June 22

Who Pays For Joy Riding?

I recently had a client who turned to me after a well-known metro Atlanta auto repair company wrecked his sports car while it was in the shop for minor work. Our understanding is that one of the body shop employees had taken the car out for a ride during work hours and lost control of the vehicle. Based upon the facts of this case, we had to determine who bore responsibility for the resulting damage under Georgia law – the driver, or the body shop?

The legal doctrine of respondeat superior holds that an employer is liable for injuries to another proximately resulting from the acts of an employee committed within the scope of his or her employment. Georgia Code Annotated § 51-2-2. While there is no controlling definition of scope of employment, generally, if the employee’s wrongful conduct is in any way incidental to his or her employment, related to his or her work duties, or provides a benefit to his or her employer, the employer may be found liable to third parties under this doctrine of respondeat superior. See, Du Pree v. Babcock, 112 S.E.2d 415 (Ga. Ct. App. 1959).

The question of employer liability under respondeat superior, then, boils down to whether the driver was acting within the scope of his job at the repair shop as of the time of the accident. Auto repair shops can and often do take customer’s vehicles on short drives for diagnostic purposes; any such truly diagnostic test drive would clearly be within the scope of the repair shop’s business, and the body shop could be held responsible for damage caused by an employee in the course of that drive. On the other hand, what if a repair shop employee simply snuck out a customer’s car for a joy ride without his or her employer’s knowledge? Likely, respondeat superior would not apply, as the joy ride would not have any legitimate relation to the driver’s duties as a repair shop employee.

Even assuming the metro Atlanta repair shop’s employee was just out for a joy ride, an employer which knowingly allows (or encourages) employees to participate in illegal behavior like joy-riding customer vehicles can still be held responsible for the resulting damage. In this case, the body shop agreed to take responsibility for my client’s property damage and loss of use claims, and the matter settled out of court, so we’ll never know if this truly was a matter of respondeat superior or not. Either way, my client got a nice settlement check for his trouble. My last piece of legal advice to him on the matter was to go to a different repair shop next time!

If you think a company has taken you for a ride, contact The Hinson Firm to ensure that your rights are protected!

June 2

Georgia Garnishment Law

Did you know that Georgia law requires that a Plaintiff who is garnishing a debtor Defendant’s wages provide Defendant with service or notice of the garnishment action? Under OCA 18-4-64, the Plaintiff must serve Defendant with a copy of the garnishment summons in accordance with the Civil Practice Act, or provide notice of the Defendant within three days of service upon the garnishee. A Plaintiff who chooses not to pursue service upon the Defendant must strictly comply with the notice provisions within OCA 18-4-64, most of which require notice within three business days. Cook v. NC Two, L.P., 289 Ga. 462 (2011).

I recently won dismissal of a garnishment for a client who had gotten neither service nor notice of the garnishment action that had been instituted against his employer – and my client got the garnished funds returned to him! If you’re currently being garnished or have questions regarding garnishment law, you should consult with a lawyer to determine whether you have any legal options regarding collection of your assets.

May 18

Social Media As Evidence: A Georgia Overview

The ever-increasing reach of the Internet in recent decades has had numerous effects on the dynamics of litigation; among other things, the widespread use of social media has created a virtual treasure trove of information for parties involved in lawsuits. Nationwide, federal courts have reached a general consensus that social media is discoverable evidence if made through a request reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of information bearing on the claim at issue, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34. See, e.g., Davenport v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 3:11-CV-632-J-JBT, 2012 WL 555759, at *1 (M.D.Fla. Feb. 21, 2012); Mailhoit v. Home Depot U.S.A., Inc., 285 F.R.D. 566, 570 (C.D.Cal. 2012); Tompkins v. Detroit Metropolitan Airport, 2012 WL 179320, at *2 (E.D.Mich. Jan.18, 2012). However, jurisdictions vary in their implementation of discovery requests concerning social media.

February 23

Georgia Statutes of Limitation

Below is a summary of the statute of limitation periods for common civil and criminal causes of action in the state of Georgia. Statutes of limitations set forth the time period within which a plaintiff (or the state) must commence a case. Claims are barred after the applicable limitation period has passed. Determining when the statute of limitations expires is extremely important – it’s one of the very first things your lawyer should do for you.

Georgia Statutes of Limitation (Civil)

Breach of Contract (Written): 6 years

Breach of Contract (Oral): 4 years

Personal Injury: 2 years*

Property Damage: 4 years

* minors and persons who are legally incompetent at the time of the event causing injury are entitled to have the statute of limitation “tolled” until the person becomes an adult or the legal incompetence no longer exists. O.C.G.A. § 9-30-90. If a person suffers a disability that causes legal incompetence after her or his right of action accrues and the disability was not voluntarily caused, the statute of limitations may be tolled during the disability. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-91.