In a recent case, a plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim against the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and construction contractors on behalf of her parents who died in a car accident. According to the court’s written opinion, in October 2011, the plaintiff was driving behind her parents’ car on a Georgia interstate when a vehicle hit the side of her parents’ car, which then veered off the road, hit the guardrails and a concrete bridge piling and burst into flames.
The plaintiff filed a personal injury case, claiming that the construction contractors who did construction work were liable for her parents’ deaths. The trial court dismissed the case, but the plaintiff appealed. She argued in part that the construction contractors were liable because the GDOT had not accepted the contractors’ work and reassumed control of the site before the accident occurred.
In 2010, the GDOT had entered into a contract with two construction companies to resurface the asphalt along a portion of the highway. A fence and guardrail company was supposed to complete improvements to the guardrails as well. The construction contractors completed the work, and the GDOT inspected the project and issued a maintenance acceptance letter with regard to the project. The final inspection was completed in November 2010. Then GDOT issued a maintenance acceptance letter in December 2011, and in the letter, reassumed control of the highway portion on January 4, 2011.
The Acceptance Doctrine
Under the acceptance doctrine, when an independent contractor completes its work, and when that work is accepted by the owner, the contractor is not liable to third parties for damages or injuries that result from a condition of the work, as long as the condition was ready observable by a reasonable inspection. In cases involving roadway work, Georgia courts have held that a contractor cannot be held responsible for work that has been completed and over which the contractor no longer has control.
The Court’s Decision
The appeals court determined that the GDOT resumed control of that portion of the highway, and the contractors no longer had control of the work site. The court noted that GDOT had inspected and approved the work, and accepted the work of the contractors before the accident occurred. Although it wasn’t until January 2012 that GDOT issued a final acceptance letter, the court noted that this letter only memorialized what had already transpired between the contractors and the GDOT. Therefore, because the contractors’ work was complete, and GDOT had already reassumed control, the contractors could not be held liable for any defect in the work at the time of the accident.
Contact an Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence or carelessness of another person or entity, the law allows you to seek compensation for your damages through a Georgia personal injury lawsuit. At McAleer Law, we believe everyone should have equal access to justice, and our top priority is to get our clients the compensation they deserve for the injuries or losses they have endured. Contact us at 404-MCALEER (622-5337) or fill out our online form.
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