Articles Posted in Negligence

Expert testimony is often a critical component of a personal injury case. Judges and jurors are not technical experts and often require assistance in understanding evidence. When it comes to “simple negligence,” though, expert testimony is generally unnecessary. A jury does not need help when common sense is sufficient to weigh the evidence and reach a logical conclusion.

Gardner v. Clark

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a tragic case in which a trial judge improperly demanded expert testimony where none was necessary. The plaintiffs in this case were the children of a woman who died in November 2009. The mother lived in a mobile home that she rented from the defendant.

There are stricter rules in Georgia for bringing a medical malpractice lawsuit versus other types of personal injury claims. Not surprisingly, hospitals often try to classify ordinary negligence cases as malpractice in order to make it more difficult for the plaintiff to pursue his or her claim.

Byrom v. Douglas Hospital, Inc.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently rejected just such an attempt. The plaintiff in this case had gone to a local hospital to undergo tests for a surgical procedure. A nurse transported the plaintiff, who normally walks with a cane, by wheelchair from the exam room to the waiting room.

Many medical malpractice cases involve a physician who prescribed the wrong type or dosage of medication, causing physical harm to the patient. Such negligence is obviously horrific and inexcusable. But the Georgia Court of Appeals recently considered a different sort of negligence case involving a physician and an incorrect prescription.

Carter v. Cornwell

The plaintiff in this case is a Georgia woman who suffers from chronic pain. She had been under the care of the defendant, her physician, for 16 years. During an office visit in 2014, the defendant issued the plaintiff a prescription for 120 pills of hydrocodone. But the defendant subsequently altered the prescription to 180 pills before the plaintiff left his office.

Insurance policies frequently cover any damages incurred due to a car accident. But it is not unusual in Georgia for insurance companies to disclaim or otherwise reject coverage if the insured does not strictly comply with all terms of the policy. In some cases, insurance companies may end up fighting among themselves over who is liable for any damages arising from a personal injury claim.

Selective Insurance Company of America v. Russell

A federal judge in Gainesville recently addressed such a case. This is one of two lawsuits arising from a 2011 car accident. Two vehicles collided, resulting in the death of a passenger in one of the cars. The driver of Car A and the estate of the deceased passenger sued the driver of Car B in Georgia state court.

Although we charge police and fire departments with protecting lives and property, as a matter of law it is difficult to actually sue these agencies if they fail in their duties. Georgia law extends sovereign immunity to absolve state agencies of any liability arising from a “failure to provide, or the method of providing, law enforcement, police, or fire protection.” But there are cases in which a victim may sue the state for negligent application of existing police or fire protection policies, at least according to one recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Grant v. Georgia Forestry Commission

In March 2011 the Georgia Forestry Commission issued a burn permit to a landowner in Bulloch County. Such permits are required before anyone can burn “natural vegetation that is hand piled” such as leaf piles. Unfortunately in this case, the landowner’s fire burned out of control. A fire protection ranger employed by the Commission arrived at the scene to assume responsibility for managing the situation.

In a personal injury lawsuit, such as a negligence claim arising from a car accident, the plaintiff must establish causation—that is, how the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. If a plaintiff fails to advance a plausible theory of causation, a Georgia court may dismiss the case at the summary judgment stage.

Elder v. Hayes

In a recent case, the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit against a driver involved in a three-car accident that took place in Athens, Georgia, in 2010. The critical legal issue was the plaintiff’s theories of causation against the defendant driver. The Court of Appeals determined there was insufficient evidence for a jury to find the defendant was responsible for the defendants’ injuries.

If you are driving and there is a sudden emergency—for example, an accident takes place in front of you and you instinctively swerve to avoid the collision—can you be held liable for your own actions? In many cases, the answer is no. Georgia law recognizes a “sudden emergency” defense. This applies when a person faces a “sudden peril” and, lacking adequate time to assess the situation, takes immediate action that may result in injury to another. Keep in mind, this defense is only available when the person asserting it did not actually cause the emergency.

Smith v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed the application of the emergency defense doctrine to a wrongful death lawsuit arising from a series of accidents that took place on and around a railroad crossing located in Gwinnett County. A pickup truck was traveling southbound towards the crossing. The driver of the truck sped towards a yellow light. The light turned red as the truck entered the intersection. At this point, the truck collided with a van that was attempting to make a left-hand turn into the intersection.

Many Georgia residents do not wish to receive extraordinary medical procedures in the event they are suffering from a terminal illness. Hospitals and health care providers are legally required to honor a patient’s wishes in this respect, especially when there is an Advance Directive making such intentions clear. If a hospital ignores such a directive, it may be liable for causing the patient unnecessary pain and suffering.

Doctors Hospital of Atlanta v. Alicea, Administratrix

The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed the subject of when a hospital may escape liability for ignoring a terminal patient’s Advance Directive. The case is a pending lawsuit involving a 91-year-old woman who passed away in 2012. The plaintiff is the woman’s granddaughter, acting as the administratrix of her estate.

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.

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.