horseAs a state that serves as home to many large expanses of farmland, Georgia has many unique laws reflecting this heavily rural character. Among these interesting laws is the Georgia Injuries from Equine or Llama Activities Act (“Equine Act”), which is codified at O.C.G.A. § 4-12-1 et seq. Although this is clearly not the most commonly invoked statute, it remains in the books, and as the Georgia Court of Appeals recently learned, it is among those laws still ripe for litigation.

The case, Gadd v. Warwick, arose from an accident at a summer camp. The plaintiff in this action was 19 at the time of the accident and was one of the camp’s counselors. Among his duties as a counselor was leading children on “trail rides.” On May 30, 2011, a supervisor decided that some of the staff, including the plaintiff, should take a trail ride with the horses to get the horses acclimated to the route to be taken with the camp attendees. During this tester ride, the horse on which the plaintiff was riding jumped—rather than stepped—over a 12-inch-wide stream and then reared up on his hind legs. As a result, both the plaintiff and the horse lost their balance. The plaintiff fell from the saddle onto the ground, and the horse then landed on him. The plaintiff sustained an injury as a result.

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standsThe Georgia Recreational Property Act, O.C.G.A. § 51-3-20 et seq., generally immunizes both private and governmental property owners from many forms of negligence liability when the owner of such property makes it available for recreational purposes free of charge. In a recent decision, The Mayor and Aldermen of the City of Garden City v. Harris, the Georgia Court of Appeals dealt with an interesting issue of first impression regarding the application of this expansive law. Specifically, the Court of Appeals needed to determine whether a city was immunized from liability if it did not charge the injured person a fee but charged others a fee to use the property.

The incident at issue in Harris occurred on November 10, 2012. On that day, a family, which included a young child, attended a youth football game at Garden City Stadium, a recreational facility owned and maintained by the City of Garden City. The entrance gate of the facility—at which there was a no-trespassing sign posted—was located next to a ticket booth. The admittance fee structure was as follows. Spectators under the age of six were not charged a fee, children older than six were charged $1, and adults were charged $2. The parents paid the applicable admittance fees for themselves and their children older than six. Their young daughter, however, was under the age of six and therefore was not charged a fee. During the game, the young daughter and her siblings left the bleachers where they had been seated with their parents to procure goods from the concession stand. While returning to the seats, the young child slipped and fell through a space between the bleachers and landed on the ground below. As a result of the fall, she sustained various injuries.

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tipsAmong the most active and quickly evolving areas in wage-and-hour law is liability associated with the misappropriation of tips. Under federal law, employers are permitted to pay workers in tip occupations an hourly wage, minus the prevailing minimum wage, for it is assumed that the lower hourly wage will be offset by the tips earned by the employee.  Given that tips make up a substantial portion of these employees’ wages, many will take issue with tips being co-opted by employers for other purposes. For instance, in a recent decision, Malivuk v. Ameripark, LLC, an Atlanta federal district court resolved a motion to dismiss in an action brought by a group of valets, arguing that their employers committed minimum wage violations by using money gathered from tips to offset other business expenses.

This action was brought against Ameripark, LLC, a limited liability corporation that provides valet services to businesses throughout the Atlanta metro area. A valet employed by Ameripark alleged that although she and other similarly situated employees were provided an hourly wage, they were unlawfully denied wages under both federal and state laws because Ameripark pooled the tips received by valets from customers and appropriated some of the tip funds for business purposes other than compensating the valets. The plaintiff brought suit against Ameripark. Following the initiation of the action, Ameripark moved to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that the plaintiff did not state a valid wage claim under federal law and that the state law claims also failed because they were dependent on the plaintiff stating a valid federal wage claim.

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tiresSometimes I read Georgia car accident appeals cases and I am astounded at the stupidity of some of the claims that plaintiff’s lawyers will bring. This is the legal analysis for a case where the plaintiff was terribly injured and tried to blame the crash on the installation of two new tires on the front two wheels instead of the rear two wheels. This claim would make sense if placing them one axle versus the other left bald tires onboard. But it didn’t. Instead this plaintiff and their lawyer brought suit when the crash happened, wait for it; TWO YEARS AFTER THE TIRES WERE INSTALLED. Come on people, there is a reason the public gets angry with some lawsuits. This is a frivolous case. Now, onto the legal analysis of the interesting part which says that in the right case, the prior owner of a business can maintain responsibility for something happening after they sell if they negligently trained the employee who screwed up. Cool theory.

