Articles Posted in Uncategorized

By Special Correspondent, Julia Simon

In Atlanta and many other cities there are confusing guidelines for leftover food donation that  often cause hunger, waste, and anger among restaurateurs and the homeless. According to UNEP (The United Nations Environment Programme) about 20 pounds of food per person, per month is wasted each month in North America alone, Adding up to about 30-40% of America’s food supply.

Many restaurants and bakeries, like Panera Bread or Subway, bake bread fresh each day and are forced to trash leftovers at the end of the day for a couple of reasons. The National Coalition  for the Homeless states that from Jan. 2013 to Oct. 2014  21 cities have passed confusing  laws that scare restaurant owners about the potential for being sued if someone gets sick from spoiled food.

By Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States – Clarence Thomas – The Oyez Project,

Justice Thomas needs to retire. He has truly shown his derriere in his latest dissent in Foster v. Chatham. The basic facts of the case are as follows:

  • In 1987 a black man was convicted of raping and murdering a woman.

Litigation funding from third-party sources is nothing new in personal injury cases, where injured victims, out of work and short on cash, have been permitted to borrow against the expected return on their pending cases for years now. But what about the prospect of investing money in someone else’s legal proceeding? A new report from the New York Times magazine has highlighted this growing trend, using a classic David v. Goliath story in the process.
At the heart of this news story is a lawsuit involving Miller UK, a small British company, and Caterpillar, the American construction equipment behemoth. Their dispute centers over a particular model of equipment and the intellectual property involved in its design.  The unique part of this dispute lies with the method Miller is using to fund its side of the case.  Rather than paying its legal team straight from the company coffers, Miller has turned to an outside entity called Arena Consulting to front the money for its legal costs.  If Miller is unsuccessful in the suit, Arena will walk away empty-handed.  However, if Miller wins, Arena will stand to gain a significant portion of the proceeds, perhaps into the tens of millions of dollars.
This type of litigation finance is relatively new, but it is already causing a great deal of controversy.  Those in favor argue that this outside funding allows the little guy to have its day in court when they could never afford to fund such a case on its own, particularly when going up against such well-funded opposition.  Nevertheless, detractors of this practice worry that this type of investment could drive the already high costs of our legal system even higher and that the interests of investors and litigants may not always be perfectly aligned.  Whatever the outcome of the Miller case, this topic is just beginning to pique the interest of legal scholars, and we should expect a great deal of debate on its merits in the years to come.

Because we handle a large number of premises liability cases, we frequently get calls on cases that involve injuries or death from children playing in residential swimming pools. Under most circumstances, trespassers on someone else’s land are going to find it very difficult to recover for any injury suffered while on that property. However, most homeowners would be surprised to hear that they could be held liable if a trespassing child made their way into their land and drowned in the backyard swimming pool.

The legal doctrine that provides for this exception is called the Attractive Nuisance Doctrine. Under this exception to the normal rules about trespassers, Georgia Courts have recognized that children don’t always have the capacity to understand unfamiliar dangers or appreciate the risks presented by unfamiliar property. Under this particular doctrine, a landowner has a duty to keep their property free of dangers that are accessible and could cause harm to trespassing children. Gregory v. Johnson, 249 Ga. 151 (1982) is a Georgia Supreme Court case that says this doctrine also applies to swimming pools.

So when is a homeowner with a swimming pool responsible when a neighborhood kid sneaks in and accidentally drowns in the pool? The Gregory Court says five conditions have to be met:

Our firm represented Heather McCarty, a passenger in a Mercedes driven by a young driver who was using the Snapchat speedometer filter to get a selfie going 100 mph. Heather, who was pregnant at the time begged the driver to slow down, but the driver rear ended another vehicle at high speed. The crash injured both McCarty and the other driver, Wentworth Maynard. Our firm owner, Christopher Simon has analyzed the case that other lawyers have filed against the driver and Snapchat and it provides thought-proving analysis on how we want app developers to approach product design going forward.

A little over a year ago, we reported on the case of 6 year old girl who was severely injured by a foul ball at a Braves game in 2010.  Her parents were originally suing the owners of Turner Field for negligence related to the absence of safety netting around the field that would have protected fans from dangerous foul balls entering the stands. We wrote an article discussing how the Court of Appeals allowed the head injury case against the Atlanta Braves to proceed, even though decades of case law said that the spectator takes the risk. The Court essentially said that because a minor cannot assume the risk, the minor still has a case for injury at a game, even if the adult does not.  This case is now in the news again because the plaintiffs are expanding the scope of the suit by adding Major League Baseball as a defendant in the case, in addition to the owners and operators of the stadium itself.

