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Georgia Court Denied City of Atlanta’s Motion in Car Accident Case

A personal injury complaint alleging negligence on behalf of another party is considered a “civil action.” Courts and the parties involved are required to follow Georgia procedural law governing civil practice. When a plaintiff brings such an action against another entity or person, the defendant often responds to the complaint with a motion for summary judgment (among other defenses or responses), denying any liability or responsibility for the damages sought. Whether a court grants the motion depends in large part on the sufficiency of the pleadings and proof offered by the plaintiff. If you have been injured in a car accident, you are encouraged to contact an experienced Atlanta injury attorney who understands the procedural laws applicable to your negligence case and can prepare the best strategy under the circumstances.

Under Georgia law, a court will grant a defendant’s motion for summary judgment when there is “no genuine issue of material fact.” This would mean that the “movant” is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If a court grants a defendant’s motion for summary judgment, the jury will not have an opportunity to review and decide the particular issue in question. In a recent case, City of Atlanta v. Kovalcik et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2014), plaintiffs brought a wrongful death action on behalf of their daughter, Stephanie Kovalcik, who died in a car accident on Peachtree Road, an Atlanta roadway that was recently reconfigured.

The construction on this particular portion of Peachtree Road was completed in October 2007, and a final inspection of the work was conducted in January 2008. The car accident occurred in March 2008 on a rainy evening. Kovalcik was a passenger in her own car that was being driven by Cameron Bridges. As Bridges was heading south on Peachtree, he intended to turn left at the intersection of Piedmont Road. As he entered what he thought was the left-hand turn lane (it was actually a short left-hand turn lane, right before the intersection), the vehicle began to roll over when Bridges drove into a concrete divider. The facts indicate that the new streetlights were not lit at the time of the accident.

Kovalcik died after suffering injuries in the crash. Her parents brought this suit against several defendants, including the City of Atlanta. The City moved for summary judgment, arguing that it did not take part in the design, construction, or inspection phases of the roadway. The City further claimed that it was not responsible for the street lighting at the time of the crash. The trial court denied the motion. The City appealed the decision, arguing (among other things) that faulty lighting alone cannot render the City liable, without some defect in the street.

According to Georgia case law, while the City is obligated to maintain safe streets, it also has discretion with respect to providing lighting on its roadways. The Georgia Supreme Court has indicated that whether or not there were lights on a street does not necessarily determine whether or not a municipality is negligent. Instead, the absence of lighting is evidence of whether the streets were in a reasonably safe condition. Here, the court pointed out that the traffic routing feature of the shortened lane and the physical design of the curb required notice to drivers about lane designations for safety on the road. Under these unique facts, the court held that the absence of lighting could be considered as evidence on the issue of whether the intersection was maintained in a reasonably safe condition at the time of the accident.

It is clear from this case that many factors can affect the recovery in a personal injury action. An experienced injury lawyer would be able to review the facts of your case and pursue a strategy to achieve the best possible result under the circumstances. Stephen M. Ozcomert is an injury attorney with over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of negligent driving in Atlanta and 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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