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Malignant mesothelioma is a deadly form of cancer usually caused by exposure to asbestos. Prolonged inhalation of asbestos fibers can lead to a mesothelioma diagnosis decades after the fact. Because asbestos was commonly used in the construction industry until the 1970s, over a million people are still at risk for mesothelioma. Since the 1980s, litigation against asbestos manufacturers has skyrocketed.

Scapa Dryer Fabrics, Inc. v. Knight

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently weighed in on one such asbestos case. A divided seven-judge panel upheld an award of more than $4 million to a retired sheet metal worker and his wife.

As is often the case with mesothelioma, the plaintiff here did not exhibit symptoms until decades after his initial asbestos exposure. The plaintiff worked as a contractor at a manufacturing plant in Ware County, Georgia, during the late 1960s and early 1970s. The plant used asbestos in the course of its manufacturing operations. The plaintiff was also exposed to asbestos in the mid-1970s while installing drywall at his home. After he was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2009, he sued both the plant and Union Carbide, the company that produced the asbestos used in his home.

Under Georgia law, it is not enough to prove a defendant negligently exposed a plaintiff to asbestos; the exposure must also be the cause of the mesothelioma. To that end, the plaintiff produced an expert witness at trial who testified “the cumulative exposure is what relates to [] the risk for developing” mesothelioma. While acknowledging there was “no way to sort out how much one or the other contributed but for each of those individual exposures,” the expert said there was ultimately “no safe known threshold” for asbestos exposure. This meant that every time the plaintiff was exposed to asbestos, his risk for mesothelioma increased.

Based on this and other evidence, the jury determined the manufacturing plant was 40% liable for the plaintiff’s mesothelioma; Union Carbide was also 40% liable; and a third company, which was not a party to the case, the remaining 20%. The jury awarded damages of over $10 million, of which the manufacturing plant was held responsible for just under $4.2 million.

The plant appealed the verdict, arguing the trial court improperly admitting the plaintiff’s expert’s testimony. By a vote of 5-2, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld the jury’s verdict. Judge Christopher J. McFadden, writing for the majority, said the expert’s opinions were “founded on scientific investigation and is therefore sufficient under” the laws governing the admissibility of such testimony.

Presiding Judge Gary Blaylock Andrews, writing in dissent, argued to the contrary. He said the expert’s view that “any exposure” contributed to the plaintiff’s mesothelioma was not “scientifically reliable.” and based on “unreliable methodology.” Judge Andrews cited a prior Georgia Court of Appeals decision, as well as rulings from several other courts around the country, in support of rejecting the expert’s opinion, which would defeat the plaintiff’s ability to prove causation.

But Judge McFadden said Judge Andrews missed the mark in this case. He said the expert’s methodology was “unexceptionable” and “not controversial.” There was no disputing asbestos exposure causes mesothelioma. And the jury found the plantiff’s exposure at the plant was not minimal or insignificant; indeed, the manufacturer was held 40% liable. As far as the majority was concerned, there was no error warranting overruling the jury’s decision.

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The Georgia Court of Appeals has made it more difficult for persons injured on other people’s property to bring a premises liability claim. In a March 30 decision, a divided appeals court upheld a trial judge’s decision to grant summary judgment in the case of a man injured while working on someone else’s land. The dissenting judges accused the majority of usurping the traditional fact-finding role of the jury in such cases.

Seago v. Estate of Earle

The plaintiff in this case was hired to install a fence. To complete the work, the plaintiff routinely had to drive to a tool shed at the back of the neighboring property. On his first day on the job, the plaintiff noticed there was a chain up between two trees, restricting access to the client’s property. Although the plaintiff noticed the chain was down during subsequent trips to and from the shed, about two weeks into the job, he was traveling in his four-wheeler through the area when he collided with the chain, which was now up again. The collision caused the plaintiff serious injuries.

The plaintiff filed a premises liability claim against the property owner, arguing the chain constituted a hazard. (The owner died while the case was pending, but his estate remains a defendant.) The trial court granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, however, holding since the plaintiff was previously aware of the chain, his knowledge of the hazard was “equal or superior knowledge” to that of the owner, thereby defeating the premises liability claim as a matter of law. The plaintiff appealed this decision.

