Georgia Law Update


Some really interesting cases the last few weeks, so here is a summary.

Politicians Lose their Privacy Rights on the their Personal Facebook Pages Once they Use it to Post about Policy

Representative Ginny Ehrhart and Public Service Commissioner Echols both got sued when they deleted comments and blocked negative posters who commented on political content on the private Facebook pages of those public officials. Due to a lack of knowledge these officials did not realize that you can transition your private Facebook page to something public when you get political and hold office. The First Amendment protects our right to free speech and comments about politics are clearly protected. My only problem with these decisions by the Federal Court are the exorbitant attorneys fees awards. $80,000 for attorneys fees? I just hope it was worth it to not offer to unblock the senders.

Wrongful Death Case against Tift County Deputies

In a case involving the tragic death of a person taken into custody and handcuffed face down in the back of a Tift County patrol car, the Plaintiffs attorney argued that the statute that waives the normal sovereign immunity that is an absolute shield to many police department behaviors applies because the death occurred in the back of a motor vehicle. The exclusion is intended to apply only to motor vehicle incidents such and car accidents, and pedestrian incidents. Normally under OCGA Sec. 36-92-2, the County immunity is waived for accidents up to $500,000.00 per person.

The Plaintiff successfully argued that as the death occurred in the back seat, it counts. After losing at the trial court and the Court of Appeals, the Supreme Court agreed with the plaintiff’s position.

Georgia Supreme Court Rules that Police Officers are Experts when Testifying on Certain Points of Law and Subject to Daubert Analysis

In S22G0905. MILLER et al. v. GOLDEN PEANUT COMPANY, LLC et al, before the Georgia Supreme Court,  the Defense used the investigating police officers SCRT report and testimony to argue that the Plaintiff had 27 seconds to perceive and react to the Defendant’s tractor trailer pulling onto the interstate. The Plaintiff’s lawyers challenged the Officers testimony and methodology as well as their ability to speak on the ultimate issue. The Court treated the Officer as a lay witness and did not apply the Daubert Expert standard and the Court found that was error.

“A witness who is qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education may testify in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if:

(1) The expert’s scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will help the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue;

(2) The testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data;

(3) The testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods; and

(4) The expert has reliably applied the principles and methods to the facts of the case.

The Court concluded “Accordingly, we conclude that when an investigating officer is called to provide an expert opinion, the trial court must perform the same gatekeeping function under Rule 702 that it is required to do with all expert witnesses”

The Court send the case back to the trial court for retrial with the proper Daubert standard applied. My question is, “great so now the judge will vet the methodology and reach the same conclusion, what’s the point?” I suppose the trial lawyers get a second shot at a jury but I don’t like those facts. Settle that case folks.

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