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Georgia Court of Appeals Permits Bus Accident Case to Proceed

Under established Georgia case law, a personal injury action alleging negligence requires proof of the following elements:  1) a legal duty, 2) a breach of that duty, 3) an injury, and 4) a causal connection between the breach and the injury. Proof or evidence of these essential elements may be gleaned from a variety of sources, such as eyewitness testimony, an expert’s opinion regarding the case, or the testimony of the parties involved. If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation for any suffering and losses attributable to another’s negligence. It is extremely important to sort through the facts of your case and present appropriate evidence to support your claim for damages. The best course of action is to consult with an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area.

There are many state laws governing the sufficiency and admissibility of evidence. For example, the Georgia State Code provides generally that the testimony of a single witness is sufficient to establish a fact, with certain exceptions. As far as admissibility, there are many rules governing what may and may not be introduced as evidence at trial. For one, evidence considered “hearsay” would not be admissible under the law, also with certain identified exceptions. However, if a party does not object to hearsay, the objection would be deemed waived and the evidence admissible.

In a recent personal injury case, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (“MARTA”) v. Morris et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015), the court was asked to review a lower court’s ruling in favor of plaintiffs who were allegedly injured in an accident with an Atlanta bus. Here, the plaintiffs brought an action against MARTA, asserting that it was vicariously liable for the negligence of one of its bus drivers, who remained unidentified. The plaintiffs alleged that a MARTA bus sideswiped them on Peachtree Street, continued to let passengers on and off the bus, and then drove away. The plaintiffs claimed that the car was damaged and that they were injured in the accident.

MARTA moved for a directed verdict. However, the jury ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. MARTA appealed, arguing (among other things) that the court erred by denying their motion and refusing to instruct the jury on the plaintiffs’ negligence.

The court of appeals reviewed each of the defendant’s specific arguments, namely that the court erred in failing to grant a directed verdict:  1) by relying on hearsay testimony; 2) by relying on the deposition testimony of one of the eyewitnesses, who identified the bus as part of the MARTA municipal bus system; 3) because the plaintiffs failed to prove that MARTA owned the bus that hit them (and that the driver was employed by the municipality); 4) because there was no evidence showing that the driver was negligent; and 5) because the court failed to instruct the jury that they could apportion liability to the plaintiffs.

The court disagreed with the defendant’s many arguments, ultimately affirming the lower court’s decision. For one, the court found that the defendant failed to object to the hearsay testimony at trial, and therefore the evidence was admissible. Also, the court noted that the plaintiffs’ testimony, which was corroborated by two eyewitnesses, that the bus sideswiped their vehicle was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict. The court reviewed many legal grounds for upholding the ruling, illustrating the importance of understanding the laws applicable to personal injury claims and negligence trials.

For any questions or legal help with your car accident claims, you are encouraged to contact an experienced injury attorney. Stephen M. Ozcomert is an Atlanta injury attorney with over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligence throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule a free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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