Category: Personal Injury

Langley: Important New Personal Injury Case

Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC, A18A0193 (May 1, 2018), just issued by the Georgia Court of Appeals, may have a big impact on many future Georgia personal injury cases. Langley involves a residential landlord-tenant relationship in which a tenant sued her landlord for injuries more than a year after the injuries occurred. Normally, in Georgia, an injured party has two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, in this case, the landlord moved to dismiss the case because the lease provided only one year to sue the landlord.  This is the exact language in the lease:

Limitation on Actions. To the extent allowed by law, Resident also agrees and understands that any legal action against Management or Owner must be instituted within one year of the date any claim or cause of action arises and that any action filed after one year from such date shall be time barred as a matter of law.

Focusing on the word any, the Court of Appeals ruled that any legal action included not only breach of contract claims but also personal injury claims. Thus, the lease trumped Georgia’s statute of limitations. The Court reasoned that parties should be free to enter into contracts without interference from the courts.

At Gomez & Golomb, we practice personal injury and real estate litigation. Thus, for us, Langley cuts both ways. It’s bad for our personal injury clients, but good for our real estate and corporate clients. From now on, in personal injury cases, we will be looking even more closely at applicable contracts for language that may limit injury claims. For our real estate and corporate clients, we will be advising them that Langley opens the door to include terms in their contracts that limit liability.

Malicious Prosecution, Wrongful Arrest, and Infliction of Emotional Harm

It goes without saying that being arrested and prosecuted for something you didn’t do is a nightmare. In Georgia, if this happens to you, you have options for holding the responsible parties accountable. To win such a claim, it must be shown that (1) you were prosecuted for a criminal offense, (2) there was no probable cause for the prosecution, (3) the prosecution was instigated with malice, (4) the prosecution was under a valid warrant, (5) the charges were dismissed, and (6) you were damaged.

Whether you prosecuted for a crime under a valid warrant, whether the charges were dismissed, and whether you were damaged are straightforward factual issues. The more difficult issues to overcome are probable cause and malice.

Probable cause and malice exist when the information and facts provided to the police, which caused the charges to be brought, were lies or exaggerations. In other words, there is no probable cause when the complaining party knew the facts provided to the police were false or were not a fair, full, and complete statement of the facts.

A related claim is intentional infliction of emotional harm. This requires that the defendant’s conduct be (1) intentional or reckless, (2) extreme and outrageous, (3) the emotional distress was caused by the wrongful conduct, and (4) the emotional distress was severe. Like malicious prosecution, the key is whether the complaining party’s dishonesty  caused the charges to be brought against you. If so, a jury determines whether the conduct was outrageous enough to support a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress.

If you’ve be wrongly arrested, please call us to discuss how we can help you hold the responsible parties accountable.

Negligence law in Georgia

What is negligence law? At the risk of sounding overdramatic, at Gomez & Golomb LLC, we believe negligence law is similar to the golden rule, which is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Here is why.

Long ago, the first laws developed to discourage citizens from intentionally harming each other. Under this system, when someone intentionally harms another, the state prosecutes the responsible person. If found guilty, the state puts the person in jail.

But what about when someone unintentionally harms another? Clearly, it would be unfair to put someone in jail for conduct that lacked intent, but, at the same time, it would also be unfair to the injured person if there were no consequences? As a middle ground, we created a set of rules known as negligence law in which a negligent party isn’t prosecuted or jailed for wrongdoing, but is liable for the monetary damages caused to the harmed party. In other words, as we go about our daily business in our communities, we are obligated to act in a manner consistent with that of an ordinarily prudent and reasonable person. Georgia law confirms this principle. See O.C.G.A. § 51-1-2.

The personal injury cases we handle at Gomez & Golomb LLC all involve negligence. This means the responsible parties harmed our clients but did so without any intent. Examples of cases we’ve worked on are drivers who didn’t pay close enough attention to the road, manufacturers who design products without attention to safety, or doctors who provide medical treatment that isn’t as good as it should be.  None of these parties woke up with up plans to harm to anyone, but, for various reasons, each acted in a way that a careful, responsible, and reasonable person would not.

In our view, our society is better off when someone who intentionally harms another is put in jail and someone who unintentionally harms another is responsible for paying for the damages. While not everyone agrees with this system, and there is no doubt abuse, the alternative is a society without incentive to treat each other as each of us would like to be treated (the golden rule).

At Gomez & Golomb LLC, we see our job as making sure our clients are fairly compensated for legitimate injuries sustained because another person or entity failed to act responsibly.

Venue in a Trucking Case

In a recent dispute over where a wrongful death lawsuit should be tried, the plaintiff made the winning argument against a commercial trucking company. Natasha Blakemore as Mother of Natroya Hulbert v. Dirt Movers, Inc. et al., A17A1540 (January 11, 2018). The plaintiff argued that the case should be tried in the county where the injury took place, while the trucking company argued it had the right to remove the case to the county where its office was located.

The two statutes at issue were O.C.G.A. §§ 40-1-117(b) and 14-2-510(b)(4). O.C.G.A. § 40-1-117(b) is part of the Georgia Motor Carrier Act, which are the statutes that govern commercial motor carriers. That statute says an injured party who sues a motor carrier can bring the case in the county where the injury occurred regardless of where the motor carrier is located. In contrast, O.C.G.A. § 14-2-510(b)(5), which governs corporations, says that, regardless of where the injuries occurred, a corporation is entitled to have the case adjudicated in the county where it maintains its principal place of business.

Here, Dirt Movers, Inc. argued that O.C.G.A. § 14-2-510(b)(5) should apply even if venue was proper under O.C.G.A. § 40-1-117(b). The Court of Appeals disagreed. Holding that if venue was proper under both O.C.G.A. §§ 40-1-117(b) and 14-2-510(b)(4), which was true here, the plaintiff was entitled to bring her lawsuit in the county where the injuries occurred.

Nice try by the trucking company, but the case will go forward in the county where the injuries occurred.

Medical Malpractice Affidavits

Sworn affidavit from another doctor required in Georgia

To make sure a lawsuit against a doctor has merit, an injured party must provide an affidavit from an impartial doctor (i.e., an expert doctor) confirming the alleged malpractice of the treating doctor.  Georgia courts have stated that the purpose of this requirement is to “reduce the number of frivolous malpractice suits being filed.” Oller v. Rockdale Hosp., A17A1208 (decided August 14, 2017). From an injured party’s perspective, meeting this requirement isn’t easy. First, getting a doctor to review a case is very expensive. Second, this process requires a doctor to stand in judgment of another doctor, which understandably isn’t something most doctors want to do.

If an expert doctor reviews the facts and medical records, and agrees to sign a malpractice affidavit, the story isn’t over. The affidavit has to be carefully drafted because the courts have dismissed a number of medical malpractice claims due to inadequate affidavits. To overcome a challenge to a medical malpractice affidavit, the expert doctor must allege the following:

  • that the treating doctor failed to satisfy the standard of care for doctors treating a patient under similar conditions and like surrounding circumstances; and
  • that the expert doctor has knowledge and experience in the practice or speciality that is relevant to the acts or omissions alleged against the treating doctor (importantly, a medical doctor does not have to practice in same specialty as defendant medical doctor to be qualified to submit expert affidavit).

Meeting these requirements is a prerequisite for filing a valid lawsuit against a doctor and is a critical part of recovering damages against a doctor in Georgia. Please call us for a free consultation if you been injured due to the negligence of a doctor–we’ll be happy to review your options and discuss how we can help get your claim resolved.