By a vote of 5-2, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed with the trial judge and the defendant. Judge Michael P. Boggs, writing for the majority, said once the plaintiff saw the chains on his first day, he was legally presumed to have knowledge of the hazard during all subsequent visits to the same area: “While [the plaintiff] testified that he had not seen the chain installed across the road for approximately two weeks, he was aware of its existence and could see it well enough from a distance to observe whether it was up or down during the course of the two-week period.” Judge Boggs also noted the plaintiff “was driving at high speed through an unfamiliar area, while distracted by looking for tools,” thereby creating a “heightened duty of care” for his own safety.

In dissent, Presiding Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes said both the majority and the trial court jumped the gun in granting summary judgment to the defendant. “To conclude that summary judgment was proper because Seago admitted that he had on one occasion seen a chain placed between two trees,” Judge Barnes said, “despite his claim that on all other occasions, including the day of the injury, the chain was not present, and the fact that only the [defendant] had control over when and if the chain was in place, usurps the clearly defined role of the jury.”

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If someone is injured on your property and sues, you naturally expect your insurance company will cover any damages. But insurance policies are complex contracts often containing multiple exclusions, which could leave you on the hook for a large award. That is why it is important to understand every term used in an insurance policy, as any ambiguity may lead to litigation between you and the insurer over just what the policy covers. A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates this problem in greater detail.

Partin v. Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company

The victim in this case was a 14-year-old girl visiting her mother’s boyfriend’s farm in Georgia. The boyfriend owned an all-terrain vehicle he used in the course of his farm work. He often allowed the girl to use the vehicle with his permission. On the day in question, the girl and one of her girlfriends had asked to use the ATV, but the owner refused because he was heading out to the store and did not want the girls driving the vehicle unsupervised. The girls ignored this, and after the owner left, they found the keys and took the vehicle out. While the girlfriend was driving, she lost control of the vehicle while attempting a curve, throwing her from the ATV and severely injuring her feet.

The girlfriend’s grandfather subsequently sued the farm owner for negligently allowing the girls to operate the vehicle without permission or adequate supervision. The farm owner then demanded his insurer, Georgia Farm Bureau, defend the lawsuit and pay any damage award under his policy. The insurer balked and filed suit in Georgia state court seeking a declaration it was not liable because the ATV was an excluded “motor vehicle.” The trial court agreed and granted Georgia Farm Bureau summary judgment. The farm owner appealed, and the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge’s summary judgment.

The insurance policy at issue here covered injuries sustained on the farm. This excluded any injuries caused by the use of a “motor vehicle” on the property. But this exclusion, in turn, did not apply to “mobile equipment” or “farm implements” used as part of the farm’s business. This included machinery like bulldozers, forklifts and tractors, but it could also apply to any vehicle used “principally off public roads” for the purpose of “cultivating and harvesting.”

So the legal question is whether the ATV constituted “mobile equipment” or a “farm implement” subject to the policy, or an excluded “motor vehicle.” The trial court held no reasonable jury could conclude the ATV was either mobile equipment or a farm implement. The Court of Appeals disagreed.

The appeals court noted there was no controlling legal authority in Georgia conclusively defining either “mobile equipment” or “farm implement” in this context. And the policy itself did not expressly exclude ATVs. “Considering the policy as a whole,” the appeals court concluded, “and construing the ambiguity against the insurer, the trial court erred by concluding that the policy could not be so construed.” So as long as there is some ambiguity on these issues, the farm owner, as the policyholder, should be allowed to present his case to a jury.

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On March 27, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a ruling that should benefit all patients who bring medical malpractice claims in the state. The high court unanimously affirmed a lower court’s decision allowing a malpractice plaintiff to amend his complaint after a trial court found it defective. The defect arose from a dispute over the plaintiff’s decision to substitute one expert witness for another.

Fisher v. Gala

The plaintiff received treatment for back pain from a group of neurosurgeons in 2010. According to the plaintiff, the neurosurgeons misdiagnosed him and performed unnecessary surgical procedures, leading to “serious complications and permanent disabilities.” In July 2012, the plaintiff sued the neurosurgeons for negligence.

Under Georgia law, any complaint for medical malpractice must include “an affidavit of an expert competent to testify” as to the standard of care allegedly breached by the defendant physicians. If a judge determines the affidavit is “defective,” the plaintiff may file an amended affidavit “within 30 days of service of the motion alleging the affidavit is defective.” Absent a proper expert affidavit, the malpractice lawsuit must be dismissed.

