$ 400,000.00 Settlement in a Georgia Case where a Woman was Hit by a Golf Cart: The Defendant’s Homeowner’s Insurance Policy will Pay

golf cart for july 28 2014 blogIn May of 2012 there was a concert in Peachtree City, Georgia outdoors where people regularly use golf carts as transportation. After the concert, as the crowd was dispersing, a woman, Tracy Self, was with her husband walking out of the concert venue when she was struck by a golf cart driven by William Helm.

Helm did not at first realize that he had struck Ms. Self as he was dragging her a small ways when another pedestrian stopped Helm and pulled the keys out of the ignition.  Even through the keys were missing, Helm attempted to drive again before he realized there were no keys in the ignition.

Helm was charged with driving under the influence and went to jail while Self was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and into surgery for broken bones in one of her legs.

As the Plaintiff’s Attorney’s were ready to file suit, the insurance company, American Strategic, called Plaintiff’s counsel and stated that the incident with the golf cart was excluded from the homeowner’s policy. Therefore, the Defendant’s counsel filed a complaint in Fayette County Superior Court for a declaratory judgment that the insurance company was not liable under these circumstances.  The Judge, Mack Crawford, disagreed with the Defendant’s contention and granted the Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgement.


Georgia Passes a New Law that makes “Running” a/k/a Ambulance Chasing a Crime with Stiff Penalties for Attorneys Engaging in this Unethical and Unlawful Activity

ambulance for july 25 blogIn the legal community, we have all heard the word “Runners” a/k/a Ambulance Chasers whereby a non lawyer is hired by an Attorney to actively seek business for an Attorney or Law Firm, usually involving personal injury cases and accidents. The business of running was used aggressively by many attorneys, but two (2) attorneys in particular were master minds at this scheme; Thomas C. Sinowski and Steven F. Freedman.  Sinowski and Freedman went toe to toe with the Georgia State Bar for approximately ten (10) years about this type of practice until they were finally disbarred in 2011.

On July 1 House Bill 828 was voted into law now known as O.C.G.A. Section 33-24-53 that defines “running” and how attorneys and runners can be penalized for this unethical and illegal practice. The reason behind the new law is so that consumers who have been involved in an accident or the like have time to research and choose their attorney without having someone banging on the door aggressively seeking business.

This practice of running makes our profession look bad and it is not good for consumers.  Now, the penalties for ambulance chasers and the attorneys that use them are criminal ranging from misdemeanor to felony offenses that carry jail time, fines, potential disbarment, and further action by the State Bar of Georgia against the offenders.  Prior to the new law, the only recourse seemed to be a Bar complaint and it was not a swift procedure as demonstrated by the antics of attorneys Sinowski and Freedman.


The Cause of the Crash on June 30, 2014 that Killed 5 People in Hall County, Georgia is No Longer a Mystery: The Driver had Methamphetamines and other Drugs in her Body at the Time of the Crash

pills for blog july 20On June 30, 2014 Amanda Lynn Pardue was driving on Georgia Highway 11 in Hall County, Georgia when her Ford Explorer crossed the median and hit a tractor trailer head on. There were five (5) people in her vehicle at the time of the crash including Pardue’s eight (8) year old daughter, Kayleigh, her two (2) year old son, Eli, a man named Robbie Hollis, and his grandson, Dalton Martin, age 13.  It was unknown where they were going at the time of the fatal crash.

Amanda Pardue, Kayleigh, Robbie Hollis, and Dalton Martin all died at the scene of the accident. Eli was was alive at the scene and later died at the hospital. The truck driver was taken to the hospital and listed in stable condition.

At the time of the crash, it was determined that the driver of the tractor trailer was not at fault. It was not determined, however, why Pardue crossed the median. Pardue’s fiancé speculated that Pardue had a seizure as she had epilepsy and was not supposed to be driving under any conditions.

