Justia Lawyer Rating
Avvo Rating Badge
Super Lawyers Badge
AV Preeminent Badge
Atlanta Magazine Badge

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently issued a decision, Handberry v. Manning Forestry Services, LLC, addressing an unusual personal injury claim. This case involved a man who died after falling into an abandoned well. The plaintiff, the victim’s widow, subsequently sued a number of defendants that she alleged were negligent in failing to address the hazard posed by the well prior to her husband’s death.

According to court records, the victim was driving a four-wheeler on private property with the permission of the owner. At some point, one of the four-wheeler’s tires “entered a well that was hidden by vegetation.” The vehicle overturned, throwing the victim into the well, where he sustained fatal injuries.

The defendants in this case included several companies that previously performed work on the property in question. The plaintiff based her claims on a specific Georgia statute, OCGA § 44-1-14, which deals with the “abatement of hazard” from an “abandoned well or hole.” In this context, an abandoned well is “any man-made opening on the surface of the earth which is 10 feet or more in depth and which has not been used for a period of 60 days.”

There is always a risk in personal injury lawsuits that a defendant may file for bankruptcy protection. If successful, a bankruptcy can effectively discharge the defendant from any obligation to pay a monetary judgment owed to the plaintiff. But what about the reverse situation? What happens if the plaintiff files for bankruptcy before the personal injury lawsuit is resolved?

Courtland Properties I, LLC v. Collins

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Courtland Properties I, LLC v. Collins, helps to explain how the law works in this situation. In this case, a man was injured in a slip-and-fall accident at his apartment complex. He subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the apartment’s owner, alleging its negligence in maintaining the property caused the accident.

When a car accident leads to a personal injury lawsuit, the defendant’s insurance company often plays a critical role. The insurer often takes the lead in providing the defendant with legal advice, and in many cases the insurer will work to try and settle a claim without the need for extensive litigation. On the other hand, if the insurer tries to disclaim coverage, that can lead to additional litigation regarding the insurer’s obligations.

United Specialty Insurance Co. v. Cardona-Rodriguez

Georgia has a state law known as the Declaratory Judgment Act. This law essentially permits an insurance company to file a separate lawsuit that asks a judge to clarify its obligations with respect to an insured defendant in a personal injury case. The declaratory judgment therefore serves to resolve any uncertainty or ambiguity in the interpretation of an insurance policy.

Last year we discussed a case where the Georgia Court of Appeals held that a residential lease between a landlord and tenant could be used to shorten the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim from two years to just one year. The plaintiff tenant subsequently asked the Supreme Court of Georgia to review that decision. The Supreme Court agreed to do so, and on October 21, it issued a decision reversing the Court of Appeals.

Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC

To briefly review the facts of this case, the plaintiff rented an apartment from the defendant. One day, the plaintiff fell in a common area of the apartment complex. She maintains her fall was the result of improper maintenance, specifically with respect to a portion of the curb where her food got caught. The plaintiff subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant.

In recent years there have been hundreds of personal injury lawsuits filed against Mentor, the manufacturer of ObTape, a mesh sling used to treat urinary incontinence. According to a 2009 report in the New York Times, Mentor stopped selling ObTape in 2006 after reports emerged that pieces of the mesh sling were breaking off inside of patients. This rendered the devices ineffective in stopping incontinence and led to a variety of additional side effects, such as chronic bladder inflammation.

Taylor v. Mentor Worldwide LLC

Eventually, more than 800 lawsuits against Mentor, which is now owned by Johnson & Johnson, were consolidated as part of a multi-district litigation (MDL) proceeding here in Georgia. One of the first cases from this MDL to go to trial involved a woman named Teresa Taylor. She specifically accused Mentor of design defects in ObTape.

In April 2018, the Georgia Court of Appeals ordered a new trial in a medical malpractice lawsuit, Evans v. Rockdale Hospital, LLC, after the jury in the original trial determined a defendant was partially at fault for medical malpractice, yet awarded zero damages for the victim’s pain and suffering. The Court of Appeals found this award “clearly inadequate” under the circumstances, especially since the same jury awarded over $1 million in damages for medical expenses. The Supreme Court of Georgia recently weighed on this same case and determined the Court of Appeals overstepped its authority in ordering a new trial.

Rockdale Hospital, LLC. v. Evans

To briefly review the facts of this case, a 60-year-old woman went to the emergency room of the defendant’s hospital, complaining of a severe headache, high blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting. The hospital staff discharged the woman without identifying any specific cause of her symptoms. Later, doctors at another hospital determined the woman had “suffered several strokes as a result of a ruptured brain aneurysm.” Even following multiple surgeries, the woman remains “permanently and totally disabled.”

On November 19, 2016, a dock attached to a ferry terminal in Savannah collapsed, sending more than 60 people into the water, according to news reports at the time. A number of these people sustained serious injuries, and a Savannah firefighter died after suffering a dissecting aneurysm while participating in rescue activities.

Chatham Area Transit v. Brantley

As you might expect, there was a substantial legal fallout to the deck collapse. Several victims filed personal injury lawsuits against both the City of Savannah and Chatham Area Transit (CAT), which owned the dock. In early 2018, the City moved to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing it was protected by both sovereign immunity and Georgia’s Recreational Property Act (RPA). CAT subsequently argued it was also protected from suit under the RPA.

In most cases, damages arising from a car accident are covered by the negligent driver’s auto insurance policy. But what if the accident occurred while the car was still in the owner’s driveway? Would homeowner’s insurance actually cover such damages?

Wilkinson v. Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed these questions in Wilkinson v. Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company. This case began when a man named Buchanan purchased a used Ford F350 truck. One of Buchanan’s co-workers, a man named Wilkinson, asked to take a look at the truck. Wilkinson and his wife subsequently went to Buchanan’s house.

Following a serious auto accident, many victims are surprised to learn their medical providers may place a lien against any potential personal injury lawsuit they might file in connection with their injuries. Such “hospital liens” are permitted under Georgia law. There are limits to how far hospitals can go with such liens, as illustrated by a recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Clouthier v. Medical Center of Georgia, Inc.

In Clouthier v. Medical Center of Georgia, Inc., the plaintiff sued the hospital that treated him following an accident for fraud and negligent misrepresentation. According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was “injured in a tractor-trailer collision in August 2016.” He was taken by ambulance from the accident scene to the defendant’s hospital.

When you file a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent driving following an auto accident, in most cases this means you are really seeking compensation from the driver’s insurance company. Unfortunately, insurance companies are quite adept at asserting their own legal rights. This includes taking legal action to void a policy if they believe the policy holder–i.e., the negligent driver–did not strict comply with its terms.

American Family Insurance Company v. Almassud

A recent case before a federal judge in Atlanta, American Family Insurance Company v. Almassud, offers a cautionary example. This case involves a 2012 accident in Cumming, Georgia. The defendant was driving his Jeep. According to court records, the Jeep “veered into oncoming traffic and struck a vehicle driven” driven by a woman who sustained serious injuries.