In this case, the plaintiff’s complaint included an affidavit from a family physician, not an expert in neurosurgery. The defendant physicians accordingly filed a motion to dismiss due to a “defective” affidavit. Within the 30-day period, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint, this time including an affidavit from a second doctor who was a neurosurgeon.

The defendants argued, and the trial judge agreed, the substitution of experts was not enough to cure the defect in the original complaint. As they saw it, the law only allowed a plaintiff to cure a defect by having the same physician file an amended affidavit, not getting a second doctor to file one. The trial court therefore dismissed the lawsuit.

But in February 2014, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge, holding the plaintiff could substitute experts and thereby preserve his complaint. The Georgia Supreme Court agreed to review this decision, and unanimously agreed with the Court of Appeals this was a proper amendment.

Presiding Justice P. Harris Hines, writing for the Supreme Court, said nothing in the law required the narrow reading suggested by the defendants and imposed by the trial court. In general, Justice Hines explained, a complaint is supposed to be construed liberally, subject to the legislative exception requiring an affidavit in order to “reduce the filing of frivolous lawsuits.” Here, he said, the plaintiff “exercised his right to amend his complaint as a matter of course…and produced an affidavit of an expert who opines that professional malpractice occurred.” That is all the affidavit rule required.

Keep in mind, the Supreme Court only ruled the plaintiff could proceed with his lawsuit. This was not a ruling on the merits of his malpractice claims. The expert affidavit only has to specify “at least one negligent act or omission” on the part of the defendant. As noted by the Supreme Court, this requirement is designed to simply filter out malpractice lawsuits with no factual basis; it is not a substitute for having to prove negligence at trial.

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It is common for victims in automobile accidents to reach out-of-court settlements with negligent drivers or their insurance carriers. But victims should always be mindful of Georgia law governing such settlements. If you make a “final” demand to an insurer for money, and the insurer accepts and agrees to pay the specified amount, that is enough to create an enforceable legal contract even if the insurer subsequently seeks to negotiate additional terms. That is to say, even if you believe no “final” settlement agreement exists between you and an insurer, the courts may see it differently, as a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision illustrates.

Tillman v. Mejabi

The victim in this case suffered serious injuries in a 2011 automobile accident. There was no disputing the other driver was at fault. The victim’s attorney therefore sent a demand letter to the other driver’s insurance company, seeking to recover the maximum benefit available under the driver’s policy, which was $25,000. (The plaintiff’s actual damages were significantly higher, about $70,000.) The attorney’s letter said payment of the $25,000 would constitute “full and final settlement of this matter.”

The insurance company promptly responded with an acceptance and a check for $25,000. The insurer’s letter to the plaintiff attorney acknowledged the payment was “in full and final settlement of your client’s claim.” The insurer further requested the plaintiff sign an enclosed “general release of all claims,” including any medical liens.

Some of the release’s terms were unacceptable to the plaintiff. The plaintiff’s attorney insisted this constituted a counter-offer by the insurance company, which was squarely rejected. The plaintiff then sued the other driver in Georgia state court. The insurer defended its policyholder and asked the court to treat its previous $25,000 check to the plaintiff as its acceptance of a binding settlement agreement between the parties. The trial court agreed and ordered the plaintiff to sign the release. The plaintiff appealed, but the Court of Appeals sided with the defendants and the lower court.

Presiding Judge Sara L. Doyle, writing for the Court of Appeals, said the law is well-settled in Georgia on this subject. When a plaintiff makes a settlement offer to a defendant (or the defendant’s insurer), there is an “implicit” promise to sign a release of all outstanding legal claims. Such a release “is necessary to effect the full purpose of the contract and is so clearly within the contemplation of the parties that they apparently deemed it unnecessary to state it,” according to a 1994 Court of Appeals decision. Judge Doyle cited that decision, noting it was clear the parties in this case had reached a “meeting of the minds on the essential terms” of a settlement agreement notwithstanding the insurer’s inclusion of a release that contained some terms objectionable to the plaintiff. The form of the release only addressed the “defendant’s performance” of the agreement, not the fact an agreement was made through the defendant’s acceptance of the plaintiff’s offer.

