Articles Posted in Defenses

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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wheelchairIn 2007, the Georgia legislature adapted existing state laws concerning powers of attorney and living wills and adopted the Advance Directive Act. This Act streamlined existing state laws to make it simpler for a citizen to declare preferences for medical treatment and appoint someone to make medical decisions on his or her behalf. Beyond clarifying rights associated with medical decision-making, the Act provided immunity to health care providers in certain situations when care is administered in contravention of the terms of an advance directive. Given the law’s newness, many of these contours of the Act’s provisions have yet to be tested through litigation. However, in a recent decision, Doctors Hosp. of Augusta v. Alicea, the Supreme Court of Georgia took the opportunity to weigh in on the scope of this important law.

The plaintiff in Alicea is the granddaughter of a deceased woman who received care at Doctors Hospital in Augusta, Georgia. The decedent had been brought to the hospital on March 3, 2012, and preliminary tests showed that she was suffering from pneumonia, sepsis, and acute renal failure. About two years earlier, the decedent had executed an advance directive that generally gave the plaintiff the authority to make medical decisions on her behalf, including decisions related to artificial life support treatments. The decedent had repeatedly told her family members that she did not want rely on machines to live and that her family should let her pass when it was time. In addition, the advance directive contained particular provisions expressing the decedent’s desire to not have her life prolonged artificially. At the time the decedent was admitted to the hospital, the plaintiff gave a copy of the advance directive to the staff.

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