The addition of this national entity is intended to bring up an ugly issue for the entire sport- performance enhancing drugs.  The plaintiffs’ theory of liability is that a juiced-up player is going to hit balls harder and faster than a non-enhanced player would under the same circumstances. Furthermore, Major League Baseball is well aware of this epidemic but has done nothing to protect its fans from the consequences of its players conduct as it relates to foul balls, thus creating a greater likelihood for fans, such as the 6 year old girl in this case, to be injured by an errant ball.  Most interesting is the fact that the player who hit the ball in this case was none other than Melky Cabrera, who served a 50 game suspension two years after this particular incident for testing positive for performance-enhancing testosterone. However, whether Major League Baseball actually owed a legal duty to the injured girl in this case is a question that remains unsettled

 Car accidents with police officers can present numerous challenges for those injured in the crash. Chief among these challenges is the issue of sovereign immunity, which can make it quite difficult to pursue a claim against a negligent officer if they are operating within the course and scope of their duties. If an officer is in pursuit of a suspect or responding to a call for help and their blue lights are flashing, it is hard to bring an injury claim if you are struck and injured by a police cruiser during such an incident. Likewise, injuries resulting from crashes resulting during a police pursuit have an entire body of law protecting the officer if they are following department guidelines.

A recent Georgia case, however, illustrates one situation in which a claim is not be barred by immunity issues. Last week, two Paulding County teenagers were killed in a wreck involving a Georgia State Trooper traveling at a high speed for no apparent reason.  The crash occurred on the night of Saturday October 3 on U.S. 27 northbound in Carroll County. The trooper, who was not on an emergency call, not responding to an accident, and not trying to stop a vehicle, was merely on patrol traveling over 90 mph on a stretch of road where the speed limit is 55pmh.  Data from the crash shows that he was going 91 mph only five second before the fatal impact. The unfortunate victims in this tragedy were sitting in a Nissan Sentra, attempting to turn left in front of the path of the police cruiser, clearly not realizing that the trooper was traveling at such a high rate of speed. The trooper applied his brakes in an attempt to avoid the impact and had slowed to 68 mph just prior to the collision, but it was too little too late.  Both backseat passengers in the Nissan were killed and the two other teenagers suffered serious injuries.

Sovereign immunity is waived for most vehicle accidents involving cities, counties and the state. State claims in particular are governed by the Georgia Tort Claims Act. The cap for GTCA claims is $1,000,000. See GTCA Liability Policy.

In the “what were you thinking” department, the Supreme Court gave the final smackdown to a lawyer who filed a lawsuit after the 2 year statute of limitations after a bus crash against the Georgia Regional Transportation Agency. The lawyer tried to wiggle out of missing the Statute by arguing that one part of OCGA § 50–21–27(e) says that “All provisions relating to the tolling of limitations of actions, as provided elsewhere in this Code, shall apply to causes of action brought pursuant to [the GTCA].”  The lazy plaintiff’s lawyer tried to argue that the “all provisions” language meant any provision anywhere in the Georgia Code.  She argued that OCGA § 36–33–5(d)3 , a tolling provision for lawsuits against municipal corporations should apply and, because the State never responded to her ante litem notice, she argued, the Statute of Limitations was tolled and the suit could proceed.

Although the trial court bought her argument, the Court of Appeals and the Georgia Supreme Court gave it the royal beat down. You can read the case, Foster v. Georgia Regional Transportation Agency.

Because we handle car accidents as part of our daily business, we think about insurance policies and pricing often. Most consumers, however, give little thought to their insurance needs or even which company they send their premiums to every month. I get the sense that most people pick one company (probably the one their parents have used for decades) early on in their driving years and stick with that company for many years. However, a new push from a consumer advocacy group suggests that being loyal to one insurance company is likely not the best strategy to get the best bang for your buck.

Earlier this week, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) publicly announced its position in support of a ban on an insurance pricing tactic known as “price optimization.” This pricing strategy looks at data designed to measure a customer’s loyalty to a particular insurance company and whether that customer is likely to stay with the same insurer, even if being charged more. According to CFA, the result of this data mining has allowed insurance companies to charge long-time customers higher rates because they know they can get away with it. Meanwhile, customers deemed more likely to shop around are given a better deal. It seems as though loyalty doesn’t always pay.

CFA’s position is that this price optimization is inherently unfair to consumers and should be prohibited. According to the group’s statement, “the purpose of price optimization is to extract as much profit as possible from policyholders who are often required to purchase insurance policies.”