 

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In any personal injury lawsuit against a business—say, a slip-and-fall or similar premises liability case—the defendant may have a franchise relationship with another company. Does that mean the franchisor can be held liable for the local business’ negligence? A recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision provides a useful illustration of the law in this area.

Kids R Us International, Inc. v. Cope

The plaintiff in this case is the mother of a three-year-old child. The child was enrolled at a daycare center. One day, the child suffered injuries to his face when he collided with a metal gate located in the daycare’s play area. The mother argued the daycare center was negligent in failing to supervise her child and keeping the overall premises safe.

The daycare center itself was a franchise for a national brand. The mother’s personal injury suit named both the owner of the daycare center and the franchisor as defendants. Before the trial court, the franchisor moved for summary judgment, arguing it could not be held liable for the negligence of the franchisee; that is, the owner of the particular daycare center in question. The judge denied summary judgment but immediately certified the decision for review by the Court of Appeals.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge, holding the franchisor was entitled to summary judgment. Under Georgia law, a company is “vicariously liable” for any negligent act committed by one of its agents. Here, the plaintiff argued the daycare center was an agent of the franchisor. The Court of Appeals disagreed.

There were two possible theories of agency here. The first was “actual agency,” or a contractual duty to act as an agent. Here, the Court of Appeals found the agreement between the franchisor and the daycare center created no actual agency. In exchange for the use of the franchisor’s name and brand, the daycare center agreed to uphold certain standards—decor, hours of operation, etc.–but the franchisor had no role in the center’s day-to-day operations. More importantly, the appeals court noted, the franchisor assumed no responsibility for oversight. That meant no actual agency existed.

But a franchisor might also be held liable under the theory of “apparent agency.” This theory applies when three conditions are met. First, the principal holds out another person (or entity) as its agent. Second, the plaintiff “justifiably relied” on the agent’s skill based on the principal’s representations. Finally, such reliance led to the plaintiff’s injury.

Here, the Court of Appeals said the plaintiff could not prove the second element, justifiable reliance. The plaintiff argued the franchisor held the daycare center out as its agent because “all signage and documentation” contained the franchisor’s trademarks. But the Court of Appeals noted that alone does not prove apparent agency. And in this case, the plaintiff further defeated her own argument when she initially signed an enrollment form for her son which clearly stated the daycare center “is independently owned and operated,” and the franchisor was not responsible for any of its operations. In other words, the court said, the franchisor never held the daycare center out as its agent.

The appeals court’s decision only extends to the franchisor. The lawsuit against the daycare center may continue. The Court of Appeals did not address the merits of the underlying negligence claim.

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Motor carriers—persons and corporate entities who contract for the transportation of household goods or passengers—must carry insurance in order to legally operate in Georgia. Georgia law further provides a person injured as the result of a motor carrier’s negligence may directly sue the carrier’s insurance company for damages. But there are exceptions to this rule, as the Georgia Court of Appeals explained in a recent decision.

Mornay v. National Union Fire Insurance Co.

This case arose from the death of a 69-year-old woman who had been living in a nursing home. The woman was also receiving Medicaid benefits. The State of Georgia had a contract with a motor carrier to provide transportation services for Medicaid patients. The contractor, in turn, hired a subcontractor to help carry out the state contract.

In April 2010, the subcontractor dispatched a van to transport the woman from her nursing home to a medical appointment. During transport, the van stopped short, causing the woman fall out of her wheelchair. She sustained serious injuries as a result, which sadly led to her death approximately two months later.

The woman’s estate filed suit against the transportation contractor and, pursuant to Georgia law, its insurance company. A trial court, however, dismissed the insurer as a defendant, holding it could not be directly sued. The estate appealed that decision to the Court of Appeals.

But a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the trial court’s judgment. The reason the estate could not maintain a direct lawsuit against the insurer was because the insured party—the subcontractor that provided the van—fell outside the legal definition of a “motor carrier.” Georgia law carves out a number of exceptions to the definition of “motor carrier.” As applicable here, the insurer said the subcontractor fell under an exemption for vehicles “capable of transporting not more than ten persons for hire when such vehicles are used exclusively to transport persons who are elderly, disabled, en route to receive medical care or prescription medication, or returning after receiving medical care or prescription medication.”

