Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Following the death of Ben Everson, his parents sued Brian Jordan, the emergency room physician who attended to Ben two days before his death. Jordan’s motion for summary judgment was denied by the trial court, and he appealed to the Court of Appeals. In Everson v. Phoebe Sumter Medical Center, 798 SE2d 667 (2017), the Court of Appeals affirmed the denial of summary judgment. In reaching its decision, the Court of Appeals held that an independent, intervening act breaks the chain of causation in a wrongful death case only to the extent that the independent, intervening act was “wrongful or negligent.” Because this holding was erroneous and was in conflict with longstanding precedent of the Georgia Supreme Court, the Supreme Court granted certiorari review and reversed that portion of “Everson.” View "Jordan v. Everson" on Justia Law

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The issue before the Georgia Supreme Court in this case was whether an employer has to show the availability of suitable employment to justify suspension of workers’ compensation benefits after already establishing that an employee’s work-related aggravation to a preexisting condition has ceased to be the cause of the employee’s disability. The Court of Appeals held the answer was yes; the Supreme Court disagreed, finding the Court of Appeals erred in remanding this case for the ALJ court to determine if the employer demonstrated suitable employment for the injured employee. View "Ocmulgee EMC v. McDuffie" on Justia Law

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This case concerned OCGA 36-11-1 and a split of opinions in two controlling case law precedents decided by the Georgia court of Appeals. In In re Estate of Leonard, 783 SEd2 470 (2016), Joe Leonard, Jr. allegedly sustained injuries while riding as a passenger aboard a Whitfield County Transit Services bus. Leonard hired a lawyer; his lawyer sent a letter to Robert Smalley, an attorney in Dalton, Georgia. Although Smalley was engaged in private practice, he also served as the County Attorney for Whitfield County, a position to which he was appointed prior to his receipt of Leonard’s letter. In that letter, Leonard’s lawyer referred to the injuries that Leonard allegedly sustained in January, and he asked that Smalley accept the letter as a presentment of Leonard’s claim against the County. The County ultimately moved for summary judgment under OCGA 36-11-1 claiming that Leonard never properly presented his claim, and as such, was barred. The County acknowledged the letter Leonard’s lawyer sent to Smalley, but argued that was not a proper presentment because Smalley was not an in-house county attorney. The Georgia Court of Appeals said in Coweta County v. Cooper, 733 SE2d 348) (2012), that presentment may properly be made to the county attorney, but only if the county attorney is employed by the county in house. In this case, the Court of Appeals distinguished between inside and outside county attorneys, holding that presentment to an outside county attorney was not a proper presentment. The Georgia Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari to review the decision in Leonard, and reversed, holding that presentment to the county attorney (inside or outside) was presentment for the purposes of OCGA 36-11-1. View "Croy v. Whitfield County" on Justia Law

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Joshua Martin sustained life-changing injuries in a brutal attack at a bus stop outside the Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park in 2007. A jury determined that Six Flags was liable for those injuries, along with the four named individual defendants who perpetrated the attack. The trial court apportioned the jury’s $35 million verdict between the parties, assigning 92% against Six Flags and 2% each against the four assailants. On cross-appeals by Six Flags and Martin, a majority of the twelve-member Court of Appeals found no error in the jury’s determination regarding Six Flags’ liability but concluded that the trial court had erred in its pretrial rulings regarding apportionment of fault, necessitating a full retrial. The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine: (1) whether Six Flags could properly be held liable for the injuries inflicted in this attack; and (2) assuming liability was proper, whether the trial court’s apportionment error does indeed require a full retrial. After review, the Supreme Court concluded: (1) because the attack that caused Martin’s injuries began while both he and his assailants were on Six Flags property, Six Flags’ liability was not extinguished simply because Martin stepped outside the property’s boundaries while attempting to distance himself from his attackers; and (2) the trial court’s apportionment error did not require a full retrial, but rather required retrial only for the apportionment of damages. View "Martin v. Six Flags Over Georgia II, L.P." on Justia Law

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In 2011, Appellee Sean Elliott filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Appellants Resurgens and Dr. Tapan Daftari in the State Court of Fulton County. Elliott alleged that Dr. Daftari failed to timely diagnose and treat an abscess in his thoracic spinal cord, which resulted in his paralysis. During trial four years later, Elliott attempted to call Savannah Sullivan, a nurse who was not specifically identified as a potential witness in either Elliott’s written discovery responses or in the parties’ pre-trial order (“PTO”). The trial court subsequently excluded Sullivan as a witness. After the jury returned a defense verdict, Elliott appealed to the Court of Appeals, arguing that the trial court’s exclusion of Sullivan was error. The Court of Appeals agreed, reversing the jury’s judgment and remanding for a new trial. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded the Court of Appeals erred in its judgment, and reversed. View "Resurgens, P.C. v. Elliott" on Justia Law

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Following the suicide death of her 14-year-old daughter, Appellee Laura Lane Maia sued the mayor and city council of the City of Richmond Hill (collectively, “the City”) and Douglas Sahlberg, individually and in his capacity as an officer with the Richmond Hill Police Department (collectively “Appellants”), alleging wrongful death and associated claims. Appellee’s daughter, Sydney Sanders, attempted suicide by cutting herself in the neck, chest, and abdomen, and she was subsequently taken to the hospital for medical treatment. Officers with the Richmond Hill Police Department (“RHPD”), including Officer Sahlberg, responded to the hospital to investigate, and Sanders’s injuries were photographed by the officers. Sahlberg accessed those photographs on his work computer and showed them to his daughter, K.S., who was a classmate of Sanders; shortly thereafter, K.S. was seen using her cell phone to show the images to other classmates. Sanders was distraught and mortified to discover that the photographs had been shared. In her complaint, Appellee averred (inter alia): that Salhberg had a duty to keep the injury photographs confidential; that he had breached that duty; that Sahlberg should have known that the publication of the photographs created a reasonable apprehension that Sanders would further harm herself; and that Sanders’s death was caused by Sahlberg’s negligent conduct. Appellants moved for summary judgment, asserting that Appellee could not demonstrate causation because, under Georgia law, suicide was generally an independent act which breaks the chain of causation from the events preceding the death. The trial court denied the motion with a one-page order and granted a certificate of immediate review. A divided Court of Appeals affirmed, concluding that, because “Sanders’s suicide was a reasonably foreseeable consequence of Sahlberg’s negligent conduct, [Sanders’s] act of suicide was not an intervening act that would preclude Sahlberg’s breach of duty from constituting the proximate cause of that injury.” The Supreme Court concluded Appellee could not demonstrate proximate cause and therefore reversed the Court of Appeals. View "City of Richmond Hill v. Maia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff-appellee J.B. was injured when certified registered nurse anesthetist (“CRNA”) Paul Serdula sexually assaulted her in a surgical suite in the dental practice of defendant-appellant Goldstein, Garber & Salama, LLC ("GGS"). The Georgia Supreme Court granted certiorari to the Court of Appeals in this matter to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in concluding that a reasonable jury could find that a third party’s sexual molestation of J.B. was an act foreseeable by GGS, whether that Court erred in affirming the trial court’s denial of GGS’s motion for a directed verdict on the issue of negligence per se, and whether GGS waived any objection to the jury verdict’s apportionment of fault. Finding the trial court should have granted GGS’s motion for directed verdict with respect to the foreseeability of Serdula's actions, it was error for the Court of Appeals to hold otherwise, the Supreme Court reversed the appellate court's judgment. Furthermore, the Court determined the appellate court erred with respect to the directed verdict on the issue of negligence per se. The Court did not reach the issue of whether GGS waived any objection to the jury's apportionment of fault. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "Goldstein, Garber & Salama, LLC v. J.B." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court stemming from an appeal in a personal injury case arising from an automobile accident. The Eleventh Circuit asked for the proper interpretation of OCGA 9-11-67.1, which governed the formation of settlement agreements pursuant to a pre-suit “offer to settle a tort claim for personal injury, bodily injury, or death arising from the use of a motor vehicle and prepared by or with the assistance of an attorney on behalf of a claimant or claimants” (a “Pre-Suit Offer”). The Supreme Court responded that OCGA 9-11-67.1 did not prohibit a claimant from conditioning acceptance of a Pre-Suit Offer upon the performance of some act, including a timely payment. The Court left it to the Eleventh Circuit to apply this principle to the facts of this case. View "Grange Mutual Casualty Co. v. Woodard" on Justia Law

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Amanda Rae Coon lived in Alabama but received treatment from a hospital owned by The Medical Center, Inc. in Georgia. After the hospital mishandled the remains of her stillborn baby, Coon filed this lawsuit. Among other claims, she sought to recover damages for the negligent infliction of emotional distress. The trial court ultimately entered an order granting summary judgment to the hospital. The court applied Georgia’s common-law “physical impact rule” to reject Coon’s negligent infliction of emotional distress claim, rather than applying case law from the Alabama courts that allows such claims based on the mishandling of human remains. Coon appealed, and the Court of Appeals affirmed, although the seven judges disagreed about the choice-of-law analysis. The Georgia Supreme Court concluded that where a claim in a Georgia lawsuit is governed by the common law, and the common law is also in force in the other state, as it was in Alabama, the common law as determined by Georgia’s courts controlled. Because the Court of Appeals reached the right result, the Supreme Court affirmed its judgment. View "Coon v. The Medical Center, Inc." on Justia Law

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Bernard Norton, by and through Kim Norton, brought a wrongful death action against a number of defendants who were affiliated with a nursing home in which his wife, Lola Norton, died. Bernard claimed that negligent treatment caused Lola’s death. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint or, in the alternative, to stay the proceedings and compel arbitration of all claims in accordance with an agreement entered into by Lola at the time she was admitted to the nursing home. The trial court granted the motion to stay and compel arbitration, and Bernard appealed, contending that, as a wrongful death beneficiary, he could not be bound to Lola’s arbitration agreement. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court and found that Lola’s beneficiaries were not required to arbitrate their wrongful death claims against the defendants. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to determine whether an arbitration agreement governed by the Federal Arbitration Act (“FAA”) and entered into by a decedent and/or her power of attorney, which bound the decedent and her estate to arbitration, was also enforceable against the decedent’s beneficiaries in a wrongful death action. The Court found that such an arbitration agreement did bind the decedent’s beneficiaries with respect to their wrongful death claims, and, accordingly, reversed the Court of Appeals. View "United Health Services of Georgia, Inc. v. Norton" on Justia Law