Articles Posted in Negligence

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manholeWhile many accidents are caused by negligent or reckless drivers who fail to take adequate precautions on the road, this is not the only reason that accidents occur. Foreign objects, obstructions, dangerous weather, and other unanticipated conditions can also cause automobile accidents. While many of these may be chance mistakes, occasionally defects in road conditions or signage arise that could have been properly addressed and prevented had the proper parties had notice of these defects. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals considers whether a city had just such a defect in its roads, and whether it had sufficient knowledge of the defect such that it should have previously addressed it.

In this Georgia car accident case, J.B. was driving in the city when his car hit an area of broken pavement over a manhole. According to J.B., the hole in the pavement was so large that it caused his vehicle to veer out of control and into oncoming traffic. J.B. struck a vehicle headed in the other direction head-on, causing severe injuries. J.B. sued the City of Macon for his injuries and damages resulting from the collision, alleging that the City should have known about the damaged road around the manhole and should have addressed it, and that their negligent failure to do so caused his injuries. The City responded by filing a motion for summary judgment, arguing that J.B. had failed to provide actual evidence that the City had notice of the damaged road and could have repaired it prior to his accident. In response to this motion, J.B. produced pictures of the damage, taken two weeks after his accident, and argued that the damage to the road was such that the City should have had constructive notice of it. The trial court agreed and denied the motion. The City appealed.

On appeal, the City argued that the photographs produced by J.B. were not sufficient evidence of constructive notice because they did not provide any indication as to how long the road had been damaged. Under Tennessee law, the City has constructive knowledge of damage or a defect when the defect has existed for a long enough period of time that notice of the defect can be inferred. Evidence of constructive knowledge must be such that a jury could reasonably believe that the defect had been around long enough that the City should have had notice of it.

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grass
Public officers such as firemen, police men, and emergency responders must frequently put themselves in a position of possible danger to do their job. While protecting the public, they may encounter dangerous conditions that they must address, and they may be injured in doing so. Under Georgia law, these public officers cannot sue other individuals for injuries they incur while dealing with obviously dangerous or negligent situations. For instance, a fireman cannot sue a homeowner if he is injured due to the homeowner’s negligence while fighting a fire. These are risks that are part of the job. Sometimes this situation arises in an Atlanta car accident case as well.

A recent case illustrates this point. T.K. was a police officer with the Baker County Sheriff’s office. He was called out to deal with a wreck that had occurred on the road. Earlier that day, an employee of Watson Used Cars (“Watson”) was mowing the lawn when he accidentally blew grass clippings out onto the road. Later, it started to rain, and while R.L. was driving down the wet road and over the clippings, his vehicle spun out of control and landed in a ditch. He called 911, and T.K. responded.

T.K. and another officer quickly drove to the scene. As they were approaching, they began to slow down. T.K. did not notice the clippings as he came up to the scene of the accident, and when he began to brake, his own vehicle slipped on the grass clippings and spun out of control, striking a tree. T.K. was severely injured and placed on disability leave. T.K. sued Watson for negligence, alleging that the grass clippings that were negligently blown onto the road caused his injuries.

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pinsMany negligence cases turn on the question of whether a defendant, like a property owner, had sufficient actual knowledge of a hazard on his or her property, such that something should have been done to correct it. For instance, a plaintiff may allege that the defendant saw the hazard or that the hazard was reported directly to the property owner. While evidence often focuses on actual notice, it is important to remember that actual notice is not the only standard for liability. Property owners can also be held liable if they had constructive notice, or should have known that a hazard existed. A recent case in the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates this standard.

In this Georgia personal injury case, P.D. sued Rainbow Stores, USA, after she stepped on an anti-theft sensor pin while visiting a store in Georgia. The pin was on the floor while P.D. was shopping and pierced her sandal when she stepped on it, leading to nerve damage in her foot. At the time of the injury, there were multiple employees on the store floor, some of whom were attaching sensor pins to pieces of clothing. The evidence uncovered during discovery showed that neither P.D. nor the other employees noticed the sensor pin at the time that P.D. stepped on it, so they did not have actual knowledge of the hazard. Based on these facts, the trial court granted Rainbow’s motion for summary judgment and dismissed the case. P.D. appealed.

On appeal, P.D. argued that while Rainbow did not have actual knowledge of the hazard, it did have constructive knowledge. P.D. pointed to testimony establishing that shoplifting was a very serious problem at Rainbow and that sensor pins were regularly attached to all clothing at the store. Employees were permitted to attach sensor pins in the back stockroom or on the store floor, and the company was aware that sensor pins falling on the floor of the store, where they could pose a danger to customers, was a problem. This happened due to employee errors and efforts by potential shoplifters to pry the sensors off clothes and discard them on the ground. To try to protect against this problem, Rainbow instructed its employees to sweep the floors each morning and each evening at closing.

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car accidentOne of the fundamental questions that must be resolved at the start of every lawsuit is where is the proper forum for a lawsuit to be brought. Plaintiffs may not simply bring a case anywhere they choose. Instead, the court hearing a lawsuit must have some logical connection to it, most often that the incidents giving rise to the lawsuit occurred there or that the defendants reside in that jurisdiction. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals considered whether a defendant may request a change of venue to the county where he resides, when the lawsuit is brought in the place of the accident.

