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Plaintiff Failed to Prove Negligence to Support Claim for Punitive Damages

Car accidents occur with some frequency in and around the Atlanta area.  People who are injured in a car crash due to the signal-1152453-mfault or negligence of another driver may be able to file a lawsuit to recover compensation for their suffering and losses.  There are many kinds of claims a plaintiff can assert, depending on the circumstances of the accident and the parties involved.  The local state laws and procedures will govern each step of the proceedings.  If you have been injured in a car accident, it is critical that you contact an experienced local injury attorney who will be able to help you achieve the best possible recovery in your case.

In a recent case, Mastec North America, Inc. et al., v. Wilson, Ga. Ct. of App. (2014), the plaintiff, Gilda Wilson, was seriously injured in a car accident with a vehicle operated by a person, Gregory Piccione, who was working at the time, driving a pick up truck owned by MasTec.  According to the trial court record, Wilson claimed that Piccione ran a red light and struck her car, causing her to sustain serious injuries.  Piccione denied that it was his fault, asserting that it was Wilson who ran the red light. Significant to this case is MasTec’s admission that Piccione was “in the course of employment” when the accident happened.

There were conflicting accounts of how the accident occurred.  Also, Piccione was talking on the phone at the time of the crash; he was using a hands-free device.  Wilson, who was ejected from the car upon impact, was not wearing a seatbelt at the time.  Wilson brought a suit against Piccione for negligence and against MasTec under a theory of “imputed liability.” As part of these claims, Wilson sought punitive damages against both defendants, while also asserting a claim against MasTec for negligent hiring, retention, supervision, training and entrustment.  She claimed that MasTec conducted a background check of Piccione at the time of hiring and had discovered assorted convictions for speeding and failing to obey a stop sign. These citations were issued while he was driving his own, personal vehicle. He had also never been in a car accident before this one. Additionally, Piccione had completed a defensive driving class while working at MasTec.

Both defendants moved for partial summary judgment, arguing that the facts did not support an award of punitive damages.  The trial court denied the motion and defendants appealed.  The court of appeals reversed the decision, pointing out that in order for Wilson to succeed in its claims against MasTec based on its purported independent negligence, she was required to provide evidence to support an award of punitive damages. The court found that she did not satisfy that burden.  In fact, the court concluded that the record did not contain clear and convincing evidence that the collision was the result of either willful conduct or a pattern or policy of dangerous driving on behalf of Piccione.

There are many facts integral to this case that led the court to its ultimate conclusion.  An experienced injury attorney who handles car accident cases would be able to look at the facts surrounding your accident to determine the best possible legal approach to handling the case.

If you have been injured in a car accident due to another’s negligence, the first thing you should do after seeking medical treatment and contacting law enforcement is to contact an experienced Atlanta injury attorney as soon as possible. Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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