Here, the subcontractor used a van with space for four passengers, including one person in a wheelchair. Since this fell below the ten-person threshold, the Court said the subcontractor was not a motor carrier, and therefore its insurance company could not be directly sued. The court rejected the estate’s argument the van should not fall within the exemption because it was actually designed to transport at least 12 passengers, two more than the statutory requirement. This was irrelevant, the court said, because the exemption “is based on the vehicle’s actual seating capacity”—which was four—“not its initially designed capacity.”

The appeals court also rejected the estate’s claim the van fell outside the exemption because it was not exclusively used to transport elderly and disabled patients; it also transported children, who are not a specified group in the statute. The court said the exemption still applied, because the van was used to transport children to medical appointments, and the statute applies to vans used to transport the elderly and disabled “or” persons going to or returning from a medical appointment. The court thus chose to read the “or” as defining a separate group of persons.

Although the estate can no longer maintain a direct lawsuit against the insurer, its case against the transportation contractor is unaffected. And the insurer may still be liable for paying any judgment against the contractor, even though it is no longer a named party to the litigation.

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In a product liability case, a plaintiff attempts to hold a defendant responsible for the negligent design of a product that caused injury. But, what if the “product” is a public roadway maintained by private contractors? Can a plaintiff injured in an automobile accident caused by a defectively maintained road sue the contractor responsible for the maintenance? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this question.

Brown v. Seaboard Construction Company

The plaintiff in this case was injured in a one-car accident. She was a passenger in a vehicle traveling down a causeway. The car hit a pothole filled with water, causing the vehicle to hydroplane and collide with a nearby guardrail.

The passenger and the driver subsequently sued the company responsible for paving the causeway about seven years prior to the accident. A trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant and dismissed the lawsuit. Both plaintiffs appealed, although due to a procedural issue, only the passenger’s appeal was heard by the Court of Appeals. This was actually the second appeal; the Court of Appeals reversed an earlier grant of summary judgment to the defendants in 2012 due to a dispute over the admissibility of certain evidence. But the defendant prevailed a second time on summary judgment after addressing the Court of Appeals’ concerns with the earlier evidence.

In it most recent decision, issued on February 25 of this year, a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals unanimously upheld the trial court’s dismissal. Judge Christopher J. McFadden, writing for the panel, said that under Georgia law, a contractor is generally not liable for “completed work over which it no longer exercises any control.” As the Court of Appeals has explained in prior cases, even if a contractor was negligent, once the work is accepted by the person who hired the contractor, a third party cannot then sue the contractor unless there is some evidence of a “hidden defect” in the work, or the work itself creates a “nuisance” or is “inherently or intrinsically dangerous.”

In this case, the defendant argued its work paving the causeway was accepted by the Georgia Department of Transportation back in 1998, seven years before the plaintiff’s accident. There was no question the defendant no longer exercised control over the causeway at that latter time. And, Judge McFadden said the plaintiff presented no evidence there was a “hidden defect” in the road caused by the defendant’s paving, nor anything that might constitute a nuisance or an inherently dangerous condition. The plaintiff claimed she consistently saw puddles and potholes on the road, but Judge McFadden concluded, “neither her testimony nor any other record evidence offers insight into when or why the pothole at issue in this case developed.”

Ultimately, the Georgia Department of Transportation has the legal responsibility for the construction and maintenance of the state’s highways. (Of course, it’s difficult to sue the DOT because of Georgia’s sovereign immunity.) As long as contractors meet DOT standards and the agency accepts the work, it is extremely difficult for a third party to sustain a negligence lawsuit.

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It is often difficult to reconstruct the events of a motor vehicle accident. If the accident resulted in fatalities, the victims are obviously unavailable to testify. Other accounts may not be considered admissible evidence in court. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed such a case.

Maloof v. Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority

In April 2005, a woman boarded an Atlanta para-transit bus in her wheelchair. The bus driver secured the wheelchair to the floor of the bus. Later, as the bus was traveling on the road, the driver suddenly veered into the adjacent lane and had to step on the brakes to avoid a collision with another vehicle. The sudden braking caused the woman to fall out of her wheelchair onto the ground. As a result, the woman’s leg was fractured, and she was rendered immobile for several months until she passed away.

The woman’s estate sued MARTA, the Atlanta public transportation agency responsible for operating the bus. The estate claimed the bus driver had been “negligent in failing to secure the [deceased’s] wheelchair properly and in failing to maintain her lane.” A trial court granted summary judgment to MARTA on both issues.

