Articles Tagged with liability

In any type of personal injury lawsuit, it is important for the parties to the case to preserve all evidence that may assist the court in determining the facts. Under no circumstances should a party ever intentionally withhold or destroy evidence. Even in cases where evidence may have been lost by accident, a judge may still interpret that as an intentional act and impose sanctions against the offending party.

O’Berry v. Turner

For example, a federal judge in Valdosta, Georgia, recently imposed sanctions against a pair of corporate defendants in an ongoing truck accident lawsuit. The underlying case involves a June 2013 incident. A man was driving his car when a tractor trailer allegedly swerved into his lane. The impact sent the car off the road and into a light pole. The driver and his passenger were injured and subsequently sued multiple parties, including the driver and owners of the tractor trailer.

In Georgia, the family of a deceased person may file a wrongful death lawsuit if there is evidence that someone else’s negligent or criminal acts were the cause of death. A common example would be a person killed in a drunk driving accident. In such circumstances, the family of the victim might pursue a wrongful death claim against the drunk driver.

Mayor and City of Richmond Hill v. Maia

What about a case in which a negligent act leads the victim to commit suicide? Can the family still bring a wrongful death claim? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this question.

Employers are normally liable for the acts of their employees. In tort law this is known as vicarious liability. In Georgia, vicarious liability applies whenever an employee acts “by [the employer’s] command or in the prosecution and within the scope of [the employer’s] business, whether the same are committed by negligence or voluntarily.” In other words, if you direct your employee to complete a particular task, and in doing so he injured another, the victim can sue you for damages.

Jefferson v. Houston Hospitals, Inc.

But what about a case where the employee ignores your instructions? A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates how employers may be able to get off the hook even in cases of egregious employee misconduct. The case arises from a 2014 incident that made national headlines. In April 2014, a former technician at a hospital in Perry, Georgia, pleaded guilty to 10 counts of reckless conduct and one count of felony computer forgery.

Negligence exists under Georgia law whenever a person breaches a “legal duty to conform” to a specified legal standard, and as a result, another person suffers an injury or loss. In the context of a car accident, for example, a person may be negligent if he or she fails to follow the rules of the road, thereby causing an accident that injures another driver or damages their vehicle. Indeed, many personal injury cases come down to establishing which driver’s actions were responsible for the accident.

Newsome v. LinkAmerica Express, Inc.

In a recent case, a divided Georgia Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit arising from an accident where a car hit a parked tractor trailer. Both parties—the driver and the tractor trailer owner—claimed the other party’s negligence was the sole cause of the accident. The trial court sided with the defendant, while a majority of the Court of Appeals said the plaintiff should at least be permitted to argue his case before a jury.

When it comes to trucking accidents, Georgia has what is known as a “direct action” rule. This means that if you are injured due to a commercial truck driver’s negligence, you can name not only the trucking company but also its insurance carrier as defendants. This is an exception to the normal rule. In a personal injury case arising from a normal car accident, you cannot directly sue the insurer. This is because it is generally considered unfair to the trucking company if the jury is made aware that an insurance company is paying for any potential damages.

Wallace v. Wiley Sanders Truck Lines, Inc.

Trucking companies are understandably unhappy with the direct action rule, especially after they lose a lawsuit. But their complaints often fall on deaf ears. Consider this recent case from Columbus, Georgia.

Expert testimony is often the key to winning a product liability lawsuit. Anyone can offer an opinion on the safety, or lack thereof, of a given product. But trial courts must go one step further and determine the qualifications of an expert before admitting his or her testimony. Under Georgia law, expert testimony must be “based on sufficient facts or data.” It must be the “the product of reliable principles and method,” and the expert must personally apply those principles and methods to the case at hand.

Moore v. Cottrell, Inc.

In a recent case, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a trial court’s decision to exclude expert testimony in a product liability lawsuit. The plaintiff was driving a car hauler with a two-level trailer. The hauler did not have a built-in ladder, but there was a portable ladder attached so the driver could access the upper level of the trailer.

Can a property owner be held liable for persons injured due to gang-related activity on or near their premises? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this question. The appeals court was asked to review a $35 million verdict issued against a popular Cobb County theme park after a man was savagely beaten following an incident in the facility’s parking lot.

Six Flags Over Georgia II LP v. Martin

As the Court of Appeals explained in its opinion, the theme park is “located in a well-known, high-crime area, which has been the site of numerous instances of criminal gang activity.” There had also been a number of reported incidents where violence inside the park “spilled over” to outside locations.

According to statistics from the Federal Railroad Administration, there are more than 2,000 vehicle-train collisions at railroad crossings every year. When such accidents result in serious injury or death to innocent motorists, it is only logical the victims would want to hold the railroad responsible. But in some cases Georgia law may frustrate these efforts, as illustrated by a recent federal appeals court decision.

Long v. CSX Transportation, Inc.

This case involves a fatal accident that occurred at the Emory Street Crossing in Covington, Georgia. In 1974, the Georgia Department of Transportation contracted with a private railroad to install new gates and crossing signals at the Emory Street Crossing. Some years later, the railroad made some changes to the design, which resulted in a 36-foot gap between the installed protective devices and the main railroad line.

When a car accident involves two or more vehicles, an injured person may seek damages against all responsible parties. The jury must then apportion fault among all of the parties—including possibly the victim—when awarding damages. While judges typically do not second-guess a jury’s apportionment of fault, there are exceptional occasions in which the courts find a jury’s verdict simply cannot be supported by the available evidence.

Redmon v. Daniel

Here is a recent example from here in Georgia. The victim in this case was a male pedestrian walking along a highway exit ramp in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Two vehicles were using the ramp, a Chevrolet and a garbage truck. The Chevrolet struck the victim first. The driver later testified the victim was “in the middle of the road” and she did not see him until the impact.

Uninsured motorist coverage is designed, among other things, to compensate you if you are in an accident with an unknown vehicle. A common example is a “hit and run” where the offending driver speeds away and is never identified. In such cases, your insurance carrier is supposed to provide uninsured motorist benefits. You should always keep in mind that insurance is a contract governed by state law, and as with any contract, there may be unusual circumstances that are not covered by the policy.

American Alternative Insurance Company v. Bennett

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed such an unusual case. The plaintiff in this case was driving his tractor trailer down a road in Brantley County, Georgia. According to his testimony, a second tractor-trailer transporting “a load of logs” passed him going in the opposite direction. Shortly thereafter, “a log hanging off of the oncoming log truck struck plaintiff’s tractor, shattering the windshield and causing shattered glass to impact the plaintiff’s eyes and face.”