In Georgia vehicle accident cases, determining liability can often be very complicated. First there are questions of driver negligence, driving under the influence or falling asleep at the wheel. Next there are product liability questions – did a car part fail or did some key mechanism not do what it was supposed to? Third, there are environmental factors. Perhaps roads were not properly marked or signs weren’t obvious, making it more likely that an accident would occur. All of these types of issues can create complicated questions of liability and require plaintiffs to bring lawsuits against many different parties. This is illustrated by a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looking at the liability of the Georgia Department of Transportation versus independent road contractors.
In Stopanio v. Leon Fence, LLC, A.S. brought claims against the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and independent construction contractors who performed work at the site of an accident. At the time of the accident, A.S. was driving to Florida with her parents. Her parents were in a car immediately in front of hers when a vehicle driving in the opposite direction drifted across the center lane and struck her parent’s SUV. This caused the airbags to deploy. The car swerved left, hit a guardrail and then bounced into a concrete pileway. The SUV exploded into fire and A.S.’s parents were killed instantly. A.S. was also injured when trying to respond to the accident. A.S. brought claims against both defendants as personal representative of her parent’s estate: a wrongful death and personal injury claim.
The independent contractors who had done road construction on the area where the accident occurred filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that GDOT had accepted their construction work prior to the accident and taken over control of the area. Accordingly, they were no longer liable for any injury that might result from the condition of the road. The lower court agreed and granted the motion to dismiss. A.S. appealed.