Articles Posted in Negligence

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Georgia’s mental health system has come under increasing public and regulatory scrutiny in recent years. Too many people suffering from serious mental illness do not receive adequate treatment. While that is tragic in and of itself, the system’s failures are compounded when these untreated patients injure or even kill innocent third parties.

Curles v. Psychiatric Solutions, Inc.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently considered a mental health care facility’s potential civil liability in one such case. A woman with a long history of “psychotic breaks” was committed to a private psychiatric facility on three separate occasions. Approximately two weeks after the facility discharged her for the third time, the woman killed her grandmother and another man.

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Car accidents are often the result of a driver failing to keep a proper lookout for hazards in the road. As a driver, you should never assume the road in front of you is clear. If you do get into an accident caused by another who did not keep his or her eyes on the road, you may have a personal injury claim for damages.

Kelly v. Fann

Georgia courts never assume that a driver failed to keep a lookout. The legal burden is on the plaintiff to establish, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the defendant ignored a legal duty. This means, for instance, the plaintiff must show that the defendant ignored the rules of the road or failed to exercise appropriate caution when confronting a known hazard. A judge may dismiss a car accident lawsuit on summary judgment if the plaintiff cannot produce sufficient evidence from which a jury can find negligence.

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Expert testimony is often crucial to product liability cases in Georgia. After all, most people, notably those who serve on a civil jury, lack the technical knowledge of how a given product or manufacturing process works. That is why experts are employed by plaintiffs to establish causation.

Under Georgia law, a trial judge has the discretion to allow expert testimony if three conditions are met:

  • There are “sufficient facts or data” in the record to support the expert’s opinions;
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The Atlanta region is widely known as one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. All Georgia drivers have a legal duty to stop and yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. But pedestrians must also exercise care. Among other things, if a pedestrian crosses a road outside of a clearly marked crosswalk, he or she must yield to traffic. A pedestrian who ignores this rule assumes the risk of injury and may not be able to win a personal injury claim if hit by a car.

Politzer v. Xiaoyan

Here is an example of how Georgia courts will not show much sympathy for a pedestrian who fails to follow the rules of the road. The plaintiff in this case was out walking in her neighborhood one evening. It was already dark out and the plaintiff was wearing mostly black clothing. As she was completing her walk and returning home, the plaintiff crossed a road outside of the crosswalk, which she claimed was “unsafe” because drivers were known to speed through the intersection without stopping and yielding to pedestrians.

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Personal injury litigation is often a lengthy process, involving months or even years of pretrial discovery, followed by a trial and possibly several rounds of appeals. What happens when the defendant simply fails to respond to the plaintiff’s lawsuit? Does the plaintiff automatically win?

Anderson v. Family Dollar Stores of Georgia, LLC

In legal terms, a defendant who fails to answer a properly served complaint “defaults.” This does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff is entitled to damages. The default only means the judge must take the factual allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint as true. The judge must then determine if those allegations are properly pled–i.e., that they actually state a legal basis for granting relief.

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In a personal injury case, you cannot recover damages against a defendant based on negligence if you voluntarily assumed the underlying risk. To put it another way, if your own negligence caused the accident, you cannot blame someone else. In some cases, the plaintiff’s responsibility is considered so obvious, a judge will not even let a negligence claim proceed to trial.

Fuller v. McCormick

Here is one such case. The plaintiff worked as a farmhand. During the 13 years of his employment, the plaintiff regularly operated a Bobcat utility vehicle to perform various tasks around the farm.

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Property owners are liable for injuries caused by their failure to correct or repair dangerous conditions. But what if the owner has rented or leased the property to someone else? Under Georgia law, an owner who has “fully parted with possession” (i.e., a landlord) is not liable for injuries sustained by third parties on the premises.

There are two exceptions to this rule. First, the landlord is liable if the injury was the result of “defective construction.” Additionally, the landlord is responsible for his or her own “failure to keep the premises in repair.”

Aldredge v. Byrd, et al.

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If you are injured due to a hospital’s negligence, you would assume that you have the right to sue for damages. If the hospital is a charitable institution, however, it may not be that simple. For nearly a century, Georgia courts have recognized a special “charitable immunity” that protects such hospitals from personal injury lawsuits.

Lewis v. Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation, Inc.

The charitable immunity doctrine has a long and sordid history. It first crept up in a case decided in the 1830s by the House of Lords, which used to be the United Kingdom’s highest court. Although the Lords later repudiated their decision, American courts in the late 19th century picked up on the idea of charitable immunity and ran with it.

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If a reckless driver injures someone in a car accident, the driver may not be the only person liable for damages. If the driver was operating a vehicle owned by his or her employer, the employer may be vicariously liable for the victim’s injuries. If the employer had the vehicle insured, the insurance company may bear the ultimate financial responsibility.

Great American Alliance Insurance Co. v. Anderson

Of course, insurance companies often will not pay out without a fight. With respect to automobile insurance, policies often exclude coverage for employer-owned vehicles that are not used with the employer’s permission. What precisely constitutes “permission” can be difficult to determine.

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Dog bites and animal attacks are scary experiences that can result in significant physical and mental injuries. Owners who fail to take responsibility for dangerous animals may be held liable in court. But victims may have difficulty recovering damages if they voluntarily assumed risk or had “equal knowledge” of the danger posed by a particular animal.

Gilreath v. Smith

Recently the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit brought by a woman injured in a rooster attack. The court upheld a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the rooster’s owner. The critical issue was the level of prior warning the victim received.