Who are you able to blame?  Georgia Supreme Court docket ruling on cut up creates shock waves by means of the authorized neighborhood – litigation, mediation, and arbitration

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Who can you blame? The Georgia Supreme Court ruling on the split sends shock waves through the legal community

September 21, 2021

Freeman Mathis & Gary

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The Georgia Supreme Court issued an advisory opinion on August 10, 2021 that severely restricts Georgia’s apportionment law. The Alston & Bird, LLP v Hatcher Management Holdings, LLC S20G1419 case severely limits the situations in which a defendant can legally attribute fault to a non-party. The law, OCGA 51-12-33, previously allowed defendants in single defendant cases to file a lawsuit in court to assign the guilt of a non-party. This enabled the defendants to argue before a jury that a non-party was liable for damages, and as such, that non-party could be included in a judgment form.

For example, in a negligent security case in which the defendant owns the premises in which the tort took place, the defendant could first file an indictment with the court of the non-party who committed the tort. This allowed the non-party to appear on the judgment form, giving a jury an easier way of assigning blame. However, the court has restricted this option for the defendants.

In its judgment, which appears to concern only individual defendants and not those “directed against more than one person”, the Court relied on the plain and common meaning of the text and found that the plain language of the text provides that Claims for damages against a defendant may be reduced according to the percentages of fault attributed to all who contributed to the alleged injury or damage, including non-parties – but damage can only be done in cases directed against multiple defendants after Reduce non-party debt.

The judgment does not appear to have any effect on the plaintiff’s assignment of blame, nor does it appear to remove the argument that an innocent party is to some extent liable. However, the verdict appears to have deprived the jury of the ability to assign a percentage of fault to a non-party. This is likely to have a significant impact on future cases. Apparently, if the legislature intends to allow non-party apportionment in single defendant cases, it will have to start from scratch and rewrite the law.

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