• $3,000,000 to the surviving spouse in a wrongful death / medical malpractice case
  • $1.75 Million for a 26 year old woman who was injured and the injury resulted in complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) in her foot.
  • $1,900,000 to a man run over by a bus who sustained serious crush injuries to his legs
  • $1,120,000 for death of 48 year old man in a three vehicle collision
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Jury instructions are an often overlooked but incredibly important part of the trial process. The instruction that a jury receives helps them understand and evaluate the case, and make a determination about the ultimate issues. Jury instructions can be crafted in a certain way to help tell a party’s story in the jury room, or to include (or omit) certain key details. For all of these reasons, when courts improperly include or exclude certain jury instructions, this is an issue that is often ripe for appeal.

In this Georgia car accident case, A.A. and L.M. were driving in different directions down a two-lane road. As they approached each other, A.A.’s vehicle drifted across the center line and ran into L.M.’s vehicle, causing significant injuries. L.M. sued A.A. for negligence and negligence per se.  L.M. established that A.A. had violated Georgia state statutes when his vehicle crossed the center line, which constituted negligence per se.  The burden then shifted to A.A. to provide a defense for his actions.

A.A. presented evidence at trial that his steering column was defective and that his auto mechanic had installed the defective steering column a few days earlier. A.A. testified he had no knowledge of the defect until he lost control of his ability to steer on the day of the accident and ran into L.M.’s car. A.A. then asked for a jury instruction, explaining that in order for A.A. to be held liable for the damages incurred as a result of this defective condition, he had to have knowledge of the defective condition.  The trial court explained to A.A.’s counsel that he could certainly make this argument to the jury, but the jury instruction would not be included because it was more than what was necessary. The jury ultimately awarded L.M. $30 million in damages. A.A. appealed.

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Many times in an auto accident case, a defendant will have only a limited amount of automobile insurance, or perhaps no insurance at all. When this happens, plaintiffs can try to recover against their own insurance company under an uninsured motorist claim. While uninsured motorist claims are usually used when third-party defendants don’t have insurance, some plaintiffs have tried to creatively plead them to apply to their own vehicles or vehicles they drive. A recent case illustrates this attempted approach.

In this Georgia truck accident case, J.H. was injured as a result of an accident involving a truck he drove for work. J.H. worked for M.R., doing business as Rose Logging. J.H. drove a large logging truck for M.R. for work. He could return the truck to work at the end of his shift or drive it home. At the time the accident occurred, J.H. was driving the truck from a logging site to a wood yard when two of his tires blew out. J.H. pulled over to the side of the road to replace the tires. M.R. arrived to assist him in putting a replacement tire on that could be used to drive the truck to a repair site to have both tires replaced.

M.R. began inflating the replacement tire and then turned it over to J.H. to finish. While the tire was inflating, it blew off the wheel and struck J.H., causing him serious injuries.  J.H. made a claim against Rose Logging’s insurer and received $100,000, the limit of that policy. However, J.H.’s injuries exceeded $100,000, so J.H. then brought a claim under his own insurance policy against his insurance provider for an uninsured motorist claim. J.H.’s insurer moved for summary judgment, and the court granted the summary judgment motion, finding that J.H.’s truck was not an uninsured vehicle under Georgia’s statutes. J.H. appealed.

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Governmental immunity can be a confusing concept under Georgia law. As illustrated in past cases on this blog, some government officers and agencies can be found immune from litigation, while others may fall in special exceptions that prevent them from being held liable in a lawsuit. A recent Georgia car accident case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looks at how Georgia’s governmental immunity doctrines apply to county sheriffs in the state.

In this case, S.D. was driving in Calhoun, Georgia when he attempted to make a left turn at a local intersection. S.D. waited for all oncoming traffic before beginning his turn, but, as he turned, a local sheriff, R.M., attempted to pass S.D. on his left hand side. S.D.’s vehicle ran into R.M., and R.M.’s vehicle collided with S.D.’s driver’s side door. Because of the accident, S.D. continued to suffer from lingering back, neck, and leg pain. Importantly, at the time of the accident, R.M. was driving a county-owned sheriff’s vehicle on his way to business at the sheriff’s office evidence room.

