Plaintiffs pursuing a Georgia personal injury claim must establish four elements to prove their case: 1.) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff against an unreasonable risk of harm; 2.) the defendant’s breach of that duty; 3.) a legally attributable causal connection between the breach and the injury; and 4.) a loss or damage that resulted from the breach. A plaintiff normally has the burden to prove all of the elements, meaning that a plaintiff should provide sufficient evidence to allow a fact finder to reasonably conclude that it is more likely than not that the defendant was negligent by establishing each element.

The element of causation can be difficult to prove in some cases, particularly in cases involving multiple parties and defendants. The mere possibility the defendant caused the plaintiff’s loss is not sufficient to prove the element of causation. In addition, the plaintiff must prove not only that the defendant’s conduct was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s loss, but also that it was a proximate cause of the loss, which requires a showing that there is sufficient connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury.

Multi-party cases can also involve complicated issues of contributory and comparative negligence. Generally, if a plaintiff had a certain degree of fault in causing the crash, the plaintiff cannot recover for his or her injuries. However, normally if a plaintiff is found to be less than 50 percent at fault, the plaintiff can still recover some compensation, although their damages award will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

In May 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia slip-and-fall case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim against a homeowner could proceed to trial based on circumstantial evidence of the homeowner’s negligence. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the defendant homeowner’s testimony directly contradicted the inferences the plaintiff asked the court to make, the plaintiff’s evidence was insufficient. Thus, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case.

The court explained the facts as follows: the plaintiff was attending a friend’s birthday when she slipped and fell on an extension cord. Although the party was at the defendant’s home, the defendant was not present at the time of the plaintiff’s fall. Evidently, the defendant had allowed a friend to use his property to host the party, and the defendant was not involved in the planning or execution of the event.

The plaintiff based her case on a claim that the defendant was negligent in the upkeep of his home. Specifically, by allowing an extension cord to run down a set of outdoor steps, creating a hazard to guests. The defendant claimed that he did not place the cord along the steps and had no knowledge of who did. He admitted that he owned similar extension cords and that he was doing yard work earlier that day, but explained that the tools he was using in the yard were all gas-powered and none used an extension cord.

In a recent case before the Supreme Court of Georgia, the court considered whether a plaintiff could recover for emotional distress without any proof of physical injury. According to the court’s opinion, one of the plaintiffs in the case was involved in a crash with the defendant. The evidence presented at trial showed that the defendant failed to stop at a stop sign and crashed into the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff and his wife sued the defendant alleging negligence and gross negligence. They sought compensation for permanent injuries, past and future pain and suffering, loss of earnings and diminished earning capacity, and loss of consortium and loss of services.

After a jury trial, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs for a total of $14,550,000, including $7 million for pain and suffering, and $4 million for future pain and suffering. The jury found the husband was 25% at fault, and thus the plaintiffs were awarded the reduced amount of $10,912,500. The defendant appealed the verdict, arguing that the trial court should have given the jury an instruction on the “impact rule.”

The impact rule states that a plaintiff can recover for emotional distress only if there is some impact resulting in physical injury to the plaintiff. Under Georgia law, there are three elements to the impact rule. First, the plaintiff must have suffered some type of physical impact. Second, the physical impact must cause physical injury to the plaintiff. Third, the physical injury must cause the plaintiff’s emotional distress or mental suffering.

On March 12, 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia slip-and-fall case discussing whether the plaintiff’s claim against a security company was properly dismissed at the summary judgment stage. Ultimately, the court concluded that the property owner had a non-delegable duty to ensure the safety of its guests, and as a result, the defendants did not owe the plaintiff a duty of care. Thus, the court affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s case.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff and her spouse visited AmericasMart in downtown Atlanta to pick up a gift for a friend. The couple obtained their security badges without issue, but as the plaintiff walked through the security checkpoint, she tripped on a rubber mat that was under a table where the security officer sat. The plaintiff seriously injured her hip, requiring surgery and subsequent physical therapy. At the time, a security guard who was employed by a company that was contracted to provide security to AmericasMart.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit against AmericasMart, the security company, as well as the security officer. The security company and the officer moved for summary judgment, claiming that they were not owners or occupiers of the area where the plaintiff fell, and that they owed her no duty of care. The trial court agreed with the defendants and granted their motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff filed an appeal.

In March 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia personal injury case discussing the element of causation, as well as the type and quantity of evidence that a plaintiff must present to survive a defense motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence showing that the defendant’s actions caused her injuries. Thus, the court affirmed the lower court’s decision to grant the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a homeowner who hired the defendant to install a smoke detector system in her home. In the months after the installation, the plaintiff called the defendant several times because the system was not working. The last time the defendant was at the plaintiff’s home was November 2007.

In August 2008, the plaintiff was cooking on the stove when she went to lie on the couch. The plaintiff inadvertently nodded off, and after an estimated three or four minutes, she woke up to the smell of smoke. The plaintiff went into the kitchen, but because of the smoke, she was unsure whether the source of the smoke was the pan or the chicken that she was cooking. As the plaintiff turned the stove knob to the off position, she poured flour into the pan, in an attempt to smother the flame. The contents of the pan bubbled over onto her hand, causing serious burns. The smoke detector did not sound an alarm, and it was later determined that the smoke detector did not have a required piece installed.

In March 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case discussing whether the lower court correctly limited the plaintiff’s closing argument by preventing her from arguing that the defendant grocery store destroyed video of the incident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff’s closing argument was properly limited because she did not obtain an advance ruling on the issue.

