The issue of how many different Uninsured/Underinsured policies might provide coverage and in what order. After a Georgia car accident, injury victims often find that the driver who caused the crash does not have enough insurance and have to seek a recovery for their damages from their own insurance company. Georgia law requires that insurance companies allow policyholders to purchase uninsured motorist coverage (UMC). This coverage allows an injury victim to obtain adequate compensation if they are involved in a serious car accident. Although the law provides this safeguard, there are many instances where an insurance company denies coverage. These situations may lead to a contentious and complex dispute over the availability of coverage.

An issue that often arises is whether the liability policy provides coverage to a driver under more than one liability policy. This often occurs when an injury victim tries to evoke coverage under a policy while they were operating another person’s vehicle, with permission. In most cases, the non-owner is an additional insured party under the policy. However, courts will look to the totality of the circumstances to determine whether the policy affords coverage. The court will consider the driver’s status, the vehicle’s owner, and the coverage limits under the policy.

UMC disputes between insurance providers and policyholders or injury victims often arise when there are issues regarding stacking coverage, selection or rejection of coverage, liability limits, insurance off-sets, and exclusionary provisions. In these cases, the contentions generally involve various principles, statutes, and rules of law. However, ultimately, courts must evaluate the case’s nuanced factual details before deciding whether coverage is appropriate.

Recently, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued an opinion in a case concerning a ridiculous plaintiff’s personal injury lawsuit against a university. This student sued Valdosta State claiming that by putting here in the top bunk, they were responsible when she got drunk and fell out of bed months later!

The record indicates that the plaintiff moved into a dorm room that contained two lofted beds. The plaintiff wanted the bed in the lower position, but her roommate had already chosen that bed. The plaintiff submitted a request to the housing department to have her bed lowered; however, the request was never fulfilled. As a result, the plaintiff had to step on a desk to reach the top of her bed.

On the night of the accident, the plaintiff attended a Halloween party and consumed a few beers throughout the party. When she returned to her dorm room, she got into her bed. The last thing she remembers is falling out of her bed and blacking out. The incident resulted in serious injuries requiring surgery and a stay in the intensive care unit. The plaintiff had to withdraw from the university and could not continue her studies because of cognitive difficulties related to injuries she sustained from the fall.

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Georgia slip and fall law is anchored by the idea that legal blame rests on the owner of the property or creator of the spill only if the faller does not have knowledge or warning of the hazard. The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently issued an opinion in a premises liability lawsuit stemming from a slip and

fall accident at an airport. The plaintiff, a general manager at a stand at the Atlanta airport, stepped off an escalator and slipped on a puddle of water. The woman landed on her side, hit her head, and lost consciousness. After regaining consciousness, she realized her clothes were wet but did not recall seeing the wet floor where she fell. As a result of the fall, she suffered serious injuries to her neck, spinal cord, and vision. A supervisor inspected the area and did not see any water, but he did notice three wet floor signs and that proved the undoing of the case

The woman filed a negligence lawsuit against the independent contractor responsible for servicing the area. She argued that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard and had the duty to warn the plaintiff of the hazard. She claimed that the defendant breached their duty and failed to exercise ordinary care. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff had equal knowledge of the hazard. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion saying that once the wet floor signs are put up, the plaintiff has equal knowledge that the floor is wet.

Recently, a Georgia appeals court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from serious injuries a victim suffered in a motor vehicle accident. There was no debate about who caused the crash and no debate about the past medical care. The issue was whether the jury was allowed to consider the future medical care.

The defendant in the matter admitted responsibility, and the jury awarded the plaintiff $25,000 in past damages and $100,000 in future medical expenses. After the verdict the defense asked the Judge to set aside the part of the verdict regarding the future medical expenses award saying that the Doctor did not testify they would probably be necessary; they just said they might be necessary.  The procedure is called a Motion for JNOV. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in granting the motion, because the evidence supported the award.

Under OCGA § 9-11-50 (b), judges may only grant a judgment notwithstanding the verdict (JNOV), in cases when, without weighing the evidence’s credibility, there is only one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment. In cases where there is conflicting or insufficient evidence, the JNOV is inappropriate. Further, the standard for reviewing a JNOV is “whether the evidence, with all reasonable deductions, demanded a verdict contrary to that returned by the factfinder.” Courts have long held that it is an error to grant a JNOV if there is any evidence to support the jury’s verdict.

Recently, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an opinion in a drunk driving accident which addressed some confusion over what the term “active tortfeasor ” means and whether not only the drunk driver can be liable for punitive damages, but also whether the guy that gave the keys to a known drunk can be liable as well.  Two cousins were drinking together and the owner of the car gave the keys to his cousin who 1) had no license 2) had a history of reckless driving and 3) was drunk. The driver hit someone and both cousins got sued.

The language from the punitive damages statute at issue says:

“(f) In a tort case in which the cause of action does not arise from product liability, if it is found that the defendant acted, or failed to act, with the specific intent to cause harm, or that the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol, drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to that degree that his or her judgment is substantially impaired, there shall be no limitation regarding the amount which may be awarded as punitive damages against an active tort-feasor but such damages shall not be the liability of any defendant other than an active tort-feasor.”

