Do you have that feeling in your gut that your lawyer is lazy? Are they very slow to respond, if they do at all? Everyone goes through busy periods, but if the lazy behavior is frequent, it’s not going to get better and it may destroy your case. As the appeals decision below explains, once the two year statute of limitations on personal injury cases approaches, Courts will scrutinize the diligence that people use to get the defendant served.

A personal injury lawsuit has strict procedural rules regarding how and when the defendant is served the paperwork by the sheriff or process server. Failure to follow the court’s procedural rule will often result in the dismissal of a case.

An attorney can help a victim determine whether a legitimate claim exists and draft and submit the appropriate documents to the court. After submitting the documents, the plaintiff must arrange for “service” on the defendant. This is a critical point in a Georgia personal injury lawsuit, and a plaintiff’s failure to effectuate proper service can lead to the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious claim.

Recently, the Court of Appeals issued an opinion in a Georgia negligence lawsuit in which the victim filed against an electric company and its employee where trial court had foolishly held that there is no duty for people to walk down stairs in a prudent manner. This lends credence to my theory that during COVID, the caseloads are getting so bad that trial judges are erring on the side of granting summary judgment and tossing cases when they should not.

In the underlying injury case, the plaintiff contacted a electric company to service her home. On the day of the incident, the electric company’s employee came to the plaintiff’s home to inspect a heater in the basement. The plaintiff advised the employee to be careful because there was no lighting and no handrail. In response, the employee stated that they were fine; however, seconds later, they fell into the plaintiff, causing her to fall down the stairs and suffer serious injuries.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit alleging negligence against the employee and negligent hiring, training, and supervising against the company. The trial court found in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed, arguing amongst several issues, that the employee had a legal duty to exercise ordinary care while walking. The trial court stupidly held that the defendant had no duty to walk down stairs carefully. WTF?

The Court of Appeals recently issued a decision in an appeal of a trial court’s ruling dismissing a woman and her husband’s Georgia personal injury lawsuit. The general holding is that when you file a case and serve it and then dismiss it without prejudice, the Court will not throw out the renewal complaint for ticky tacky reasons. Any amendments to the pleadings relate back to the the original pleading.

In 2018, the woman filed a lawsuit against the driver of a car that hit her vehicle. The woman voluntarily dismissed her lawsuit nine months after the initial filing. About two months later, she renewed the lawsuit against the driver and an uninsured motorist carrier. At the renewal, her husband joined the claim alleging a loss of consortium. The insurance company moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that the plaintiffs did not include necessary and required pleadings. The plaintiffs amended their complaint to correct the defects; however, the trial court granted the insurance company’s motion.

Under OCGA § 9-2-61, Georgia’s renewal statute, a plaintiff may recommence a previously-filed lawsuit that was voluntarily dismissed without prejudice. Plaintiffs may file the claim in state or federal court within the original statute of limitations or within six months after the dismissal, whichever is later. In cases where a plaintiff relies on the renewal to recommence a lawsuit that the statute of limitations would bar, they must prove that the prior lawsuit was not void. Further, the plaintiff must prove that the renewed action is based upon the same cause of action, and it is not a renewal of an action that was dismissed on its merits.

A company employee has been asked to come to work for some special reason but are driving their own car; is the employer liable for a crash that happens on the way? We handled a tragic case involving this exact question. A Columbus family was in a terrible accident that killed one and badly hurt several others. In this case the defendant was a temp employee of an agency and was required to drive to work to fill out paperwork as she requested direct deposit. She fell asleep and the crash ensued. We sued the driver and the employer on a special exception theory as normally, an employee commuting in their own private vehicle is not on the job and the boss cannot be held legally responsible. still-300x163 https://www.wsbtv.com/news/2-investigates/drowsy-driving-vs-drunk-driving-same-dangers-but-only-one-is-illegal/880970158/

The case was heavily litigated and we settled the claim against the employer after a hearing where it was clear the judge was going to grant summary judgment and let the employer out of the case. In a recent decision, the court of appeals again took up the issue and I am glad we settled our case, as you will see.

An appeals court recently issued the opinion addressing whether the special circumstances exception applies in a Georgia car accident case involving employer liability. The case arose when a driver lost control of his work vehicle and struck another car, killing the victim and his brother-in-law. The victim’s wife filed a negligence lawsuit against the driver’s employer, alleging negligent hiring and retention, and respondeat superior. Amongst the issues was whether the special exceptions or special missions theory applied.

Recently, an appellate court issued an opinion stemming from a Georgia slip and fall lawsuit. According to the record, the plaintiff filed a negligence lawsuit against the defendant on May 24, 2019, for injuries she suffered on May 28, 2017. The plaintiff served the defendant with the summons and complaint on August 23, 2019. In response, the defendant answered, claiming that the plaintiff’s service occurred after the applicable statute of limitations. The case illustrates the importance of acting with haste when filing a personal injury claim.

According to the court’s opinion, the parties agreed upon a scheduling order and submitted it to the court. The order notified the court that the plaintiff’s attorney’s co-counsel was a General Assembly member, and was entitled to a statutory leave of court, starting on January 6, 2020. However, on December 13, 2019, the defendant moved to dismiss the complaint based on the statute of limitations. The defendant argued that the plaintiff failed to effectuate service. The plaintiff’s response was due on January 13, 2020; however, she did not respond, and the court dismissed her claims. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court erred in ignoring co-counsel’s statutory leave, when it granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

In Georgia law, if an attorney is a member of the General Assembly, the court must grant a continuance and stay of all aspects of the pending case. This includes the requirement that the attorney respond to any pending motions. However, the text of the statute is unclear whether it only applies to the lead counsel or, as is the case here, to co-counsel as well.

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.”