Georgia wrongful death laws are very considerate of the value of human life, especially when compared to that of other jurisdictions. The problem for many victim’s families is that as a general rule, Courts apply the wrongful death law of the state where the underlying crash occurred. This principal of applying the law of the place where the injury or death occurred is known as lex loci delicti.
There was good news for victims of wrongful death recently in the Court of Appeals. CARROLL FULMER LOGISTICS CORPORATION et al. v. HINES et al, 309 Ga.App. 695, 710 S.E.2d 888,
Briefs and Other Related Documents
Judges and Attorneys
Court of Appeals of Georgia.
CARROLL FULMER LOGISTICS CORPORATION et al.
HINES et al.
The victim’s family lost a member in a violent accident with a tractor trailer in Florida. The lawyers wisely filed the suit in Georgia, because the Defendant was present in Georgia. Remember that in order to sue someone in any particular jurisdiction, you need to be able to get them personally served with the lawsuit and they have to reside or have a substantial tie with the locality in order to be dragged into Court there. In this situation, the trucking company was a Georgia resident, so it was ok to sue them in Georgia.
The next issue was whether the Georgia Court would apply Georgia’s wrongful death laws or would they apply the law of Florida, where the crash happened?
It’s important because Florida is more restrictive. The Florida Wrongful Death Act (Fla. Stat. § 768.16) provides for the recovery of damages as a result of the decedent’s negligently caused injury and death. They can recover for the damages suffered by the survivors bu they do not allow recovery for the decedent for their fear on impending death as Georgia does. Martin, 314 So.2d at 770.
In contrast, OCGA § 9–2–41 says the Estate can recover separate damages for the decedent’s pre-death physical and mental pain and suffering.
So, it would be better for the victims if Georgia law applies. To decide whether to apply Georgia or Florida law, the Court had to decide whether to apply the Georgia substantive rule because the law of Florida contravene’s Georgia’s public policy. Fed. Ins. Co. v. Nat. Distrib. Co., 203 Ga.App. 763, 765–766, 417 S.E.2d 671 (1992); Alexander v. Gen. Motors Corp., 267 Ga. 339, 340, 478 S.E.2d 123 (1996); OCGA § 1–3–9.
The Court decidence that “(t)hese are differences sufficient to render the Florida Act in contravention of Georgia public policy. Applying the public policy exception to the rule of lex loci delicti, the trial court correctly ruled that Georgia rather than Florida substantive law applies to the wrongful death and survival actions.
In summary, this is a fascinating situation in which filing suit in Georgia for a Florida crash would make great sense for the victim’s family.