It was determined later, however, that a toxicology report showed that Pardue had methamphetamines and other drugs in her system at the time of the fatal crash. This is a terrible tragedy that illustrates how dangerous it is to drive while impaired whether it be under the influence of alcohol, legal or illegal drugs, certain prescription medications and the like.  As I have discussed on my website on the page about Drunk and Impaired Driving Accidents, anything that causes a driver to be impaired raises the probability of an accident that can cause serious injuries or, as in this case, death.


Did your Honor act Unethically in a Medical Malpractice Case in Henry County, Georgia by Failing to Notify Attorneys for all Parties of Communications between the Judge and the Jury? ~ part two

hammer july 19 2014This is a follow up blog post from my other blog post titled, “Did your Honor act Unethically in a Medical Malpractice Case in Henry County, Georgia by Failing to Notify Attorneys for all Parties of Communications between the Judge and the Jury? ~ part one.”

Plaintiff’s Attorneys are preparing to retry the case based on the notion that even if the Defense appeals the Court of Appeals ruling to the Georgia Supreme Court that the Court will uphold the Court of Appeals Judgement in this matter. A representative of one of the Defense Attorney’s has stated that he does not believe that the Judge’s actions had any bearing whatsoever on the Jury’s verdict and if they have to try the case again that they would get the same result; a Defense verdict, and reiterated that Judge Studdard has a long history, 18 years, of trying Medical Malpractice cases and is very thoughtful, diligent, fair-minded, and conscientious as well.

What makes this case so interesting is that when the Juror contacted the Plaintiff’s Attorney she continued to explain that she did not know that the jury did not have to reach an unanimous verdict and that if they didn’t that another jury would have the opportunity to hear the case. According to this juror, many members of the jury said that there was no way they would reach a verdict for the Plaintiff so this Juror, and the other Jurors that wanted to grant a Plaintiff’s verdict, would never be able to convince them otherwise. She further felt defeated by the Judge’s note and felt that she and the others had to give in to the majority.


Did your Honor act Unethically in a Medical Malpractice Case in Henry County, Georgia by Failing to Notify Attorneys for all Parties of Communications between the Judge and the Jury? ~ part one

baby blog july 19The Honorable Benjamin Studdard of the Henry County, Georgia, Superior Court recently presided over a Medical Malpractice Case involving a hospital and a doctor whereby the Defendants were accused of Medical Malpractice in a case where a child had a distressed birth and was born blind and quadriplegic.

During deliberations, the Jury in the case sent notes to the Judge and the Judge notified counsel of those notes. One note, however, was sent to the Judge stating that the Jury was deadlocked, and the Judge responded to the Jury to, “Please keep deliberating.” The Judge failed to share this particular note, and his response to the same, with counsel, and further failed to preserve the notes for the record.  The Jury ultimately granted a verdict in favor of the Defendants.

The Plaintiff’s Attorneys did, however, find out about the undisclosed note, but not until after the trial ended when one of the jurors reached out to the Plaintiff’s Attorney and said that the jury was deadlocked on the second day of jury deliberations, and the foreman, therefore, sent a note to the Judge advising him of the same, and the Judge wrote back to the Jury stating, “Please continue deliberating.”

The Juror who contacted the Plaintiff’s Attorney was one of two jurors who were holding out and wanted to grant a verdict in favor of the Plaintiff. The Juror stated that she thought that the Judge’s reply meant that the two Jurors who were in disagreement with the majority had no choice but to go along with the majority and rule for the Defendants instead of the Plaintiff.


Child, 3, Dies at an Alpharetta, Georgia Daycare while Playing Unsupervised by Hanging himself on the Playground Equipment. This was Not the First Safety Violation at said Daycare.

playground july 12 blogOn Tuesday, July 8, 2014, a child age 3, Thomas Stephens, while playing unsupervised at Ms. Janna’s Daycare in Alpharetta, Georgia, died by accidentally hanging himself on a piece of twine attached to a slide on the playground equipment at said Daycare.