S.D. immediately sued R.M. and Gordon County for the injuries he experienced. He alleged that R.M. had negligently driven his vehicle and that Gordon County was vicariously liable for R.M.’s actions. S.D.’s claims against the County were dismissed due to a failure to provide them with adequate notice, and R.M. moved for summary judgment on the claims against him, arguing that he had governmental immunity because he was in the course of his employment when the accident occurred. The trial court ultimately agreed that R.M. was entitled to governmental immunity and dismissed the claims against him. S.D. appealed.

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Sometimes in personal injury and car accident cases, individuals who have not actually caused the accident themselves can also be held liable for the injuries that result. This is often known as vicarious liability. Examples of vicarious liability include employers that are held liable for the actions of their employees, or principals who are held liable for their agents. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looks closely at whether vicarious liability can occur when the employee or agent is not held liable themselves.

In this Georgia auto accident case, T.A. was injured after she was involved in a car accident with C.L. and D.B. At the time, C.L. was allowing his grandson to drive his car as practice shortly after receiving his driver’s license. D.B. collided with T.A. while he was driving. T.A. suffered serious injuries as a result of the accident.

T.A. sued D.B. for her injuries and also sued C.L. as the family member who allowed D.B. to drive, under the doctrine of family purpose. Under the family purpose principle, family members who own a car and allow others to drive it can be held responsible when those individuals cause an accident. The doctrine arose as a result of the fact that when those who were injured sued younger drivers, or the elderly, for their injuries, the defendants frequently had no assets and were virtually judgment proof. In order to give plaintiffs a better chance of recovery, the family purpose doctrine was expanded to allow plaintiffs a better chance of recovery.

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Car chases happen relatively infrequently during police activity, despite the fact that they are often sensationalized on the TV and in movies. In reality, car chases are difficult and dangerous affairs, with the potential for injuries to the driver fleeing the police, the police themselves, and innocent bystanders. When police do not follow proper procedures during car chases, they can also find themselves liable for any third-party injuries that may result, as illustrated in a recent case.

In this Georgia car accident case, S.N. and W.N. were seriously injured after a driver fleeing the police in a car chase ran into their vehicle while illegally crossing an intersection. At the time of the accident, the driver was being chased by Monroe County police. S.N. and W.N. brought claims against the Monroe County police for their injuries, alleging that the reckless conduct of the officers proximately caused their injuries. Monroe County moved for summary judgment after discovery, and the lower court agreed, finding that S.N. and W.N. had failed to show any evidence that the Monroe County police acted with reckless disregard for their policies and procedures. S.N. and W.N. appealed.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued that the evidence presented in the case clearly raised genuine issues of material fact as to whether Monroe County acted recklessly. Specifically, on the night in question, Lamar County police attempted to pull over a driver after he was observed straddling two lanes. When the driver refused to pull over but instead accelerated, the Lamar County police began to chase him. As the driver crossed county lines, Monroe County police joined in the chase. At that time, Lamar County alerted Monroe County that the driver was being pursued only for failing to comply with a traffic stop and did not have an outstanding warrant or any other significant issues. As the chase continued, the police commented on their dash cameras and on audio recordings about the heavy traffic on the roads where they were pursuing the driver and the driver’s extremely erratic behavior and driving tactics, including weaving through lanes, crossing medians, and driving in emergency lanes. They expressed their concerns about the dangerousness of the situation but continued to pursue the driver.

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While 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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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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Companies throughout Georgia and the United States are increasingly turning to independent contractors to satisfy various job functions in their businesses. Independent contractors save businesses on employment taxes, limit the number of employees who may access benefits, and reduce the liability of the company. As a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates, companies have less exposure in negligence and personal injury lawsuits when independent contractors are involved.

In this Georgia auto accident case, P.S. was making a delivery to Wells Fargo Bank as a driver for BeavEx when his vehicle collided with E.M.’s vehicle. E.M. sued P.S. to recover compensation for injuries that he incurred. E.M. also sued BeavEx, P.S.’s employer at the time. After discovery was completed in the case, BeavEx moved for summary judgment, arguing that since P.S. was an independent contractor at the time of the accident, rather than an employee, BeavEx was not liable. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claims against BeavEx. E.M. and their uninsured motorist carrier filed an appeal.

The Georgia Court of Appeals noted that in order to determine whether P.S. was an employee or an independent contractor, it had to look at whether the contract gave, or BeavEx assumed, a right for BeavEx to control P.S.’s work, including the timing and manner of delivery. When there is a significant degree of control by the employer, an employee-employer relationship generally exists. When there is less control, the relationship is usually one of independent contractor-employer.

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Many 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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One 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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