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Court Grants Defendants Summary Judgment in Negligence Action Arising from Two-Car Accident

No two-car accident cases are alike. The facts and circumstances can vary on many different levels, including the types of injuries sustained, the number of vehicles involved, insurance coverage, whether there are other causes for the accident aside from driver negligence, and many other factors. Add to these variables any applicable laws, and it is easy to see why negligence claims arising from car accidents can become complicated fairly quickly. If you have sustained injuries in a car accident due to someone else’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your suffering and losses. To pursue recovery, it is important that you contact an experienced injury attorney from the Atlanta area as soon as possible.

In a recent case, Morrow et al., v. Angkawijana, LLC et al., (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), Brandon Morrow was killed when Martin Williams, the driver of the car he was a passenger in, turned left into an intersection and collided with another vehicle. After the accident, Williams reported a blind spot when making the left turn just prior to the collision. He later mentioned that the way the road curved and shrubbery at the intersection blocked his view.

Plaintiffs Laura Morrow, the surviving spouse of the deceased Brandon Morrow, and Richard B. Russell, Jr., administrator of the estate, brought an action in 2009 alleging negligence claims against the two drivers and against two companies, Angkawijana, LLC and IMAEX, owner and lessee (respectively) of the property at the intersection where the accident occurred. They later added a third defendant, Russell Corporate Groups, Inc., the landscaping company. Specifically, plaintiffs claimed that defendants negligently installed and maintained certain shrubbery, which they alleged blocked the view of motorists in violation of Georgia law.

To paraphrase the pertinent state statute, it is unlawful to place any “unauthorized” structure, which obstructs a clear view from any public road to any other portion of a public road, in such “a manner as to constitute a hazard to traffic on such roads.” Plaintiffs argued that an earlier Georgia Supreme Court decision interpreted “structure” to include vegetation. Under the statute, the Supreme Court held that “the maintenance of such an obstruction constitutes negligence when it creates a traffic hazard and is unauthorized.” Therefore, for the plaintiffs to establish their claims against the defendants, they would have to show that the shrubbery created a traffic hazard and that it was unauthorized.

Defendants moved for summary judgment, arguing that plaintiffs failed to support the notion that the shrubbery lacked the requisite authorization under the statute. Plaintiffs posited various arguments in multiple formats, essentially claiming that the shrubbery was unauthorized because it blocked the line of sight. The trial court found that the plaintiffs failed to establish a question for the jury as to whether the shrubbery lacked the requisite government authorization. The court of appeals affirmed, pointing out that bringing a claim under the statute requires proof of a governmental non-authorization. Therefore, the court found that the plaintiffs were required to prove something more than that a structure created an obstruction of a sight line.

As this case illustrates, when the facts and circumstances of a car accident case intersect with Georgia law, the outcome can be difficult to predict. This is why it is imperative that parties to car accident cases seek the assistance of a local, experienced injury attorney to handle their claims.

Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling car accident 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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