But, in a decision issued February 24 of this year, the Georgia Court of Appeals partially reversed the trial court’s summary judgment. The appeals court said the negligence claim related to the bus driver’s alleged failure to maintain her lane could proceed to trial, but the claim the driver failed to properly secure the victim’s wheelchair could not. In pretrial discovery, the driver testified the victim had repeatedly declined to wear a shoulder harness that might have protected her from the accident. The estate offered no admissible testimony to contradict this statement.

Before the Court of Appeals, the estate argued the trial judge should have admitted statements made by the victim before her death. These statements were not made under oath, and the judge accordingly treated them as inadmissible hearsay. The Court of Appeals said this was well within the judge’s discretion. There are multiple exceptions to the hearsay rule, but the appeals panel said none applied to this case. In any event, the Court of Appeals noted the statements the estate sought to admit did not address whether the victim “wanted [the bus driver] to secure the shoulder harness upon her,” which was the alleged factual dispute raised by the estate. “Had such statement included this information,” the Court of Appeals noted, “our decision on this issue may very well have been different.”

However, the appeals court did support the estate’s contention that a police report made at the scene of the accident should have been admitted by the trial court. The report contradicted the bus driver’s account of the accident. As with the victim’s statements, the trial judge said the report was inadmissible hearsay. Not so, said the Court of Appeals. Georgia law makes a hearsay exception for “public records” based on matters “personally observed” by a law enforcement or government official. That means the police report was admissible to the extent it relied on the first-person observations of the officer (as opposed to secondhand accounts of what other people might have told the officer). As the trial judge conceded the report, if admissible, creates a factual dispute with respect to the driver’s liability for the accident itself, the Court of Appeals returned the case to the lower court for trial on this issue.

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Most personal injury cases are filed in state court. That is because most torts, including personal injury, are governed by state law. There are, however, times when a personal injury case is filed in state and then removed (transferred) to a federal court. This is typically done by out-of-state defendants, usually corporations, who believe the federal court gives them an advantage.

Federal courts are generally thought to be friendlier towards defendants than state courts. One reason for this is that, although state law still governs the underlying personal injury lawsuit, federal courts follow different rules regarding the admission of evidence than state courts. The federal rules are uniform throughout the country, while the rules in a Georgia state court are specific to the state.

That said, a defendant cannot remove a case from state to federal court unless certain legal requirements are met. First and foremost, there must be complete “diversity” among the parties. This just means the plaintiff and defendant must be residents of different states. For example, if a Georgia plaintiff files a personal injury lawsuit against a business incorporated in Florida, there is complete diversity.

Of course, diversity is only the first step. Even if the parties reside in different states, the “matter in controversy” must exceed $75,000 before a federal court can assume jurisdiction over the case. Federal courts are not a place to pursue small claims actions.

Riner v. Retained Subsidiary One, LLC

But, what if the plaintiff does not specify how much he or she seeks to recover? Federal jurisdiction may still exist. Here is a recent example from a pending case before a federal judge in Valdosta. In this case, the plaintiff was shopping at a local supermarket when “a water bottle display fell from a shelf on top of a freezer and onto him.” The plaintiff then sued the corporations that owned the supermarket and supervised the display, both of which are non-Georgia residents. The defendants then removed the case from state to federal court.

The plaintiff asked the federal court to remand (return) the case to state court because it had not been established that the “amount in controversy” exceeded the mandatory $75,000 threshold. Indeed, the plaintiff’s lawsuit specified no specific damage amount. His complaint only broadly discussed “serious injuries” he had suffered and related medical costs.

In an order dated Feb. 3 of this year, U.S. District Judge Hugh Lawson denied the plaintiff’s motion. Judge Lawson said even though the plaintiff had yet to affix a dollar-amount to his claim, it could be inferred from all available evidence the amount in controversy was more than $75,000. For one thing, the plaintiff previously presented the defendants with copies of his then-current medical bills, which reflected more than $52,000 in expenses. The plaintiff’s medical records further establish he is continuing to receive treatment “and that additional treatment and/or surgery is not only possible but probable.” So, it is more than likely his medical costs, which his lawsuit seeks to recover from the defendants, will be more than $75,000. The case will, therefore, remain in federal court.