COVID-19 Update: How We are Serving and Protecting Our Clients.

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I noticed this morning with sadness that a young woman was killed on I-285 last night when she got out of her car. Police said the accident happened around 10 p.m. on I-285 NB between South Cobb Drive and Atlanta Road.  There is no mention of why she left her car to become a person-on-foot on I-285, which is, by the way, one of the deadliest freeways in the United States. Whatever the reason, your car breaks down, or you have a medical emergency, you have a flat tire, or whatever...do not get out of your car on a highway. Getting out of your car of a highway is also one of the deadliest things you can do, even if you stay in an emergency lane. It doesn’t matter, it is still dangerous. “You are better protected in the car than anywhere else,” said Cathleen Lewis, director of Public Affairs and Government Relations for the Northeast division of AAA.

I represent a Good Samaritan right now who saw a car on the side of the way, apparently, having car trouble. He stopped to help because he is a good person. Unfortunately, while he was on foot trying to help the people in the stalled car, a van hits him and catastrophically injures him. He survived, but has not been able to return to work since. I hate to tell people stop helping others, stop being a Good Samaritan, but being a Good Samaritan can get you killed.  Do not get out of your car on a highway or interstate. Remain in your car and call 911 or your roadside assistance. Wait in the car until they get there. There is no safe place to be on the outside of your car.  Stay in your car!

It is so dangerous out there on our Georgia roads. Stay safe!

Ellwood Oakley III
1945 – 2022
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This past Sunday, after attending our regular Worship Service at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church on the beautiful Emory University Campus, my husband and I journeyed to Buckhead to Peachtree Road United Methodist Church to send off our good, dear friend, Ellwood “Ebb” Oakley. Ebb was in the Navy during the Viet Nam War and, among other awards, had been awarded the Bronze Star and the National Defense Service Medal. His funeral was a military funeral, with the playing of “Taps,” “America the Beautiful,” and “Eternal Father,” the Navy Hymn. Our good friend, Timothy Miller, who sings “God Bless America” before Braves games on Sundays, led us all in “God Bless America” at Ebb’s funeral. To say this funeral was moving would be an complete understatement. It was a send-off appropriate for a great man like Ebb.

Estate-Planning-8-1-1-300x200The Open Records Act, otherwise known as the Georgia Sunshine Law, provides access to public records of government bodies. This includes basically any record that is held by a public agency, including documents, computer data, photographs, and video. The Open Records Act and other similar state laws are derived from the Freedom of Information Act, which was designed to increase transparency and confidence in public agencies by allowing citizens to identify issues in public offices. Laws like this have now been considered a crucial component in how our government works, allowing for informed participation in the democratic process.

Unless specifically made exempt, all public records should be accessible to you, or any other citizen. You also do not need to provide any reason for accessing the information. If your request is denied, the organization must provide a citation of the law that prohibits them from giving you the documents.

Some organizations may require you to pay fees to accommodate your request, which has been a cause of concern. In the past, fees as high as 660 million dollars have been requested to access documents through the Freedom of Information Act, effectively preventing access to what is supposed to be public information. 

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Have you seen the new commercial made by GMC for its new Sierra and Yukon Danali pick-up trucks that features hands free driving? It shows a person sitting in the driver’s seat of the truck (I hesitate to call this person a “driver” because he is really not driving at all) with no hands (and not even a knee) on the steering wheel while the pick-up truck appears to be moving at a high rate of speed. Then the person sitting in the driver’s seat begins to clap to the beat of Queen’s famous rock song “We Will Rock You.” And all the passengers in the vehicle start clapping in unison with the beat and with the person sitting in the driver’s seat of the speeding truck while he never touches the steering wheel with his hands. It is scary to watch on TV. It is even scarier to think that someone next to you or behind you on the highway is doing this in a vehicle while you attempt to drive as carefully as possible to arrive at your destination safely. Welcome to the world of hands free driving!

I ask whether you are willing to take the risk of hands free driving because using this “autopilot” feature on some new cars and trucks may result in some horrible consequences, including criminal charges for vehicular homicide.  This is what happened in Los Angeles recently when a person using a Tesla’s autopilot feature (notice I didn’t call him a “driver”) was charged with vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence for the deaths of two people who were killed when the auto-driven Tesla slammed into their Honda Civic, killing them both.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed the auto-pilot feature was on at the time of the collision. The charges against the defendant appear to mark the first time a driver in the United States was prosecuted for a felony while using semi-automated driving technology. The families of the two decedents have filed wrongful death suits, but it is unclear whether Tesla was included as a defendant for products liability.

Michael Brooks, the chief operating officer at the Center for Auto Safety, a nonprofit advocacy group that focuses on the U.S. automotive industry, said he hopes Tesla drivers and owners see this case and understand that Autopilot has limitations. “It will not drive them from any point A to any point B always safely, and they need to be responsible for the actions of the vehicle,” Brooks said.