Georgia law places a duty on employers to ensure that their employees are properly trained and supervised. However, although the duty to reasonably train employees is well-established, the other doctrinal limitations imposed on negligence liability continue to play a significant role in confining the viability of many claims. For instance, in a recent decision, Edwards v. Campbell, the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed the importance of causation in limiting the reach of negligence claims.

Edwards started on April 14, 2011, when the plaintiff’s grandmother took a trip to Campbell Tire Company (“CTC”). CTC had originally been owned and operated by Edward Campbell, but Campbell sold the company to Lanham Enterprises, LLC in April 2009. In an asset purchase agreement executed in conjunction with this sale, Campbell agreed to provided 60 days of training to Joel Lanham, the owner of Lanham Enterprises, LLC, who had no prior experience in the tire business. At the time of sale, it was Lanham’s understanding that the CTC employees had been there for a long time and had been primarily trained by Campbell. During the course of the aforementioned training, Campbell told Lanham that when a customer only purchases two new tires, the tires should be placed on the front axle, and Lanham believed this to be normal industry practice.

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gunIn 2008, the Georgia legislature enacted the “Business Security and Employee Privacy Act,” O.C.G.A. § 16-11-135, which generally prohibits an employer from restricting an employee from bringing a licensed firearm onto the employer’s parking lot. In addition to protecting employees’ right to bring firearms onto business property under certain circumstances, the law immunizes businesses from criminal or civil liability arising from “the transportation, storage, possession, or use” of such firearms. O.C.G.A. § 16-11-135 (e). Although there are numerous exceptions under the Act, liability associated with employee firearm injuries is far more circumscribed than it was previously. For instance, in a recent decision, Lucas v. Beckman Coulter, Inc., the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of claims against an employer whose employee shot someone else while making a delivery.

The shooting at issue in Lucas occurred on July 10, 2013. On that day, a field-service engineer employed by Beckman Coulter, Inc. (“BCI”), a biomedical testing equipment company, arrived at Albany Area Primary Healthcare (“AAPH”), where the engineer was scheduled to perform maintenance work on BCI equipment located at the facility. Upon his arrival at the facility, which was around 10:00 a.m., the field-service agent observed that the equipment on which he was supposed to perform maintenance was in use and returned to the parking lot to wait. When he returned to the parking lot, the field-service agent saw an AAPH lab technician with whom he was familiar taking a break. The two chatted for a few minutes, and while they were returning inside AAPH, the lab technician mentioned that there had been a spate of car burglaries in the parking lot. This news concerned the field-service engineer, for although it violated BCI policy, he often carried his personal firearm in the company vehicle while making service stops and was worried that it might be stolen. Accordingly, upon hearing this information, the field-service engineer returned to the BCI vehicle to retrieve his gun. Shortly after entering the building, the field-service engineer attempted to clear his weapon, but as he was doing so, the gun discharged, which resulted in a bullet striking the field-service engineer in the hand and the lab technician in the abdomen.

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In a story made for Hollywood, it was recently revealed that billionaire Peter Thiel was quietly funding Hulk Hogan’s litigation against Gawker.com. 616px-Hulk_HoganWe have previously discussed the silent emergence of hedge funds investing in high stakes divorce and business litigation for a cut of the winnings. What we are seeing here is a long term revenge play straight out of The Count of Monte Cristo.

The story goes like this:

  1. Hulk Hogan had intercourse with a Tampa area woman and he claims he did not know it was recorded. The tape circulated for a while and was then posted on Gawker.com.

bus gilmerOur injury lawyers are representing the family of one of the victim in the Greatime Getaways tour bus that collided with a tractor trailer owned by Polcon Tile & Terrazo on October 13, 2016 in Gilmer County, Georgia.  We are looking to talk to any witnesses or other individuals with information about the accident to assist in our investigation.
The accident occurred on Georgia Highway 515  and preliminary reports suggest that the tractor trailer driver was at fault.  We understand the tractor trailer was traveling on Whitestone Road and attempted to take a left onto 515 southbound.  In doing so, the tractor trailer cut across the 515 northbound lanes and blocked the lane in which the tour bus was traveling, which caused the tour bus to collide with the back end of the tractor trailer.  The collision killed the tour bus driver and injuring 43 passengers.
Left turns are one of the most dangerous maneuvers a tractor trailer can make.  This is even more true when the left turn is made across multiple lane highways.  Both federal and state laws, as well as numerous training manuals and industry policies, govern the process by which left turns are safely made.  One of the hazardous conditions involved in a tractor trailer left turn is the obvious fact that it takes a lot more time to clear a tractor trailer through an intersection than it does the average vehicle.  This is a combination of the added time it takes a heavy tractor trailer to start moving from a complete stop as well as the added time it takes for the lengthy trailer to pass through the intersection. Tractor trailer driver must undergo extensive training and remain highly alert to properly gauge whether the entire tractor trailer will be able to clear the roadway safely and timely without impeding oncoming traffic.