A recent appeals case involving a store employee who was shot when he challenged a potential car thief in a parking lot illustrates the challenges that each fact pattern can represent. The opinion involving a Georgia premises liability claim stemming from a tragic murder at the grocery store.

According to the court’s opinion, a grocery store employee drove to work in his truck and parked it in the store’s parking lot. At work, he was assigned to clean debris from the store’s property. While he was working, the employee saw a car park next to the employee’s work truck. An individual exited the vehicle and approached the employee’s truck suspiciously. The employee and his co-worker ran towards the truck and approached the car. When the employee approached the window, a man shot and killed him.

The employee’s surviving spouse (the plaintiff) filed a lawsuit against the grocery store, claiming the store’s negligence was responsible for her husband’s death. Specifically, the plaintiff’s claim alleged that the store was negligent in failing to maintain, inspect, and manage the premises. Further, she contended that the grocery store was negligent in failing to warn and remediate a long history of crime at the property.

In June, the Supreme Court of Georgia issued an opinion addressing whether the state’s dog bite statute, OCGA § 51-2-7, violates the Due Process clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The case stems from an attack resulting in the plaintiff suffering serious injuries, as well as the death of their pet. The plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit seeking damages against the attacking dog’s owners. The plaintiff claimed that they were entitled to damages under OCGA § 51-2-7. The defendants filed a motion in limine, arguing that the statute violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

On appeal, the defendants claimed that the statue creates an irrebuttable presumption that an owner is aware of a dog’s vicious propensity. They claimed that this presumption violates procedural due process. Upon review, the court first addressed its duty to construe a statute as constitutional, whenever possible. In cases where a statute has two potential meanings, courts typically interpret it as constitutional. Using those principles, the court analyzed the defendant’s contention.

OCGA § 51-2-7 explains :

photo_1591_20060518-300x200-300x200In a Georgia car accident case, the injured person usually needs to have medical testimony from the treating doctors to help the jury understand the gravity of the injury. To spare Doctors from having to close their practice and spend half a day in Court, the Georgia legislature created the Medical Narrative statute. It basically says that if the letter is on letterhead from the Doctor and is signed and clearly lays out the nature of the medical problem and what caused it, that letter can be shown to the jury as evidence. The defense can always choose to pay to depose the Doctor and cross examine but otherwise it usually comes in. Defense lawyers will often challenge the admissibility of the letter on several bases and this appellate case is an example of that.

Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case discussing whether the trial court’s ruling to strike portions of the plaintiff’s treating physician’s narrative about medical care was correct. Ultimately, the court concluded that the medical provider’s narrative was not “too inconclusive, speculative, and vague,” finding it admissible.

The Facts of the Case

Back in 2016, both the plaintiff and defendant were involved in a multi-vehicle collision. The plaintiff initiated a personal injury claim against the defendant, and the defendant acknowledged he was responsible for the accident. However, the defendant claimed that he was not liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.

At trial, the plaintiff presented a narrative from her treating physician. The narrative outlined the care provided to the plaintiff, as well as an estimate of the cost of necessary future medical care. The defendant objected to the admission of the narrative, arguing, among other things, that it was “too inconclusive, speculative, and vague” concerning the future cost of medical care. The trial court agreed with the defendant, striking those portions of the narrative.

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So it may happen in a case that a defender, especially a corporate defendant has made statements on a public forum or website and those statements may contradict or impeach a position they are taking now in a case. How do you 1) access the old version of the website and 2) authenticate it and get the Judge to admit it into evidence?

Old Website Versions

So our friends at the Wayback Machine do one thing and do it well, archive old websites. You can have fun and poke around at very old versions of pretty much any website, even Google! So assume that Company X has stated their safety screening policy for their truck drivers and you want to impeach their safety director with the old standards. Surf over to Wayback, pull the old version of the site and then print it out in hard copy with the web address listed below.

Can you sue a hotel for a slip and fall at the pool? The Court of Appeals in Georgia recently issued an opinion in a slip and fall lawsuit against a hotel that sheds some light on what facts support a valid lawsuit against the hotel.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered serious injuries after falling on a wet sidewalk near the hotel’s pool. Evidently, on the evening of the incident, the woman and her grandchildren were leaving the pool when she noticed that the hotel’s sidewalk was shiny and looked “slick.” Her grandson was walking in front of her, still wet from the pool, and she warned him to slow down. However, shortly after warning her grandson, she slipped on the wet sidewalk and fell.

The heart of the claim for why the hotel was responsible and not the grandma is that the paint on the sidewalk had deteriorated to the point that it no longer had “grip” and was slippery instead. In support of her claim, the plaintiff presented an expert witness affidavit, stating that, in the expert’s opinion, the hotel failed to maintain the sidewalk in a safe condition. The affidavit indicated that the deteriorating sidewalk paint was hazardous, especially when it became wet.