According to State Records, this particular daycare was cited earlier this year for other safety violations in and around the play area outdoors such as nails protruding out of a wooden ladder on the wooden climber, too many tree limbs and pine cones, an untangled water hose, and the like.  It has not been said if the daycare was inspected again after being cited for said safety violations to insure that the violations had been corrected as such.

After the incident on July 8th, the daycare was immediately Ordered Closed by by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, also known as DECAL. Although the case seems to be accidental, there is an active, ongoing investigation.  Regardless of whether or not any criminal charges are filed, there will most likely be a civil suit brought by the parents of young Stephens for the Wrongful Death of their Son.

This is a sad story and our sympathies reach out to little Thomas Stephens’ family. It is imperative that daycare centers in Georgia and any facility who takes care of young children have the appropriate certifications, and that the staff are appropriately trained as such. The Daycare in which this death took place had been in operation for approximately 25 years.


Cobb County Georgia Superior Court Judges Gives Personal Home Caregiver 20 years, with 10 to Serve for Abhorrent Conditions and More

older person blog july 8In a home in Cobb County Georgia located at 981 Laurel Springs Lane, Reequel Alita Penny, age 43, was keeping elderly women in her basement in 11 feet by 5 feet spaces separated by plywood without proper medicine, food, nor facilities. Penny pled guilty to felony criminal charges including, but not limited to, false imprisonment, deprivation and racketeering totaling 47 charges.

Judge C. LaTain Kell of Cobb County Superior Court sentenced Penny to 20 years in prison, with 10 to serve. The District Attorney, Vic Reynolds, stated that, “This case is about how we treat the elderly and disabled in our community. I hope the message was sent that these sorts of substandard conditions will not be tolerated.”

As I have stated in my prior blog post about Nursing Home Abuse, as our society begins to age, we are likely to see more and more cases of abuse and neglect of many types. These sentences and punishments, and more like it, will hopefully send a clear message that this type of behavior and neglect will not be tolerated by the law or by the community.

The disabled and the elderly are one of our most vulnerable populations in our society and we must stand up for those that can not stand up for themselves. As more and more personal care facilities are built and opened, and more and more assisted living communities are available to meet the demands of an aging society, it remains to be seen whether the supply will actually meet the demand. It is when this falls upon us that we see substandard living conditions and people being taken advantage of in this these types of environments.


Lake Allatoona Georgia Boat Crash Injures 5 People including a Young Infant

boating for july 8 blogIn Bartow County on Lake Allatoona on July 5, 2014 after the Fireworks show at the Allatoona Yacht Club at approximately 11:30 p.m. the Georgia Department of Natural Resources’ (GADNR) Law Enforcement Division responded to a boat crash. Five (5) people were injured and one was a four month old infant . Two boats were involved in the crash; 1.) A Maxum Cabin Cruiser; and 2.) A Chaparral Ski Boat.

Witnesses at the scene indicated that the ski boat hit the cabin cruiser from behind, and then went up and over the boat. The person operating the cabin cruiser was the most injured. There were only minor injuries to the other four people, including the infant. It was determined that the driver of the ski boat was impaired and was, therefore, arrested and charged with Boating Under the Influence.

To deter further incidents such as the case in point, and as stated above, Boating Under the Influence is now also being treated more like Driving Under the Influence with the same or similar penalties. Just as driving a car or other motor vehicle under the influence, driving a boat under the influence cause serious injuries or death.

As I have discussed in my other blog posts on boat injuries, boating can be very dangerous and can cause serious injury and even death. After the famous singer Usher’s son was killed in a boating incident, Georgia put into effect a new Mandatory Boating Education Law beginning July 1, 2014 requiring all individuals born on or after January 1, 1998 that operate any motorized vessel on the waters of the state of Georgia must have first successfully completed a boat education course approved by the GADNR prior to such boating operation.


