Valuing the Wrongful Death of a Child?

The death of a child is considered the single worst trauma a person can go through. The stress is so great that loved ones often suffer broken-heart syndrome, which presents like a heart attack. The wrongful death of a child makes coping (and healing) that much more unimaginable.

Gomez & Golomb counsels grieving families concerning their legal rights regarding wrongful death claims. We are compassionate, honest, and genuinely care about our clients’ well-being. We are not just here to get paid, but want to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

This post addresses how the Georgia court system values the wrongful death of a child. Of course, this is not something the family wants to think about. But, in the years that follow the child’s death, recovering enough money to help the family makes ends meet is essential.

In Georgia, the person or entity who caused the child’s death must compensate the deceased child’s family for “the full value of the life.” OCGA § 51-4-2(a). Importantly, the “full value of the life” is determined from the perspective of the child who died. Placing a monetary value on such pain, suffering, and loss is difficult, but Georgia has guidelines to help a jury assign a monetary value.  

The family is entitled to recover the full value of the deceased child without deducting for any of the deceased’s personal expenses had she lived. OCGA §§ 51-4-1(1), 51-4-4, 19-7-1(c). “[U]nder Georgia’s wrongful death statute, damages are measured from the decedent’s point of view.” Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga. App. 275, 280 (2002).

The full value of a wrongful death of a child is comprised of two categories of damages:

(1) those items having a proven monetary value, such as lost potential lifetime earnings, income, or services, reduced to present cash value, and

(2) lost intangible items whose value cannot be precisely quantified, such as a parent’s society, advice, example and counsel as determined by the enlightened conscience of the jury.

Concerning the wrongful death of a child, the value of a child’s life is established by the enlightened conscience of an impartial jury as applied to the evidence in the case. This includes testimony as to such child’s age, life expectancy, precocity, health, mental and physical development, family circumstances, and from the experience and knowledge of human affairs on the part of the jury. Dep’t of Human Res. v. Johnson, 264 Ga. App. 730, 738 (2003).

We are here to help with any questions regarding the wrongful death of a child. Please call us at 404-382-9994.

TRANSFER OF TAX FIFA’S IN GEORGIA

Property taxes in Georgia are due towards the end of the year. For example, in Fulton County, 2021 taxes were due by November 15, 2021. When property taxes are not paid, the county’s taxing authority issues a fifa. A fifa acts as a lien against the property and is recorded on the county’s real estate records. The taxing authority must issue a 30-day notice to property owners before filing the fifa. The lien remains on the county’s public records until the taxpayer pays the taxes.

The most dramatic event that happens after filing a fifa is that the taxing authority may present the tax lien to the sheriff. The sheriff will use the fifa as a basis to auction the property to pay the taxes. This process is known as a tax sale.

To get taxes paid, taxing authorities in Georgia often sell their fifa’s to third-party investors. FIG and Investa are two companies that purchase tax liens.

For a taxpayer, a transfer of a tax fifa is confusing because the third party pays the county. The taxes are then owed to third-party, not the county. Thus, the county will show the taxes as paid, but the taxes are still owed.

Under Georgia law, OCGA § 48-3-19, the third-party purchasing the lien must send notice by first-class mail to the taxpayer within 60 days. In theory, this is to notify the taxpayer of whom to pay the taxes to. However, our office has had reports from taxpayers claiming they didn’t get any notice. Like the taxing authority, the third party can take the fifa to the sheriff and ask to auction the property to pay off the fifa.

If taxes are unpaid, you need to act as quickly as possible to pay the taxes to the correct party before there is a tax sale. Please call us at 404-382-9994 if you find yourself in this situation.

Georgia: Injury to Real Estate

          The Georgia legislature has passed several statutes to protect landowners against interference with and injury to their real estate. The starting point is that enjoyment of private property is an “absolute right” of every citizen. Any interference with such enjoyment creates a tort (wrongful act or an infringement of a right resulting in civil legal liability). OCGA § 51-9-1.

            To the extent a person wrongfully deprives a landowner of possession of their property, the landowner can seek to recover possession and sue for damages for such injury to real estate. OCGA § 51-9-2. Similarly, if any person wrongfully interferes with a landowner’s possession, the landowner can seek damages. OCGA § 51-9-3.

            Likewise, if a person wrongfully enters the landowner’s land or property without permission, a landowner to bring an action for trespass for injury to real estate. OCGA § 51-9-4. Trespass applies to persons wrongfully on land and applies to such things as improperly placed improvements or causing flooding on a landowners’ property. Anyone or anything that comes onto someone’s land due to wrongful conduct of another person can be a trespass. Suppose two persons claim possession of the same land. In that case, the person with title to the land is deeming to be rightfully in possession. In contrast, the other person is deemed to be a trespasser. OCGA § 51-9-5.

