Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Georgia

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The Georgia Supreme Court granted writs of certiorari in two cases involving the liquidation of an insurance company to review the Court of Appeals’ decision in State of Georgia v. International Indemnity Company, 809 SE2d 64 (2017). The dispositive issue presented was whether the official immunity provision in OCGA 33-37-8.1 applied to claims for a “surcharge” and attorney fees against the State Insurance Commissioner and two other state employees, all in their official capacities as the liquidator and his deputies, and against a private company involved in the liquidation. The Court determined the Court of Appeals incorrectly concluded that section 33-37-8.1 would be applicable to these parties, and reversed that part of the Court of Appeals’ judgment allowing the claims to proceed against the state officer and employees in their official capacities. The Court affirmed in all other respects, meaning the case could proceed against the private company. View "Georgia v. International Indemnity Co." on Justia Law

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United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia certified a question of Georgia law to the state Supreme Court. At issue in this insurance coverage dispute between plaintiff National Casualty Company, a commercial insurer, and defendant Georgia School Boards Association - Risk Management Fund (“Risk Fund”), an interlocal risk management agency created pursuant to Article 29 of Chapter 2 of Title 20 of the Georgia Code, OCGA 20-2-2001 et seq. The gravamen of the question was whether Georgia law or public policy precluded a commercial insurance policy that was excess to coverage provided under OCGA 20-2-2002; the Supreme Court answered in the negative, there was no such prohibition. View "National Casualty Company v. Georgia School Boards Association Risk Management Fund" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Candice Reis and Melvin Williams appealed the grant of summary judgment to defendant OOIDA Risk Retention Group, Inc. (“OOIDA”) in a direct action against OOIDA and others arising from a vehicular collision involving Plaintiffs and a motor carrier insured by OOIDA. At issue was whether provisions in the federal Liability Risk Retention Act of 1986 (“the LRRA”), 15 USC 3901, et seq., preempted Georgia’s motor carrier and insurance carrier direct action statutes, OCGA sections 40-1-112 (c),1 40-2-140 (d) (4), in regard to risk retention groups, thereby precluding this direct action against OOIDA. After review of the statutes at issue here, the Georgia Supreme Court concluded there was indeed federal preemption of this action against OOIDA, and consequently, affirmed summary judgment. View "Reis et al. v. OOIDA Risk Retention Group, Inc. et al." on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals certified a question of Georgia law to the Georgia Supreme Court stemming from an appeal in a personal injury case arising from an automobile accident. The Eleventh Circuit asked for the proper interpretation of OCGA 9-11-67.1, which governed the formation of settlement agreements pursuant to a pre-suit “offer to settle a tort claim for personal injury, bodily injury, or death arising from the use of a motor vehicle and prepared by or with the assistance of an attorney on behalf of a claimant or claimants” (a “Pre-Suit Offer”). The Supreme Court responded that OCGA 9-11-67.1 did not prohibit a claimant from conditioning acceptance of a Pre-Suit Offer upon the performance of some act, including a timely payment. The Court left it to the Eleventh Circuit to apply this principle to the facts of this case. View "Grange Mutual Casualty Co. v. Woodard" on Justia Law

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Adrian Burdette was seriously injured when he fell while attempting a controlled descent from a cell-phone tower in contravention of instructions by his employer, Chandler Telecom, LLC (“Chandler”), that technicians must climb down from towers. This case presented the question of whether an employee could, in deliberate disobedience of his employer’s explicit prohibition, act in a knowingly dangerous fashion with disregard for the probable consequences of that act, and still recover workers’ compensation when injured by that disobedient act. The Supreme Court concluded that OCGA 34-9-17(a) could bar recovery in such cases. View "Chandler Telecom, LLC v. Burdette" on Justia Law

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In 1993, Willie Barnes suffered an amputation of his left leg below the knee in an industrial accident at the Georgia-Pacific (GP) wood processing plant where he worked. GP, its insurer Georgia Conversion Primary Ins. Co. and its workers’ compensation servicing agent CCMSI, accepted the claim as catastrophic and began paying temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. Barnes was fitted with a prosthetic leg and returned to lighter duty work in January 1994. On January 30, 1994, GP stopped paying TTD benefits to Barnes, and the TTD benefits were replaced with permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. The PPD benefits continued until May 1998. In 2006, the GP plant was sold to Roseburg Forest Products Company (Roseburg). Barnes continued working for Roseburg, but was laid off on September 11, 2009. On November 13, 2009, Barnes consulted a doctor regarding chronic knee pain. Two years later, he was fitted for a new prosthetic leg, which was paid for by CCMSI, the company that continued as the workers’ compensation servicing agent for Roseburg and Roseburg’s insurer, ACE American Insurance Co. (ACE American). On August 30, 2012, Barnes filed a claim to resume TTD benefits, asserting the date of his original workplace accident August 13, 1993 as the date of injury. On November 30, 2012, Barnes filed a separate notice of claim, alleging a fictional new injury based on the date that he was terminated from his employment, September 11, 2009. The Administrative Law Judge denied the claims as barred by the applicable statutes of limitation set out in OCGA 34-9-104 (b) and 34-9-82. The State Board of Workers’ Compensation (Board) affirmed, as did the trial court. However, the Court of Appeals reversed, finding that both of Barnes’ claims were not barred by the applicable statutes of limitation. The Supreme Court concluded the appellate court erred in its interpretation of the applicable statutes of limitations in these cases, and reversed. View "Roseburg Forest Products Co. v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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Amy Smith, individually and as next friend of her daughter Tyasia Brown, sued her landlord, Bobby Chupp for injuries Brown allegedly sustained as the result of ingesting lead from deteriorating lead-based paint at the house Smith rented from Chupp. The house was insured by Chupp under a commercial general liability (CGL) policy issued by Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company (GFB). After Chupp tendered Smith’s claims to GFB under the provisions of the policy, GFB filed a declaratory judgment action against Smith and Chupp seeking a determination that Brown’s injuries were not covered under the policy and that it had no duty to defend Chupp against Smith’s claims. The Georgia Supreme Court granted a petition for certiorari to the Court of Appeals to determine whether the Court of Appeals erred in holding, as a matter of first impression, that personal injury claims arising from lead poisoning due to lead-based paint ingestion were not excluded from coverage pursuant to an absolute pollution exclusion in CGL insurance policy covering residential rental property. Because the Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that lead-based paint was not clearly a “pollutant” as defined by the policy, it reversed the Court of Appeals' decision in this case. View "Georgia Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. v. Smith" on Justia Law