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pedestrianNegligence can arise in a wide variety of situations, whether at home, on the road, or out in public. In all scenarios, however, certain fundamental elements of a negligence claim must be met. A plaintiff must establish that a defendant had a duty to prevent harm to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the injuries that the plaintiff suffered. Without these important elements, a plaintiff cannot hold a defendant liable, no matter how terrible the injuries were that were suffered. While these requirements may seem onerous, they serve an important function of ensuring that defendants are held liable for damages that they definitely caused, or could have prevented, but not for accidents outside their control. In a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the court took a look at circumstances in which it was less than clear that the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

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truck accidentWhile many accidents occur between vehicles owned by individuals, accidents also frequently occur that involve corporate vehicles. When this is the case, plaintiffs may seek to go after the corporate owner because they have deeper pockets for recovering medical and personal expenses. In a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the court considered whether a corporation could be held responsible for an accident that occurred when the son of the owner was driving a company vehicle.

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truckWhen individuals are involved in a car or truck accident, they can typically bring a tort action against another driver or a different defendant in order to recover compensation for their injuries. However, when a plaintiff was involved in the accident while on the job, additional workers’ compensation issues may arise. Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws, employees are required to provide compensation and coverage when their employees are injured during the course of normal work. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently considered whether an employee may bring a tort action to obtain such compensation when an employer fails to provide the requisite workers’ compensation coverage.

In Saxon v. Starr Indemnity & Liability Co., Saxon was employed as a delivery helper for Talmadge Royal, which delivered ice cream to convenience stores. Saxon was performing a delivery when the delivery driver rear-ended the vehicle in front of them, causing Saxon to suffer injuries. It was undisputed that Saxon was an employee of Royal and was performing within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. However, Royal did not have workers’ compensation for its employees, and Saxon could not file a workers’ compensation request. Instead, several months later, Saxon filed a negligence claim against the delivery driver and Royal. He argued that the delivery driver had acted negligently and that Royal had been negligent in hiring and supervising the driver. Royal’s insurers quickly intervened, as did Saxon’s own insurer because his policy provided uninsured motorist coverage. The insurers moved for summary judgment, arguing that their policies did not allow Saxon to recover from Royal for the accident because his sole remedy was workers’ compensation coverage. Saxon argued that if the court took the insurer’s position, he would be denied any remedy for his injuries, and this was against public policy. The trial court disagreed and granted summary judgment. Saxon appealed.

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spillIn states around the country, including Georgia, property owners owe individuals who come onto their property a basic duty to protect them from harm.  This means that property owners cannot knowingly maintain harmful or dangerous conditions on their property, such as broken railings or deep holes, that put the public at risk. But what about circumstances in which it is not clear that the property owner is aware the dangerous condition exists? In certain circumstances, the owner can be held liable for conditions he or she should have known existed, but owners will not automatically be held liable for an unknown harm just because it caused an injury.

In Youngblood v. All American Quality Foods, Inc., Ms. Youngblood was injured after she slipped and fell in a puddle of water that had formed at a grocery store. She was injured in the accident and sued All American Quality Foods, also known as Food Depot, for her injuries. She argued that Food Depot had a duty to use ordinary care in keeping its grocery stores safe for customers. In response, Food Depot moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had no notice that the water puddle existed and could not reasonably have prevented it from causing Ms. Youngblood’s injuries.  The trial court agreed.  Ms. Youngblood appealed.

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two-car accidentIn most instances, determining the ownership of a vehicle in an accident is a relatively straightforward inquiry. One can look at title and registration materials and determine who is on the official paperwork for the vehicle. But what happens when an automobile is being transferred from one person’s ownership to another person’s ownership when an accident occurs? Thankfully, Georgia law specifies the precise time when the ownership of a vehicle transfers, and this can be used to assist with questions of liability and insurance after an accident. A recent case decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals explains how such determinations are made.

In Selective Insurance Company of America v. Conner et al., a dispute arose regarding the ownership of an Xterra that was involved in an accident in Georgia. Ms. Conner had an accident with Ms. Craig, and Ms. Craig’s husband was killed.  Although the case involved numerous factual disputes, solely before the court in this instance was the question of whether Ms. Conner owned the Xterra at the time of the accident, and accordingly who was charged with insuring the damages that resulted from the accident.  On the morning of the accident, Ms. Conner went to the DMV in Georgia and filled out the necessary paperwork to transfer the title of the vehicle from a different party, Precision Tapping, to her own name. She completed the paperwork and paid for the transfer. However, it was only six days later that she received the new title for the Xterra. In the meantime, the accident occurred.

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mountain driveIn order to successfully bring a claim for negligence under Georgia law, the plaintiff must be able to plead and prove the following elements:  the existence of a duty of care on the part of the defendant, a breach of that duty, causation linking the breach to the alleged injury, and identifiable damages resulting from that alleged breach. These elements apply to most personal injury cases, including a lawsuit for injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident. In order to maximize your potential recovery for damages from injuries sustained in a car accident, you are strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area.

While each element is an integral and necessary part of a negligence case, the issue of causation is particularly important. Causation or “proximate cause” requires evidence of “a legally attributable causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and the alleged injury.”

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