            Regarding damages for trespass, such damages are limited to damages incurred up until an action is filed. OCGA § 51-9-6. Damages that occur after filing a lawsuit create a new cause of action.

            Regarding streams (more formally called non-navigable watercourses), such landowners are entitled to the natural and usual flow of the stream across their property. If a person wrongfully diverts the stream from its natural and usual flow or lessens the value of the stream, this is considered trespass. OCGA § 51-9-7. The same applies to underground streams and interference of the space below and above the land’s surface. OCGA §§ 51-9-8 and 51-9-9. The last grounds for bringing a trespass action is if a person wrongfully interferes with a landowner’s right of way. OCGA § 51-9-10.

            Finally, a landowner claims damages if any person wrongfully puts the landowners’ title to the property in question. OCGA § 51-9-11. When this happens, it is known as slander of title. An example would be if a person files a fraudulent deed on the public record and this deed causes the rightful owner’s title to be clouded. Clouded means that there is a possible issue with title. Wrongfully clouding title is considered an injury to real estate in Georgia.

            If you are a landowner and your enjoyment of your land is being interfered with or violated, please call us at 404-382-9994 to discuss your options.

Expiration of security deeds in Georgia

Do real estate mortgages expire after a certain amount of time? In Georgia, a security deed is the document that secures a loan on real estate. OCGA § 44-14-80 states that security deeds expire seven years after the maturity of the last installment date stated in the security deed. OCGA § 44-14-80 further says if the security deed contains no maturity date, the security deed expires after seven years.

When a security deed expires, title automatically “reverts” (goes back) to the borrower. In other words, if sufficient time has passed, the security deed is automatically cancelled. Most importantly, after the security deed is cancelled, the lender loses its lien against the property and cannot foreclose.

These concepts were the focus of a recent Georgia Court of Appeals case: Freeport Title & Guaranty. In that case, the parties disagreed whether a security deed had expired. The security deed had a space to insert a due date, but, whoever drafted the security deed, left the space blank. One party argued that the security had expired after seven years because the security deed had no maturity date. The other party responded that omitting the due date was a mistake. Instead, that party argued that the borrower and the lender had intended to include a due date.

The Georgia Court of Appeals found that the security deed had not expired after seven years. Even though the parties had not included specific date in the security deed. The court reasoned that the parties had intended to include a fixed date. In addition, the Court of Appeals ruled that the promissory note, which did include a due date, could be used to “fill in the blanks.”

The takeaway, when evaluating whether a security deed in Georgia has expired, is to consider the promissory note and the security deed . However, unlike security deeds, lenders do not record promissory notes on the public record. So getting a copy to review may be challenging.

If you have a question about a security deed, please call us at 404-382-9994 to discuss.

Wrongful Death in Georgia – Who Makes the Claim

If your loved one has recently passed, we offer our sincere condolences. Losing a loved one is tragic, but at some point, the living must go on living. This means educating yourself regarding your family’s legal rights in order to make a full recovery on behalf of your loved one.

If your loved one’s death was caused by the negligence of another, who is entitled to make a claim? A claim may include include funeral expenses, medical expenses, pain and suffering before your loved one’s death, and the value of your loved one’s life that has been cut short?

To understand who can make a claim, we must first understand that Georgia law allows two different claims following a wrongful death: one is just referred to as a “wrongful death claim”, and the other is referred to as an “estate claim” or “survival claim”. The same person can bring both claims, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Wrongful Death Claim

Under Georgia law, this claim belongs to the loved one’s spouse and children. See OCGA § 51-4-2. If the loved one had no spouse or children during their life, the loved one’s parents are entitled to make the claim. See OCGA § 19-7-1. Finally, if no spouse, children, or parents are alive, the court can appoint an administrator or executor to make the claim. See OCGA § 51-4-5. Relatives such as a sibling, uncle, aunt, or grandparent have no right to prosecute the wrongful death case.

We will discuss this in further detail in another blog. However, generally, a wrongful death claim includes recovery for the value of your loved one’s life had he or she not died prematurely.

Estate/Survival Claim

The administrator of your loved one’s estate is the party entitled to make claims for funeral, medical, and other necessary expenses and any claim for pain and suffering before death. OCGA § 51-4-5.

If you have any questions about who can make a wrongful death claim on behalf of your loved one, please call us. We have provided a very general overview, but many details and complications come up when applying these rules in real life.