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Many Georgia car accidents involve motorists from other states. If you are injured by a nonresident driver’s negligence, you can still seek to recover damages through the Georgia courts. It is important to understand that there are special conditions imposed by Georgia law in such cases. You must make every effort to locate the out-of-state defendant and ensure he or she is properly served with a copy of your lawsuit. As a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision illustrates, these requirements are not optional.

Covault v. Harris

The plaintiff in this case was involved in a two-car accident in Fulton County, Georgia. The plaintiff and the defendant were traveling towards the same intersection when, according to the plaintiff, the defendant “failed to maintain his lane and struck [the plaintiff’s] vehicle.” According to a police report taken at the scene of the accident, the defendant was a resident of Kentucky driving a rental car. The plaintiff subsequently learned the defendant’s home address by reviewing Kentucky’s voter registration records.

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For many of us, our pets are considered members of the family. We would never assign our beloved dog or cat a monetary value. Unfortunately, when an animal is injured or killed due to the negligence of another party, the courts need some way to determine the damages owed to the owner.

Barking Hound Village, LLC v. Monyak

The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed this issue. The plaintiffs in this case placed their two dogs—a mixed-breed dachshund and a Labrador retriever—with an Atlanta kennel for 10 days. The retriever required regular doses of arthritis medication, which the plaintiffs provided to the kennel with appropriate instructions. But according to the plaintiffs, the kennel instead gave the drug to their dachshund, causing the dog to suffer renal failure. The plaintiffs said they spent upwards of $10,000 over a nine-month period before the dog ultimately died.

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Asbestos exposure has caused serious health problems for millions of American workers. Under Georgia products liability law, a manufacturer may be held responsible for exposing a person to asbestos-containing products. A federal appeals court recently considered how far such liability should extend.

Thurmon v. Georgia Pacific, LLC

This lawsuit involved a man who worked as a supervisor at a Georgia paper mill for over 30 years. The mill contained a number of industrial valves that frequently required maintenance. Although the supervisor did not perform such maintenance himself, he was on several occasions in close proximity to the valves while they were under repair.

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In May 2011, a bus traveling from Charlotte, North Carolina to New York City swerved off Interstate 85 approximately 30 miles north of Richmond, Virginia. The bus hit an embankment and overturned. Consequently, four passengers died and several dozen more were hospitalized with injuries.

The bus company was a discount operator with a long history of accidents due to unsafe driver behavior. According to news reports at the time, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration cited the operator “for 17 unsafe-driving violations” in the two years prior to the fatal Virginia accident. The FMCSA shut down the operator immediately after the accident.

Chhetri v. United States

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A personal injury lawsuit, such as one seeking damages from a car accident, often involves complex questions of law. The complexity only increases exponentially when the the negligent party is a state agency. The Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA) governs all personal injury claims against the state and its employees. Unlike lawsuits against private parties, the GTCA requires a victim provide written notice to the state about any potential claim. A party that fails to strictly comply with every aspect of this pre-suit notice requirement will have their case dismissed without exception.

Silva v. Georgia Department of Transportation

As if to hammer home this point, a panel of the Georgia Court of Appeals recently issued two decisions on the same day dismissing GTCA claims for technical non-compliance with the pre-suit notice requirements. In the first case, the victim was rear-ended by a vehicle owned and operated by the Georgia Department of Transportation. In an attempt to comply with the GTCA, the victim’s attorney notified state officials of her claim. When the state did not object to the contents of the notice, the victim sued the state, seeking damages for medical expenses and other losses.

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The family of a person who dies due to medical malpractice may bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent health care providers. Doctors and hospitals are often resistant to admitting any liability in the death of a patient, and they may attempt to use the discovery process to obtain embarrassing information about the deceased—or a family member—that is not relevant to the underlying case. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed such a case.

Gwinnett Hospital System, Inc. v. Hoover

The plaintiff in this case is a widow who died while under the medical care of the defendant hospital. She subsequently filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant. The case has not yet proceeded to trial. During pretrial discovery, a dispute arose over a journal kept by the plaintiff.

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Every year thousands of Americans are injured or even killed due to defective medical products. While most manufacturers are responsible and take care to properly test a medical device or drug before introducing it into the marketplace, there are still cases where a defective product makes it to the patient. When that defect causes harm, it can take many years of litigation before the patient receives compensation.

Christiansen v. Wright Medical Technology Incorporated

Recently a federal judge in Atlanta rejected a medical device manufacturer’s bid to throw out a jury verdict arising from a product liability claim. Although the judge refused to disturb most of the jury’s findings on liability and damages, he did cut its punitive damages award by nearly 90%.

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In any type of personal injury lawsuit, it is important for the parties to the case to preserve all evidence that may assist the court in determining the facts. Under no circumstances should a party ever intentionally withhold or destroy evidence. Even in cases where evidence may have been lost by accident, a judge may still interpret that as an intentional act and impose sanctions against the offending party.

O’Berry v. Turner

For example, a federal judge in Valdosta, Georgia, recently imposed sanctions against a pair of corporate defendants in an ongoing truck accident lawsuit. The underlying case involves a June 2013 incident. A man was driving his car when a tractor trailer allegedly swerved into his lane. The impact sent the car off the road and into a light pole. The driver and his passenger were injured and subsequently sued multiple parties, including the driver and owners of the tractor trailer.

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Distracted driving is a leading cause of car accidents. This is why “texting while driving” is illegal in Georgia and many other states. State law expressly forbids anyone from operating a motor vehicle “while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text based communication, including but not limited to a text message, instant message, e-mail, or Internet data.”

Maynard v. McGee and Snapchat, Inc.

When distracted driving does lead to a car accident, the driver may face a personal injury lawsuit from the victims. A lawsuit recently filed in Spalding County, Georgia, raises the novel question of whether a social media company may also be liable for encouraging distracted driving by its users. The lawsuit, which is still in its early stages, has already sparked international media attention.

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In Georgia, the family of a deceased person may file a wrongful death lawsuit if there is evidence that someone else’s negligent or criminal acts were the cause of death. A common example would be a person killed in a drunk driving accident. In such circumstances, the family of the victim might pursue a wrongful death claim against the drunk driver.

Mayor and City of Richmond Hill v. Maia

What about a case in which a negligent act leads the victim to commit suicide? Can the family still bring a wrongful death claim? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this question.