The Georgia Supreme Court Rules that it Shall Not Be Automatically Permissible to Disclose a Psychiatric Patient’s Records if the Psychiatric Patient has Died

us of america blog july 7 2014A young man, Christopher Landry, a longtime patient of psychiatrist Crit Cooksey, took his owns life at age 22 in September, 2012. Landy’s parents, Michael and Lisa Landry, intend to file a medical malpractice case against Cooksey alleging that Cooksey failed to properly monitor young Landry or warn him, or his parents, of the possible suicidal side effects of giving certain prescription medications to younger patients that he had prescribed to young Landry causing young Landry to commit suicide.

When Cooksley failed to turn over young Landry’s records based on psychiatrist-patient privilege, the Landrys’ filed for an injunction insisting that Cooksey turn over young Landry’s psychiatric records so they could proceed with the Medical Malpractice claim and obtain the medical affidavit that is necessary under Georgia Law when filing a Medical Malpractice case.

Soon to retire, Cobb County Superior Court Judge James Bodiford, granted the Landrys’ injunction and ordered the production of young Landry’s records from the psychiatrist.  He failed, however, to even review the records to determine what parts of the records, if any, were privileged, and what parts were non-privledged information before ruling in the Landrys’ favor.

The Georgia Supreme Court, in a vote of 5-2, ruled that it was long standing Georgia law that communications between between a psychiatrist and his or her patient may not be disclosed unless the patient waived the psychiatrist-patient privilege, and that the psychiatrist-privilege, unlike other privileges held by a patient or a client, died with the patient. The Georgia Supreme Court’s dissenting opinion said that it should be a matter of public policy that a representative of the deceased patient had the authority to waive the psychiatrist-patient privilege.

Judge Thompson, speaking for the Georgia Supreme Court Majority, did not unequivocally state that all the records were not discoverable in this case under the normal course of discovery.  Rather, he said in his opinion that the trial court now must review the files to determine whether there are any non-privileged records or information and, with regard to any privileged information, whether anyone waived the privilege whether it be by express permission of young Landry or whether it be by the parents’ presence at some of the sessions that would be deemed a waiver of said privilege.

Whether any waivers or other information deemed permitted to be disclosed would rise to the level of the Landrys being able to obtain the expert opinion affidavit that is necessary to file in a Medical Malpractice case in Georgia remains to be seen. The case is Cooksey v. Landry, No. S14A0926.


2013 was a Record Year for Fireworks Related Injuries in Georgia with 8 Deaths and 11,400 Injuries; Hoping the Numbers are Down in 2014

fireworks blog july 7 2014Fireworks in 2013 caused 31 percent more injures; 11,400 up from 8,700 in 2012. At least 8 people were killed from injuries or in fires caused by fireworks as follows; notice these aren’t kids who were killed:

?• A male, 33 years old, and a female 49 years old both died in a fire in a building that started by fireworks powder

• A male, 35 years old, died fireworks blew up in his face

• A male, 54 years old, died hold a fireworks tube in his hand at held at chest level to be landed and instead it blew up and tore into his chest

• A man, 46 years old, was making illegal fireworks and died when the fireworks blew up

• A man, 42 years old, tried to light a firework with his cigarette when the firework exploded and he died of a head injury to follow

It is important to note that these are the most injuries since 2005 when there were 10,800 injuries reported, and in 2000 when there were 11,000 injuries reported. 41% of the injuries are from hands and fingers burnt, 19% of the injuries are ears, heads, and faces, with the remaining 20% being other parts of the body or death.

The warning is strong for 2014: Be careful with fire works! “Fireworks – any way you look at it, whether they’re legal or illegal, they’re dangerous if misused,” said Bob Wall, Public Education Manager for Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue. Fireworks are also Festive and Dangerous.

To reduce the possibility of injury or death when using fireworks, there are 5 Fireworks Safety Tips since whether it is Independence Day or any other day, fireworks can be one of the most celebratory, and most dangerous, ways to have some fun. The following are five safety tips for whenever you are around fireworks: