialist in 2008. The doctor gave her two epidural steroid injections during two separate visits at that time. When the woman went to receive a third injection, the procedure did not go according to plan. The doctor was running late, and the woman ended up waiting about 50 minutes in the operating room after she had begun receiving a pain reliever and propofol, a medication that decreases consciousness and memory.

The doctor began the procedure about 10 minutes after he arrived, and the oxygen monitor signaled that the woman’s oxygen level had dropped below 90 percent. The doctor told the nurse to increase the woman’s oxygen flow, and he concluded she was still breathing. The surgical tech was concerned the woman was not breathing and asked the doctor several times if she could turn the oxygen level up higher, but he told her not to do that. The doctor continued the procedure and maintained that the woman was still breathing despite poor oxygen readings. The doctor finished the procedure and then gave the woman sedation reversal drugs and increased her oxygen flow.

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In a recent case, a woman sued a tire manufacturer after her husband died in a tragic car accident. She alleged that the company was liable based on negligent design and manufacturing, strict liability, and failure to warn, arising from the tire’s tread separation. The parties exchanged discovery, and during that period, the company learned the woman had kept only the “carcass” of the tire from the accident. The issue arose whether the woman should have retained the entire vehicle, and if so, whether she should face any court sanctions for destroying the vehicle.

TireApparently, after the accident had occurred, a service came to transport the wrecked car. The owner of the service later told the woman she was incurring a daily storage fee to keep the car there. The company’s owner offered to sell the car to a salvage yard in exchange for waiving the fee. The car had been totaled, so the woman did not see any reason to keep the car and agreed to allow the owner to sell the car. At the time, the woman’s husband was still alive in critical condition and had told the woman the tire had blown up and caused the accident. Thus, thinking the tire may be a necessary piece of evidence, the woman told the owner to keep the left rear tire. Although the tire itself was saved, the remnants of the detached tread, the other tires, and the wheel on which the tire was mounted were all destroyed.

Because of the woman’s actions, evidence relevant to the lawsuit had been destroyed. As a result, the tire company moved to dismiss the complaint or to bar the woman from presenting evidence to rebut the company’s defense as a sanction for the woman’s conduct. A Georgia court denied the company’s motion and declined to sanction her for her conduct. A Georgia appeals court upheld the decision. The court agreed that it was not reasonably foreseeable for the woman at the time to have known litigation would occur. Thus, her duty to preserve evidence was not triggered, and she was not sanctioned.

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In a recent case, a Georgia appeals court reversed a decision in favor of a mobile home owner after a tenant was killed in a fire in her mobile home. The tenant, who was an elderly woman, had recently entered into a lease and moved into a mobile home. Some of the woman’s family members had started a fire in her fireplace, which then caught on fire. The mobile home was engulfed in flames, and the woman died in the fire. The woman’s family brought a lawsuit against the mobile home owner for wrongful death, pain and suffering, funeral expenses, and punitive damages.

Mobile HomeAt trial, the owner of the mobile home agreed the woman had died as a result of the fire. He also stated that it was his responsibility to check mobile homes to make sure they were compliant with housing codes, and tenants relied on him to do so. He also agreed it was important to have smoke detectors in homes.

An arson expert also testified that he investigated the fire and did not find evidence of a smoke detector in the woman’s home or a hearth, which is a safety barrier for fires. The expert also testified that he read the woman’s autopsy report and found she had died as a result of the fire. He also explained that based on the location where the woman was found, it appeared she had been trying to escape.

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Car Accidents After Cars Run off the Road

Highway shoulders are a place where hidden dangers lurk for unsuspecting drivers.  The drop-off angle and drop off height of the pavement relative to the shoulder can lead to a car loosing control when attempting to re-enter the roadway.  There are national, state and local ordinances that regulate pavement drop-offs between the edge of the pavement and the road’s shoulder.  Unfortunately, and often, these regulations are ignored by contractors and in other instances erosion and wear and tear of the shoulder can lead to unsafe drop-offs.   Continue reading

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The crux of a wrongful death action in Georgia is the homicide of the deceased.  Homicide includes any case where the death of a human being results; for example, from a crime, from criminal negligence or simple negligence, or from a defective product causing death even where there there is no negligence in the manufacture of the property or product.   Continue reading

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Georgia’s Supreme Court issued a ruling that will pave the way for a jury trial over a man who was tased to death by DeKalb County police officers.   The appeal to the Supreme Court was triggered by a ruling by DeKalb County State Court Judge Wayne Purdom, who denied the police officers’ motion for summary judgment based on claims of immunity. Continue reading

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just-a-forklift-1439915The Georgia Court of Appeals has held that when a temp worker is randomly shot and killed by another temp worker at the employer’s facility, Georgia’s exclusive remedy provision of the workers compensation act applies.  This means that the only legal remedy the family of the deceased employee is entitled to is workers’ compensation death benefits.  Such death benefits are payable to the surviving minor children until they are no longer minors and/or to a dependent surviving spouse.

In this case, the mother of the worker who was killed sued the employer in negligence for failing to perform a reasonable background check on the man who killer her son.  The facts on appeal showed that the assailant applied for work with the staffing company and used a false name, false picture identification and also failed to completely fill out the application for employment.   Continue reading