BarIn most circumstances, you cannot sue the actual owners of a corporation personally for the liabilities of the corporation. This is one of the key reasons that people use companies to insulate themselves from personal liability. Sometimes the company itself can be underfunded and the actual owner, very well off. In those circumstances, the Plaintiff may want to go after the owner. In this recent decision, the Court put some strict limits in place when trying to do that with a case where a bar let a drunk patron get on the roads.

When faced with this situation, plaintiffs will often attempt to “pierce the corporate veil” and impose personal liability on a corporation’s underlying shareholders. However, as the plaintiff in Barnes v. Smith, a recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, now realizes, piercing the corporate veil may be far from a straightforward proposition.

The facts at the center of Barnes occurred on November 19, 2012. On that day, a patron arrived at Hank & Jerry’s Tavern in Rockdale County, Georgia at around 4 p.m. and had a beer and a shot of Jagermeister. The patron left the Tavern but returned at around 11 p.m. and again had half a beer as well as one and a half “Jagermeister bomb” drinks. The night bartender, who was also the supervisor at the Tavern that night and a personal acquaintance of the patron, noticed that the patron’s eyes were glassy and that he was acting belligerently. The bartender unsuccessfully attempted to take the patron’s keys and offered to either call him a cab or drive him home. In an effort to prevent the patron from leaving, the night bartender tried to lock the front door of the Tavern, but a different customer at the Tavern let the patron out in response to his belligerent conduct. The patron told the bartender that he would just rest in his car, which the bartender believed, but shortly thereafter, the patron drove away. The bartender knew that the patron should not be driving, but she did not call the police out of concern about getting the patron in legal trouble.

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DrivingIn most negligence cases, a plaintiff’s recovery is generally limited to his or her actual damages, both economic and non-economic. Although these damages typically provide sufficient recovery, Georgia law does allow for the recovery of an additional type of damages, punitive damages, when certain conditions are met. The recovery of punitive damages is, however, narrowly circumscribed under Georgia law, and courts tend to be wary in many instances to even let the question of punitive damages go to a jury. For instance, in a recent decision, Minott v. Merrill, a Georgia federal judge explained how narrowly confined punitive damages are under state law.

Minott arose from a motor vehicle accident on a stretch of Interstate 20 in Morgan County, Georgia. The plaintiff alleges that while he was traveling in the right lane, the defendant’s vehicle struck the rear of his vehicle and thereby caused the plaintiff’s vehicle to spin and eventually settle on the side of the road. The plaintiff did not report any injuries at the scene, and officers who reported to the scene to investigate did not issue any citations at that time. In a report on the accident, an investigating officer noted that the defendant acknowledged that at the time his car hit the plaintiff’s vehicle, he had his cell phone resting on his leg and had snatched at his steering wheel while attempting to prevent the phone from slipping. Following the accident, the plaintiff brought suit, alleging negligence and seeking recovery of damages, including punitive damages. At the conclusion of discovery, the defendant moved for summary judgment on the issue of whether the plaintiff was entitled to recover punitive damages as a matter of law.

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There was an article in the New York Times two weeks ago entitled “Phone Makers Could Cut Off Drivers Why Don’t They?” The article asked if it is easy to disable the phone at road speeds, why don’t phone makers do that and cut down on texting and driving. My short answer is an effort to auto disable phones when moving at vehicle speeds would have inherent flaws that could open the phone maker up to legal liability that does not exist if they don’t even try. Moreover, the failure to save us from our own stupidity is not the job of the manufacturer.078720424_nbc_driving_texting807

None of us want dangerous products on the market. Cigarettes are dangerous, but so long as there are warnings, we can put on our big boy pants and smoke ourselves to death. Knives are supposed to be sharp; we know to be careful with them. We will not tolerate baby cribs with slats so wide that babies can choke to death. We will not accept poisonous drugs. We will not accept aircraft with substandard welds.

Cell phone use in cars whether it is music apps, maps, email or texting, is rampant. The technology is addictive from a sociological perspective, but not in the way that cigarettes are with chemicals added to addict the customer. They are just very sticky technologies. So now lawyers are filing suits against technology manufacturers claiming they should protect the consumer and the motoring public from themselves. The problem with holding them responsible is their decisions are not bad enough to be the proximate cause of the crash. The cause is the driver being careless enough to use technology that everyone knows is dangerous.