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Posted by H. Lee Pruett

It is established law in Georgia that when an insurance company is served with a complaint as the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist carrier, the carrier has the option of answering in the name of the defendant, answering in its own name (and raising policy defenses), or filing no answer at all. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently held these options do not give the UM carrier the right to disregard the time requirements of the Civil Practice Act when the carrier voluntarily enters the case by filing an answer in its own name. Kelly v. Harris, Case No. A14A1004, 2014 Ga. App. LEXIS 776 (Ga. Ct. App., Nov. 18, 2014).
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Posted by Layne Zhao
The Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial court’s ruling granting summary judgment on the grounds that a question of material fact existed where defendant-church may have “set the stage” for the accident. In Henderson v. St. Paul Baptist Church, 328 Ga. App 123 (2014), Plaintiff, a visitor of St. Paul Baptist Church fell into a hole while walking from her car to the Church and suffered a fractured leg. Despite Plaintiff’s knowledge that cars were typically parked across the street (though there was no designated parking lot), she and her husband parked beside the Church property: The Church’s pastor motioned for them to park there, behind his own vehicle. In walking towards the church building, Plaintiff chose to take a shortcut and enter through the side entrance. The ground between her car and the entrance was completely covered with pine straw, covering the hole in which she fell.
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Posted by Susan J. Levy

In the early 90’s, the Georgia General Assembly recognized that because of the scope of the State government’s responsibilities, it could potentially face tremendous financial exposure if subjected to unlimited tort liability. Consequently, the General Assembly enacted the Georgia Tort Claims Act (“GTCA”) which struck a balance between the two: a limited waiver of sovereign immunity. “The stated intent of the [GTCA] is to balance strict application of the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which may produce ‘inherently unfair and inequitable results,’ against the need for limited ‘exposure of the state treasury to tort liability.'” Norris v. Ga. Dept. of Transp., 268 Ga. 192, 192 (1997).
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Posted by Christina Cribbs
The topic of apportionment is no stranger to our blog; we have written about the subject on several occasions. The Court of Appeals’ July, 2014 decision on the issue of apportionment, Zaldivar v. Prickett, flatly denies defendants the opportunity to ask the jury to apportion damages to a plaintiff’s employer when the employer allegedly negligently entrusted a company vehicle to plaintiff. 2014 Ga. App. Lexis 552, No. A14A0113, July 16, 2014.
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The State of Georgia, including all State agencies like the Department of Human Resources or Department of Transportation, is entitled to sovereign immunity except to the extent sovereign immunity has been waived by the provisions of the Georgia Tort Claims Act (“GTCA”). [See also A Practitioner’s View of the Georgia Tort Claims Act, Georgia State Bar Journal (1992)] The GTCA provides that the exclusive remedy for torts committed by a State employee is an action against the agency. Under the GTCA, the State has agreed to waive sovereign immunity for the torts of State officials and employees subject to certain exceptions and limitations. However, no tort action can be filed against the State without first providing ante-litem notice. O.C.G.A. §50-21-26(a). This is an absolute jurisdictional requirement.
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Posted by Susan J. Levy and Linda Yu.

In a recent case, Jarvis v. Georgia World Congress Center Authority et al., No. 10EV010884, a Fulton County jury delivered an initial verdict of $400,000 against the Defendant security company for injuries sustained by the Plaintiff, Alicia Jarvis, outside the Georgia Dome. The verdict was subsequently reduced after the panel assigned 43% of the liability to Plaintiff on the grounds that she was intoxicated at the time of her fall.
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Posted by Linda Yu.

In the recent case Pirkle v. QuikTrip Corp., 2014 Ga. App. Lexis 34, the Court of Appeals upheld summary judgment in favor of the Defendant QuikTrip on the grounds that Plaintiff’s evidence of the Defendant’s actual or constructive knowledge of liquid on the floor was speculative at best.
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Posted by Christina Cribbs
In Georgia, front seat passengers are required to use a seatbelt under most circumstances. O.C.G.A. §§ 40-8-76.1(b) and (c). Even so, under current Georgia law, when an individual is injured during an automobile accident, the fact that he was not wearing a seatbelt is not admissible to show that he caused or contributed to his own injuries. O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(d). From the defense perspective, the law creates an “unfair” burden on the driver responsible for the accident by not allowing him to show the jury that the plaintiff may have made his injuries worse by choosing not to wear a seatbelt, even though it is required by law.
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Posted by H. Lee Pruett

In Wade v. Allstate Fire & Cas. Co., Case No. A13A0827 (Ga. Ct. App., Nov. 6, 2013) the plaintiff was injured in a multi-vehicle accident and sued the three other drivers involved (as well as one driver’s employer under respondeat superior, and another driver’s mother under the family purpose doctrine). He also served Allstate as his uninsured motorist insurance carrier. The plaintiff reached a partial settlement with two of the defendants for their liability policy limit, and signed a limited release so that he could pursue any other insurance coverage. The plaintiff then settled with the other defendants for an amount less than the total of their liability policy limits, signed a general release, and dismissed these defendants with prejudice. Arguing that the plaintiff was not entitled to uninsured motorist coverage because he had not exhausted the liability limits available to all of the defendants, Allstate moved for summary judgment. The trial court granted the motion, but the Court of Appeals reversed.
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Posted by Christina Cribbs
In July, 2013, the Georgia Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Johnson v. Omondi. 318 Ga. App. 787 (2012). Johnson is a medical malpractice case where plaintiffs, the parents of a hospital patient, sued multiple defendants when the patient died after receiving care in the emergency room. The patient had knee surgery and presented to the emergency room eight days later complaining of chest pain. The doctors performed many tests and the patient was sent home after the pain resolved. Two weeks later, the symptoms resurfaced and the patient returned to the emergency room. He later died from a bilateral pulmonary embolism. The trial court granted summary judgment to the doctor on the plaintiffs’ professional negligence claim and plaintiffs appealed Continue reading