Articles Tagged with negligence

Each year, many Georgians celebrate the 4th of July by purchasing and setting off their own fireworks despite the known safety risks. Unfortunately, this can lead to tragic outcomes. Not only is there is the potential for something to go wrong when setting off fireworks in an unsupervised environment–the mere act of transporting them can pose a risk to life and limb as well.

Pisciotti v. Abney

A recent lawsuit filed in Valdosta, Georgia federal court, Pisciotti v. Abney, offers just one example of what can go wrong. This case involves an accident that occurred on the 4th of July in 2017. Four teenagers were traveling in a Jeep through Hamilton County, Florida. The driver is one of the defendants in this case, while the victim was one of his passengers.

Most personal injury claims arising from an auto accident are paid via a settlement with the negligent driver’s insurance company. What happens when the insurer refuses to settle and the injured parties successfully sue the negligent driver for damages? In such scenarios, the driver may be able to sue the insurer for its “bad faith” refusal to settle the personal injury claim in the first place.

First Acceptance Insurance Company of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes

When does an insurance company’s “duty to settle” actually arise? Does the insurer have to wait for the injured victims to file a lawsuit? Or should the insurer reasonably anticipate when such a lawsuit is likely to occur? The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed both of those questions.

Car accidents often leave victims with lifelong injuries that never fully heal. When these accidents are the result of negligence, the victim has every right to pursue a personal injury claim in court. But what happens when the negligent party is an employee of the federal government?

Rodriguez-Densley v. United States

This was precisely the scenario confronted by a federal judge in Macon during a recent case, Rodriguez-Densley v. United States. The underlying facts of this case are fairly straightforward. The plaintiff was returning home in her car. She approached a U-shaped residential driveway. At that same time, a United States Postal Service delivery truck was in the driveway.

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.

Although you might think negligence is a matter of “common sense,” the law is often not so simple. There are many situations in which a defendant who you might assume is negligent can still avoid liability due to a particular state law. Such exceptions unfortunately may leave victims with little or no recourse to seek damages.

Patton v. Cumberland Corporation

A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates how one of these special legal exceptions work in practice. This case involves a single-vehicle truck accident. The plaintiff was riding in a truck with another man when it hit a fallen power cable. Although the driver tried to avoid the cable, the wire “caught the rear of the truck, lifting it 18 inches or more off the ground,” according to court records.

Although personal injury and wrongful death claims are often brought up in the context of negligence–i.e., unintentional but reckless acts–there are situations in which the victim is injured or killed through an intentional criminal act. In such situations, the victim or his or her family can definitely seek damages against the criminal.

What about local law enforcement and private entities that were charged with protecting the public from a particular criminal? Can they also be held liable?

SecureAlert, Inc. v. Boggs

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.

Everyone recognizes that teachers have a difficult job. We also trust teachers with the education and well-being of our children. So, when the worst happens and a child dies while in a teacher’s custody, grieving parents will understandably seek accountability and justice through the courts.

Barnett v. Caldwell

Unfortunately, when it comes to teachers employed by public schools, the legal system makes such accountability difficult. Although the Georgia Constitution states that a state employee may be personally liable for “negligent failure to perform” a “ministerial” function, they are generally immune from lawsuits arising from discretionary acts. In non-legal terms, if the law mandates a state employee do something, then he or she can be sued for negligently failing to do so. If the employee has discretion to do something, however, then he or she cannot be sued if that decision caused injury to a third party, unless the victim can prove that the employee acted with “actual malice” or “actual intent to cause injury.”

Georgia courts enforce strict jurisdictional requirements when it comes to personal injury lawsuits. This means you cannot proceed with a case unless the court has both the appropriate subject-matter and geographic authority over the parties. Even when a case does satisfy all jurisdictional requirements, a court may still refuse to hear if there is another, more “convenient” forum available to resolve the dispute.

La Fontaine v. Signature Research, Inc.

This is known as the doctrine of “forum non conveniens.” Under Georgia law, a court may “decline to adjudicate” a lawsuit whenever it “finds that in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties and witnesses a claim or action would be more properly heard in a forum outside this state.” This rule, formalized by legislation in 2005, superseded earlier rulings by the Georgia Supreme Court on this subject.

It is a well-established principle of Georgia personal injury law that an employer can be held legally responsible for the negligent acts of its employees. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident because a delivery van ran a red light, you can sue the company that owns the delivery van for damages. This is known as “vicarious liability.”

What happens when a teenager drives his or her parents’ car and causes an accident? Vicarious liability can also apply in these cases under a rule known as the “family purpose doctrine.” As explained by the Georgia courts, the doctrine holds that “the owner of an automobile who permits members of his household to drive it for their own pleasure or convenience is regarded as making such a family purpose his ‘business.’” So, by letting your child use your car, you are creating a “master-servant” relationship similar to when an employer authorizes an employee to use a company-owned vehicle.

Doby v. Bivins