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The right to a jury trial is a basic tenet of our legal system. Jurors are entrusted to carefully consider all of the evidence and return a verdict in accordance with the law. Of course, there are times when a jury’s verdict is so inconsistent with the facts that a judge or appellate court must intervene in order to protect the interests of the plaintiff alleging a personal injury.

Evans v. Rockdale Hospital, LLC

For instance, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently ordered a new trial in a medical malpractice case because the jury contradicted itself. It found the defendant liable for a serious act of medical malpractice, yet awarded the plaintiff zero damages for her pain and suffering. The appeals court said such a verdict “shocks the conscience” and necessitated a full retrial of the case before a new jury.

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Premises liability laws ensure that property owners are held responsible for hazardous conditions that injure their invited guests or other members of the public who are lawfully on the premises. With respect to invitees, the property owner must exercise “ordinary care in the keeping the premises and approaches safe.” If the injured party is a “licensee” – someone who is permitted on the property but is not considered a customer or “servant” of the owner – then the owner is only liable for causing “willful or wanton injury.”

Harrison v. Legacy Housing, LP

Many premises liability cases turn on the status of the injured plaintiff, i.e. whether they an invitee or licensee. A recent decision by a federal judge in Macon offers a helpful illustration of this distinction. The plaintiff in this case was helping a friend perform work in an empty warehouse. After the plaintiff sustained a serious injury, he attempted to sue the warehouse’s owner under the theory he was an “invitee.”

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Is a “parade” the same thing as a “fair” or a “charitable function”? You probably never stopped to think about this comparison before, yet it is a central legal question in an ongoing personal injury case that was the subject of a recent Georgia Court of Appeals opinion.

Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company v. Claxton

The somewhat unusual facts of this case revolve around a mule-drawn carriage. The driver of said carriage offered a free ride to a passenger after the vehicle participated in a local Christmas parade in Telfair County. During this ride, a car rear-ended the carriage and injured the passenger.

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Car accidents may have many causes. Oftentimes it is simply negligence on the part of the driver. There may also be a defect in the vehicle itself, either as the result of a faulty part used during the manufacturing process or an inadequate repair. If there was, in fact, a problem with the car, the driver may not be liable for any damages sustained by third parties.

Almassur v. Mezquital

On March 15, the Georgia Court of Appeals overturned a $30 million jury verdict in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a 2012 car accident in Forsyth County. The appellate court said the trial judge committed a significant error in refusing to allow a jury instruction proposed by the defense. That instruction, in turn, addressed whether the defendant driver’s actions on the day of the accident were “unknowing and unintentional.”

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We previously discussed a terrible wrongful death case, Walden v. Chrysler Group, LLC, in which a 4-year-old Georgia child died after his aunt’s Jeep Grand Cherokee exploded in a rear-end collision. The impact caused the Jeep’s rear-mounted fuel tank to explode, setting the child on fire. Following a trial, a jury held the Jeep’s manufacturer, Chrysler, 99% responsible for the child’s death and awarded the family $150 million in damages. Although the judge reduced that award to $40 million, Chrysler still appealed.

Is a CEO’s Salary Relevant to a Wrongful Death Claim Against his Company?

The Georgia Supreme Court recently affirmed the modified verdict after reviewing and rejecting Chrysler’s challenge to some of the evidence presented at trial. Specifically, Chrysler argued that it was unduly prejudiced by the plaintiff’s introduction of evidence related to the salary of the company’s chief executive officer.

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Georgia law draws a sharp distinction between ordinary negligence and medical malpractice. The former does not necessarily require an expert’s opinion to prove liability, but the latter does. Specifically, the Georgia Supreme Court has said that medical malpractice victims must present evidence from at least one expert witness in order to “overcome the presumption that the [defendant] acted with due care and establish the [defendant]’s negligence.”

Southeastern Pain Specialists, PC v. Brown

Even in cases of egregious medical malpractice in which you would think common sense would tell you there was negligence, Georgia courts still demand expert testimony. To drive this point home, the Georgia Supreme Court recently threw out a $22 million verdict against an Atlanta doctor and his clinic. The justices felt the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury on the differences between ordinary and medical negligence.

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In 2014, Georgia enacted the Business Security and Employee Privacy Act (BSEPA), more popularly known as the “Bring Your Guns to Work” law. The purpose of this law is to prevent private and public employers in Georgia from restricting the freedom of their employees to keep firearms in their cars while at work. Basically, an employer may not “search the locked privately owned vehicles of employees or invited guests on the employer’s parking lot,” so long as any guns are kept “locked out of sight within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment.”

Lucas v. Beckman Coulter, Inc.

So long as an employer complies with the BSEPA’s requirements, it cannot be held civilly or criminally liable for any injury arising from the “transportation, storage, possession, or use of a firearm” from its premises. The law makes two exceptions, however, for cases in which the employer itself actually commits a crime using a firearm or it otherwise “knew that the person using such firearm would commit such criminal act” on its premises.

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Your parents probably told you, “Watch where you’re going!” more than a few times when you were kid. This is not just good advice. It is also an important reminder that you are expected to be aware of your surroundings at all times. From a legal standpoint, your awareness or lack thereof may be a critical issue in a personal injury case, particularly when you have alleged negligence on the part of a property owner.

Cherokee Main Street, LLC v. Ragan

Consider this recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals. This is a car accident case that originated in Cherokee County a little over four years ago. On the day in question, the plaintiff was shopping at a department store in a local shopping center. After leaving the store, she walked down a sidewalk past another store–one of the defendants in this case. The sidewalk had a ramp leading into the parking lot. But there was no formal crosswalk markings.

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Winning a personal injury judgment following a car accident does not always guarantee that the victim will actually get paid. There are cases in which a defendant who lacks adequate financial resources will file for protection under federal bankruptcy law. This can delay and in some cases defeat collection of a valid personal injury judgment under Georgia law.

For instance, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor’s non-exempt property is liquidated to pay any creditors to the extent possible. The remaining debts may then be “discharged.” This does not mean that the debt itself is void. Rather, a discharge means that the debtor is no longer legally obligated to repay the debt, and the creditor may take no further collection action against that individual. However, if there are multiple parties liable for a judgment, the bankruptcy of one defendant does not affect the enforceability of the judgment against the other, non-bankrupt defendants.

Flanders v. Jackson

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Many Georgia residents take out umbrella policies to provide liability coverage above  and beyond their standard auto insurance. Umbrella policies are especially beneficial to victims who sustain financial losses in excess of the normal car insurance policy. For example, if your injuries following a car accident cost you $500,000 in lost wages and medical expenses, and the other driver’s policy only has a $250,000 limit, an umbrella policy can make up that difference.

Government Employees Insurance Company v. Gordon

Of course, that assumes that the company that issued the umbrella policy does not attempt to disclaim coverage. As we know all too well, insurers will never hesitate to try and avoid paying when they can. Here is a recent federal case involving the application of Georgia law in which a court addressed an insurance company’s attempt to avoid its obligations.