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Are you thinking about taking a cruise? Before you buy your tickets, you need to think about the potential legal implications if you are injured while onboard a ship. Do not assume that the normal personal injury laws applicable to businesses and individuals in Georgia are in effect on the “high seas.” Indeed, much of what happens on a cruise ship is governed by maritime law, which is often not as friendly toward injured passengers as you might think.

Caron v. NCL (BAHAMAS), LTD.

A recent decision by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta offers a helpful illustration. Keep in mind, while this case was originally filed in a Florida court, it applies federal law, and the 11th Circuit’s rulings are also considered binding on federal courts here in Georgia.

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When it comes to surgical procedures, any Georgia healthcare professional will tell you their top safety priority is ensuring the proper sterilization of any equipment that gets near the patient’s body. Indeed, there is always a risk of transmitting a potentially lethal infection to a patient, even during “routine” surgery.

Collett v. Olympus Optical Co.

Of course, doctors and nurses are only effective in preventing infections if they have the right tools. So, what happens when a medical device manufacturer produces a defective product? The patient may suffer an infection and be forced to seek damages in court.

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The term “hazing” is used to broadly describe a wide range of social rituals designed to humiliate or embarrass the subject. Sometimes hazing is nothing more than a silly prank. But when it involves physical or sexual abuse of any kind, that crosses a line–and the victims have the right to seek damages via a personal injury lawsuit.

L.A. v. Riverside Military Academy

Hazing has been in the news recently here in Georgia due to a lawsuit filed against Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. The lawsuit was filed in Georgia federal court on November 15, 2018. The plaintiff is identified only by the initials “L.A.” According to the complaint, the now-18-year-old L.A. attended Riverside when he was between the ages of 12 and 13. The lawsuit was filed in federal court because L.A. currently lives in Chicago.

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Workers’ compensation is a state-run insurance system designed to provide “no-fault” benefits to employees injured on the job. No-fault means that a worker may receive medical and income replacement benefits without having to establish the employer was negligent or somehow responsible for the injury. However, the injury must occur in the course of employment and not some “individual pursuit.”

Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation

Georgia courts have long held that an employee who is on a scheduled lunch or rest break during the workday is engaged in an “individual pursuit,” and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured during that time. Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed that principle in a case addressing an employee was injured while preparing to leave work for lunch.

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In Georgia, workers’ compensation is intended to provide employees with an “exclusive remedy” against their employers for job-related accidents. This means that the employer is required to pay certain benefits, regardless of fault. In exchange, the employee has no legal right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. The exclusive remedy rule does not, however, apply to third parties whose negligence may have contributed to the accident.

Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Of course, there are scenarios in which a third party may try and claim protection under the workers’ compensation law as “statutory employers.” Here is a recent example of such an attempt. In this case, Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc., the plaintiff worked as an electrician. The defendant hired an electrical contractor to assist in some renovation work on one of its facilities. The plaintif, in turn, worked for the contractor.

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There are two significant hurdles a plaintiff must clear when bringing a premises liability claim: First, there must be proof that a “hazard” existed on the defendant’s property that caused the plaintiff’s injury; and second, the plaintiff must show the defendant had “actual or constructive knowledge” of this hazard.

Green v. Big Lots Stores, Inc.

Here is a recent example in which a plaintiff managed to clear the first hurdle but not the second. This case, Green v. Big Lots Stores, Inc., involves a slip-and-all accident that occurred in August 2015. The plaintiff and his wife went to the defendant’s store to do their grocery shopping. They entered the store just as it was opening for the day. According to the plaintiff, he noticed a store manager “pushing a push broom in the aisles.”

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Personal injury litigation often takes a long time to resolve. In many cases, the victims and their families need to wait years before seeing a dime from their claims. This can impose a substantial financial hardship, especially if you are an accident victim unable to return to work and earn a living due your injuries.

For this reason, there are many companies that now offer litigation financing. Basically, a third party advances funds to the plaintiff to help them pay personal expenses while the case is pending. If the plaintiff is successful, the plaintiff repays the funds to the third party, together with any previously agreed upon interest and fees. If the plaintiff recovers nothing from the case, they owe the financing company nothing.

Ruth v. Cherokee Funding, LLC

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There are a number of situations in which an individual or business may be held liable for a personal injury caused by someone else. Two of the more common ones involve the legal concepts of respondeat superior and premises liability. The first, respondeat superior, refers to cases in which an employee commits a tort in the course of carrying out the employer’s business. The second, premises liability, means a property owner had superior knowledge of a safety hazard that caused an injury to a person lawfully on the premises.

Manners v. 5 Star Lodge and Stables, LLC

Neither of these rules means a business is automatically liable for an accident just because it involves one of its employees or occurs on its land. Here is an example taken from a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision. In this case, a woman was accidentally shot while on the premises of a lodge. The Court of Appeals, upholding an earlier ruling by a trial judge, held that the lodge was not legally responsible for the plaintiff’s shooting or injuries.

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If you want to file a civil lawsuit against someone in Georgia, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations. This is basically the legal time limit to file a claim. For personal injury cases, Georgia’s statute of limitations is normally two years from the date the action “accrued.” For example, let us say you were injured in a car accident that took place on November 1, 2016. Under Georgia law, you need to sue the negligent driver no later than November 1, 2018. Even if you file one day past this deadline, the judge will throw out your case because legally, no court may hear a case once the statute of limitations has expired.

Williams v. Durden

However, there are certain events that can “toll” the statute of limitations. Tolling effectively stops the clock for a specified period of time. The burden is on the plaintiff to prove there is some legal grounds for tolling. In other words, do not assume you can simply file a personal injury lawsuit after the expiration of the two-year time limit unless you can cite a specific reason for tolling under Georgia law.

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Although medical malpractice cases are typically governed by state law, there are some situations in which federal law may also play a role. For example, the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) sets standards that hospital emergency departments must follow when accepting Medicare patients. Hospitals may be held liable for failing to meet its EMTALA obligations, such as failing to properly screen or treat a patient who presents with a qualifying emergency medical condition.

Pham v. Black

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed the application of EMTALA to a medical malpractice claim against a Georgia-based hospital and several of its doctors. This case began when the now-deceased victim arrived at the hospital’s emergency room complaining of a “racing heart rate.” One of the defendants, Dr. Pham, was on duty that night and had general responsibility for admitting patients to the emergency department.