WACHP would like to congratulate Jonathan Adelman, Dan Prout, Trevor Hiestand, and Russell Waldon for being named 2016 Georgia Super Lawyers. WACHP would also like to congratulate Rakhi McNeill and Ashley Rice for being named 2016 Georgia Rising Stars.
Georgia Supreme Court Allows Non-Party Apportionment of Fault to Plaintiff’s Employer for Negligent Entrustment
On July 6, 2015, in the case of Zaldivar v. Prickett et al., No. S14G1778, 2015 WL 4067788, the Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously held that Georgia’s apportionment statute allowed a jury to apportion some fault for plaintiff’s damages to plaintiff’s employer. The case concerned an automobile accident between two drivers where the defendant alleged that the plaintiff’s employer was partially responsible for its employee’s injuries based on negligent entrustment. The defendant argued that the jury should be allowed to apportion some fault to the non-party employer based upon its allowing the plaintiff to drive a company truck on business, even though three complaints had been filed against him for poor driving. In ruling in favor of the defendant, the Court held that Georgia’s 2005 apportionment statute, O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33, requires the trier of fact to consider the fault of a non-party (i.e., the plaintiff’s employer) when the non-party is shown to have committed a tort against the plaintiff that was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. Specifically, the Court held that the apportionment statute contemplates the fault of every tortfeasor, regardless of whether he or she may have an affirmative defense or claim of immunity against liability to the plaintiff. The Court also explained that a non-party’s negligent entrustment of an instrumentality can be a proximate cause of an injury to the person to whom the instrumentality was entrusted. This is known as “first-party” negligent entrustment, which is typically not a workable legal theory of recovery available to […]
Consent to Settle Clause Upheld
On April 20, 2015, the Georgia Supreme Court held that an insured’s negligent failure to settle a claim against an insurance company was barred when the insured settled the underlying claim against it without the insurance company’s authorization. Piedmont Office Realty Trust v. XL Specialty Insurance Company, 771 S.E. 2d 864 (2015). There, the applicable insurance policy contained a “consent-to-settle” clause and a provision that there could be no action against the insurance company without full compliance with the provisions of the policy. The insurance company provided a defense to the insured in the underlying case. The insured consented to a settlement without the insurance company’s authorization and then attempted to recover the settlement amount from the insurance company. The Georgia Supreme Court held that the insured could not sue for bad faith refusal to settle. The Georgia Supreme Court recognized, however, that if the insurance company denied coverage outright and refused to provide any defense, the insured could enter into a settlement agreement without the insurance company’s authorization and then proceed with a potential bad faith action against the insurance company.
Waldon Adelman Cooks on Hot Summer Trial Calendar
It’s been a busy summer for defense litigation shop Waldon Adelman Castilla Hiestand & Prout. Over a period of three weeks, the 32-member firm tried nine jury cases to victory or minimal plaintiffs’ awards, continuing a courtroom-heavy schedule that has seen its members handle 23 jury trials this year. View the full article here: Daily Report Article
Social Media Evidence as Impeachment
Pursuant to the Georgia Civil Practice Act, parties are entitled to the discovery of “any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action . . . .” O.C.G.A. § 9-11-26. Our firm has successfully argued that content posted by plaintiffs to their social media accounts after a motor vehicle accident is subject to this provision. Such content has included photographs of a plaintiff smiling and jumping spread eagle into the air two (2) weeks before his deposition in which he testified that he could not walk more than a few blocks without pain. It has included a Facebook post of “I’m feeling so fantastic today!” the same day that a plaintiff reported to her chiropractor with moderate-to-severe pain complaints. Other content has included photographs of a still-injured plaintiff participating in a post-accident Muddy Buddy Run (a 3-4.5 mile long running race in which buddies work together to climb, jump and crawl through 8-10 obstacles). Many plaintiffs readily turn over post-accident social media content, acknowledging that it is as discoverable as post-accident vacation photographs and diaries. However, other plaintiffs have been resistant to the idea of producing content that they assumed was privately shared. Just because a plaintiff’s social media profile is controlled by privacy settings does not render the content protected. Judge Eddie Barker in Douglas County has noted that a plaintiff’s posting of information and photographs as to his or her daily activities is no different than a plaintiff telling a neighbor […]
Attempts to Amend UM Bad Faith Penalty Provisions
During the 2015 session of the Georgia General Assembly, the Georgia House of Representatives passed House Bill 303 which provided for the amendment of Georgia’s Uninsured Motorist Act, O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11 to provide for a minimum bad faith penalty of $25,000, regardless of the UM limits, plus attorney’s fees. Of note, the initial version of the bill called for unlimited penalties. The bill did not reach the Senate floor, but will likely be revisited next year. As explained below, the bad faith provisions contained in the current statute provide considerable protection to insureds over and beyond typical breach of contract claims. Uninsured/underinsured motorist claims are a mixed bag of tort and contract claims. A claimant insured must prove an entitlement to a tort recovery against an uninsured/underinsured motorist in order to be able to recover from the UM carrier. However, the claimant insured must also show that the policy is applicable. For instance, sometimes there is an issue as to whether the insured actually qualifies as an insured under the policy. Sometimes there are issues with multiple insurance policies issued by multiple companies as to which companies and policies provide primary coverage. When there is an issue as to whether or not coverage is owed, an insurance company has a contractual right to undertake an investigation, take statements under oath, request certain documents, etc. Often, sixty (60) days does not provide sufficient time period in which to undertake all of these efforts. Nonetheless, if a claimant insured makes a demand […]
My Car, My Business: Navigating Insurance Issues in a Rideshare World
In the last five years, ride share services such as Uber have effectively changed the way that millions of Americans move around in our cities. The advent of nontraditional ride share services as an alternative to traditional taxicabs, however, has created a number of issues regarding insurance coverage in states across the country. Among those issues are policy exclusions for car-for-hire activities, the incentive for ride share drivers to commit insurance fraud, compulsory minimum liability limits, the primacy of any commercial policy over a ride share driver’s liability or collision coverage, and the primary duty to defend the insured. In an effort to address those issues, the Georgia Legislature passed a law that was signed by Governor Deal on May 6, 2015. The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2016 as O.C.G.A. § 33-1-24. Ride share services such as Uber and Lyft operate online networks that allow a prospective rider to hail a ride using GPS location services. In order to use a service such as Uber or Lyft, a rider has to create a member account and store payment information. A driver can connect to Uber or Lyft via an online app, and when connected, a driver can see and pick up prospective riders who have requested a ride. Once a driver picks up a rider, the ride share service tracks the route via GPS and automatically bills the rider for the cost of the ride. Generally, any policy of insurance issued in Georgia to the […]
WACHP Announces New Partner
We are pleased to announce that John Alday has been named a partner of the firm.
Seven of our Lawyers Named Georgia Super Lawyers for 2015
As published in Atlanta Magazine, seven of our lawyers have been named Georgia Super Lawyers for 2015. These lawyers are Russell D. Waldon, Jonathan M. Adelman, Trevor G. Hiestand, Daniel C. Prout, Jr., Kimberly A. McNamara, Ashley Rice, and Rakhi McNeill.
WACHP Opens Savannah Office
We are pleased to announce the opening of our Southeast Georgia office in the heart of Historic Downtown Savannah at 100 Bull Street. We are committed to growing our Southeast Georgia practice by striving to make client access and satisfaction top priorities. Please continue to direct all communications to our Atlanta Office.