Articles Posted in Third Party Liability

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia premises liability case discussing the duties a condominium complex owes its residents. Ultimately, the court concluded that the condo complex was not liable for injuries inflicted upon the plaintiff by a third party while the plaintiff was waiting outside the complex’s gates because his key fob had not yet been activated.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff moved into the defendant condo complex in February 2014. The complex had several controlled-access pedestrian and vehicle gates, which required residents to hold a key fob up to a panel to gain access. When the plaintiff purchased his unit, he initially was not provided a key fob. A few weeks after he moved in he was given a fob, but it did not work. The plaintiff contacted management several times without resolution.

During this period, the plaintiff would typically wait at the gate for another resident to enter, at which point he would follow behind them. On one night, about a month after the plaintiff moved in, he was returning home late one night and waited at the gate for 15 to 20 minutes without another resident entering the complex. The plaintiff, who was with his girlfriend, eventually parked on the street. As the plaintiff was walking toward the complex, a man robbed him at knifepoint. A struggle ensued, and the plaintiff was seriously injured as a result.

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The state’s high court recently issued an opinion in a Georgia drunk driving accident. According to the court’s opinion, one of the defendants in the case was driving his cousin’s vehicle when he crashed into the plaintiff’s car. Evidently, the defendant was drinking with his cousin, when his cousin gave him his car keys and asked him to drive. The cousin knew that the defendant was intoxicated, did not have a driver’s license, and had a history of recklessness. The driver collided with the plaintiff’s car, resulting in serious injuries.

Following the accident, the plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the driver for negligence, and also the driver’s cousin for negligent entrustment. At trial, the court found that the defendants were acting while under the influence of alcohol and that they acted with willful misconduct, malice, and wantonness. The plaintiff challenged the punitive damages award he received.

Georgia law permits plaintiffs to obtain punitive damages in very limited circumstances. One such situation is in cases that involve intoxicated defendants. In these cases, the court will permit punitive damages to deter, penalize, or punish a defendant. Plaintiffs must establish by clear and convincing evidence that the defendants acted in a way that showed willful misconduct, malice, wantonness, and conscious indifference. Generally, Georgia limits the damage awards to $250,000, but there are exemptions in cases where the accident resulted from the defendant’s intoxication. The court may award punitive damages against an “active tortfeasor,” but not to other defendants in the action. However, the term “active tortfeasor” is not limited to drunk drivers.

In Georgia personal injury cases, vicarious liability laws establish that an employer could be liable for the acts of its employees if the employee causes injury to another while working within the scope of the business. The employer is liable when the employee was serving the employer’s interests in furtherance of the employer’s business and within the scope of his employment.

In a recent Court of Appeals of Georgia case, the court considered a vicarious liability claim. According to the court’s opinion, the defendant worked at the grill for a local deli and assisted with catering deliveries. If the defendant were scheduled to make one or more deliveries, he would get to work early to prepare the grill before making the delivery with his own car. Because the defendant was an hourly employee, he was only paid when he was clocked in, and often had to seek permission to come in early to make a delivery. When the defendant made a delivery, the employer would cover the cost of gas, in addition to paying the defendant his regular hourly wage.

On the day of the accident, the defendant was called in to make a catering delivery despite a local state of emergency due to a winter storm. On his way to prepare the grill before taking the delivery, the defendant lost control of his car and crashed into a vehicle that was parked on the road’s shoulder, killing his brother-in-law as well as another man.

Earlier this month, the state’s supreme court issued a written opinion in a Georgia dog bite case discussing if a landlord could be liable for injuries that were caused by a tenant’s dog. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff failed to show that any potential negligence on the landlord’s part was the cause of her injuries.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was walking her dogs when she was attacked by several dogs that had escaped from a fenced yard a few blocks away. Evidently, the dogs belonged to a family who rented a home that was owned by the defendant. The plaintiff first filed a claim against the dogs’ owners, but later joined the landlord as a defendant. This case involves only the landlord’s potential liability.

The plaintiff’s claimed that the dogs were able to escape from the fenced yard because the landlord failed to repair a broken gate latch. Apparently, shortly after moving in, the gate latch broke. To keep their dogs in the backyard, the tenants came up with a temporary solution involving tying a leash to the fence and using cement blocks to prevent the gate from opening. On the day of the attack, the dogs broke free. It was assumed that the landlord knew the latch was broken and that the tenants kept dogs on the property.

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Although many people can safely drive a car year after year without an issue, driving a car is actually a complex activity that requires a significant amount of coordination, judgment, and skill. Like other technical skills, driving is something that takes practice to master. Thus, young and inexperienced drivers are those most likely to cause Georgia car accidents. Indeed, according to government statistics, there are over 180 fatal Georgia car accidents involving motorists aged under 21 years of age. Of course, this does not consider the number of accidents caused by inexperienced drivers as well as those resulting only in injury.

Regardless of a driver’s experience, they owe the motorists with whom they share the road a duty of care to safely operate their vehicle and to follow all posted traffic signs and traffic laws. When a youthful or inexperienced driver causes an accident, they may be held liable for any injuries that are caused as a result.

One issue that may arise in a Georgia car accident involving a young driver is whether that driver’s parents can be held responsible. This is important because most young drivers have few assets with which to compensate an accident victim. However, under the family purpose doctrine, parents may be liable for a child’s negligence in some circumstances.

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In a recent Georgia slip-and-fall opinion, a state appellate court discussed whether a plaintiff’s case should proceed to trial against a defendant maintenance company. The case affirms the importance of conducting a thorough investigation before filing any Georgia personal injury lawsuit.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts leading up to the accident, the plaintiff was working at a restaurant when he was asked to empty a grease trap into a dumpster that was located in the rear parking lot of the restaurant. The plaintiff was in the process of walking to the dumpster when he stepped into an uncovered water meter. The plaintiff could not see the hole because he was carrying the grease trap. After tripping over the hole, the plaintiff spilled the hot grease on his face and body. He suffered serious injuries as a result.

Initially, the plaintiff filed a claim against his employer and several other parties. However, later the plaintiff named the defendant maintenance company after learning about a contract that the defendant maintenance company had with the plaintiff’s employer. (Note: this case only deals with the maintenance company; the plaintiff’s other claims were handled in separate cases.)

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In a recent case, a plaintiff brought a wrongful death claim against the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) and construction contractors on behalf of her parents who died in a car accident. According to the court’s written opinion, in October 2011, the plaintiff was driving behind her parents’ car on a Georgia interstate when a vehicle hit the side of her parents’ car, which then veered off the road, hit the guardrails and a concrete bridge piling and burst into flames.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury case, claiming that the construction contractors who did construction work were liable for her parents’ deaths. The trial court dismissed the case, but the plaintiff appealed. She argued in part that the construction contractors were liable because the GDOT had not accepted the contractors’ work and reassumed control of the site before the accident occurred.

In 2010, the GDOT had entered into a contract with two construction companies to resurface the asphalt along a portion of the highway. A fence and guardrail company was supposed to complete improvements to the guardrails as well. The construction contractors completed the work, and the GDOT inspected the project and issued a maintenance acceptance letter with regard to the project. The final inspection was completed in November 2010. Then GDOT issued a maintenance acceptance letter in December 2011, and in the letter, reassumed control of the highway portion on January 4, 2011.

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Vacation season is coming up, which means many will soon be getting a much-needed escape from the winter blues! But vacation time also presents plenty of opportunities for motor vehicle accidents, break-ins, identity theft, and assault. To avoid falling victim to any vehicular injuries or crimes this vacation season, read our four foolproof tips for staying safe while vacationing.

Drive safely

If you’re going on a road trip with family or friends, take precautions to ensure a safe drive to your destination. This includes sleeping well the night before, avoiding distractions on the road, and always keeping your seat belt buckled. In the event of an accident, remain calm and contact the local authorities to file a report. Read our blog post on safe travels for more cautionary tips.

Last week, in Charleston, West Virginia, thousands of gallons of a chemical used to clean coal leaked into a river that provides water to more than 300,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of Charleston residents were without water for more than four days, leading to a shortage in bottled water, as people flocked to the stores for water to drink, cook with, and brush their teeth with. Many people’s daily routines were disrupted, as schools and businesses were forced to close for several days.

The leak was first reported Thursday morning, and was caused by the chemical MCHM leaking through a 1-inch hole in a storage tank owned by Freedom Industries, Inc., a company that supplies products to the coal mining industry. Already, 18 lawsuits have been filed against Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water Co., a water processing plant, which failed to deal with the contamination promptly and had no established procedures to prevent chemicals from getting into the water system.

PRWeb reports that West Virginia residents filed a proposed class-action suit against Freedom Industries and West Virginia American Water Company, alleging that they endured damage to property, personal injuries, loss of income, and a nuisance because of the water contamination. Restaurants and other businesses whose operations rely on running water are also suing to recover lost income, after the contamination caused them to close for several days. A dialysis patient whose kidney transplant was delayed due to a lack of clean water has filed a lawsuit, as well. The suits are diverse in nature, but almost all name Freedom Industries as the main defendant, accusing the company of negligence and causing a public nuisance.