The term spoliation refers to a party’s failure to preserve relevant evidence or a party’s destruction of evidence that it knows, or has reason to believe, will be relevant to an upcoming legal proceeding. If a court determines that a party spoliated evidence, there are a variety of possible sanctions, including an adverse inference instruction. An adverse inference instruction informs the jury that the spoliating party had an obligation to preserve evidence but failed to do so, and that the jurors may assume that had the evidence been presented, it would not have been favorable to the party that destroyed or failed to preserve it.

As explained in the appellate opinion, the plaintiff was shopping in the produce department at the defendant grocery store when a stack of boxes fell and crashed into her. The plaintiff was pushed into a display, and sustained a serious injury that worsened over time. The plaintiff later filed a premises liability lawsuit against the grocery store.

In March 2019, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit requiring the court to determine if the defendant hotel had a duty to rescue the plaintiff, who had a stroke while inside his hotel room. Ultimately, the court determined that the hotel had no duty to rescue the plaintiff from a situation that the hotel did not create.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was an overnight guest in the defendant hotel. When the plaintiff woke up, he experienced numbness and tingling on the left side of his face and hand. The plaintiff went back to sleep and, after reawakening, collapsed as he tried to get out of bed.

The plaintiff believed he was having a stroke, and tried to call “0” on the hotel phone. However, no one answered. The plaintiff then called “66,” the number he believed to be the hotel’s emergency number. Again, no one answered. The plaintiff then called 911. When the emergency responders arrived at the hotel, there was no employee at the front desk. The emergency responders eventually found their way to the plaintiff’s room, and took him to the hospital where it was determined that the plaintiff had suffered a stroke.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit discussing whether an apartment complex could be held liable for the death of a resident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the apartment complex’s failure to install balcony railings of sufficient height was not excused based on the complex’s “grandfather” status under the local building codes.

According to the court’s opinion, a man lived on a third-floor apartment in the defendant apartment complex with his wife and child. One day, the man was outside of a first-floor apartment drinking beers with some fellow residents. The man’s wife went to bed at 10:00 that evening, and at one point in the evening, the man returned to the apartment to get a shirt. However, the next morning, the man was found dead, 18 feet below the rear balcony of his apartment.

Evidently, when police officers arrived on the scene, they noticed that the rear balcony railing was “shorter than normal” and measured only 29 inches tall. Law enforcement determined that the man fell to his death and that no foul play was involved. The man’s blood-alcohol content was .265.

In a recent Georgia personal injury case, the parents of a young man sued the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice alleging that their son was injured while he was detained at a youth detention facility. The parents alleged that an employee at the facility negligently closed an automatic steel door, causing the son’s finger to be amputated. Within a month of their son’s injury, the parents provided an ante litem notice to the Department. The notice did not provide an exact amount of loss claimed, but stated that the son required surgery, amputation, and continuing treatment. The notice also indicated that the boy’s mother had to miss work to bring her son in for medical treatment, so there would be “additional claims for monetary loss and mileage.” The claim further stated, “please advise if this ante litem notice is not sufficient to apprise you of the claims.”

The parents later filed a lawsuit, and the Department argued that the parents’ ante litem notice did not include the specific amount of loss claimed, as required under the Georgia Tort Claims Act. The trial court dismissed the claim on that basis, and the parents appealed. On appeal, the parents argued that their notice was sufficient, and that the court should not have dismissed the claim.

The Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA) allows for a waiver of the state’s immunity under certain circumstances. Under the GTCA, one prerequisite to filing a claim against the State is to provide notice of the claim to the State before filing suit. Under OCGA § 50-21-26, the notice must include the name of the state entity, the acts that are the basis for the claim, the time and place of the injury, the specific acts that caused the loss, the nature of the loss suffered, and the amount of the loss claimed.

In a recent Georgia car accident case before a state appellate court, the plaintiff filed claims arising out of a car accident that killed her husband and seriously injured her son. She filed a claim against the local Emergency Medical Services (EMS), alleging that they failed to properly treat her husband’s and son’s injuries. She also filed a claim against the local County Road Superintendent (Superintendent), alleging that he failed to inspect and maintain the road. Both defendants claimed they were entitled to immunity. The trial court agreed, dismissing the claims against them, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the court considered whether the defendants were protected by immunity.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s husband was driving with his 12-year-old son in Atkinson County when he hit a hole in the road, and after he regained control of the truck, he hit a second hole and crashed into a tree. EMS responded to the scene and found the husband trapped on the driver’s side, and the son seated on the passenger side. The son allegedly told one emergency medical technician (EMT) to check on his father who was unconscious, but the EMT told him that they had to “get [him] out first.” The EMT told the son to jump off the truck, and when he said he could not jump, the EMT told him that jumping was the way he would get off. The son did so, and “had to walk” to the stretcher. However, the EMT who assisted the son testified that he picked up the son, laid him onto a stretcher, and carried him to the ambulance. The father was unconscious but breathing, and was removed from the truck, but stopped breathing while he was in the ambulance. EMS tried to resuscitate the husband, but he died of his injuries.

If a lawsuit is filed against a public entity or a public official, the public entity or official may be protected by official immunity. A public official is protected by official immunity if the official “has engaged in discretionary acts that are within the scope of his or her authority, and the official has not acted in a willful or wanton manner; with actual malice; or with the actual intent to cause injury.” In contrast, official immunity does not protect against ministerial acts that are performed negligently. Generally, ministerial acts are acts that are “simple, absolute, and definite,” and require “merely the execution of a specific duty.” In contrast, discretionary acts are acts that “call for the exercise of personal deliberation and judgment,” and acting on one’s own conclusions “in a way not specifically directed.”