Depositphotos_21861685_m-2015-300x200Jury service in Georgia is both a legal obligation and civic responsibility, but the process itself is not well understood by those outside the court system. How do you know if you’ve been selected? Who is eligible? And if you are selected, what happens next?

Attorney Robin Frazer Clark, P.C. is an experienced trial lawyer who has presented civil (non-criminal) cases to several juries. In this blog, we go over what you can expect once you’ve been chosen to serve on a jury in a civil matter such as a personal injury, medical malpractice, or wrongful death case.

Who Can Be a Juror in Georgia?

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I reaIMG_63761-225x300d with great interest a recent report from the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that showed a reduction in suicides attributable largely to a song by music artist Logic. That song’s title is “1-800-273-8255,” the hotline number for the suicide prevention lifeline. As a result of this song, number of calls to the lifeline were up while numbers of suicides were down. The correlation to the song was proven by tracking these numbers during three time periods: the first 34 days after the song’s release, Logic’s performance at the 2017 MTV awards and an additional widely promoted performance at the 2018 Grammy Awards.  “1-800-273-8255” is a beautiful song, and if you are not familiar with it, I urge you to take three minutes out now and listen to it.  It starts with a young person saying he doesn’t want to live anymore, that he just wants to die. Then other voices enter the song and essentially talk to the young person and stay with him until the feeling he needs to die by suicide passes. Finally, the young person sings:

I finally wanna be alive, I finally wanna be alive

I don’t wanna die today, I don’t wanna die

african-businesswoman-discussing-with-remotely-woman-partner-online-sitting-front-laptop-working-start-up-office-talking-video-call-during-virtual-meeting-midnight-using-headphone-300x169To be fair, many personal injury victims and their families were not given much of a choice these past 18 months (closing in on two years, as a matter of fact). Everyone had a learning curve in the first few months of the pandemic—some steeper than others—but most attorneys, judges, and court personnel would agree that some court hearings can be easily conducted virtually.

Mediations, at least in the personal injury space, have worked quite well over Zoom. Our firm has been pleasantly surprised at the feasibility of getting results from mediation sessions where participants were spread across the country. In fact, our team would not be opposed to continuing virtual mediation sessions after the pandemic is fully under control. 

What is Mediation?

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Oyez, Oyez! Oyez!  All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of Georgia, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God Bless the State of Georgia and this Honorable Court.  May it please the Court.

Yesterday, I was honored to speak in the Georgia Supreme Court as part of the Court’s 175th Anniversary Celebration. The Celebration began Wednesday evening with a lovely dinner at The Commerce Club.  Thursday was a full day of seminar on the history of the Supreme Court and biographies of various former Justices. I spoke about the creation of the State Bar of Georgia in 1964, which was approved by the Georgia Supreme Court and five years later held to be Constitutional in two separate cases. It was one of the highest honors of my career. I am sharing with you below my presentation.

We are very fortunate to have the Georgia Supreme Court and the State Bar of Georgia, which, together, protect your rights to live in a Just society, grounded in the Rule of Law, so that all may reap the benefits and rewards that our system of Justice provides.

solen-feyissa-iurEAyYyU_c-unsplash-300x209Fair or not, almost every move you make after filing an insurance claim or lawsuit can be scrutinized. The insurance company or defense counsel might hire a private investigator to discreetly follow you around to try to gather evidence that’s harmful to your personal injury case. Unfortunately for personal injury victims, that’s not all the other side can do. 

If you have any type of social media account—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, to name a few—you are at risk of imperiling your personal injury case without even knowing it. That’s because plaintiffs’ social media accounts are discoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. 

What is Discovery?

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“Isn’t that a jury question?”  As a trial lawyer who has tried 75 jury trials in Georgia, that is my default position, i.e., a jury should decide each issue of fact. Not a trial judge and certainly not an appellate court. Juries perform this task of finding facts every day, in every courtroom in the United States. It’s what juries do…and it’s the very foundation our system of Justice is built upon.

Yet, too often, we see trial judges, and then even appellate judges, invade the province of the jury and decide the case for herself/himself. This, plain and simply, is not allowed. The Standard of Review of a denial of a motion for summary judgment, for example, requires [an appellate] Court to “view the evidence, and all reasonable conclusions and inferences drawn from it, in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. And at the summary-judgment stage, we do not resolve disputed facts, reconcile the issues, weigh the evidence, or determine its credibility, as those matters must be submitted to a jury for resolution.” Orr v. SSC Atlanta Operating Co., 860 S.E.2d 217, 222 (Ga. Ct. App. 2021), reconsideration denied (July 14, 2021). It really can’t be any plainer than that.

The United States Supreme Court, the highest appellate Court in the country, rarely, if ever, even discusses issues of fact, much less decides them. You can imagine my surprise, then, when in today’s oral argument in United States v. Tsarnaev I heard Justice Sotomayor ask exactly that question:  “Isn’t that for a jury to decide?”   Whoa! Wait a minute! What just happened?!  A Supreme Court Justice never asks a question like that, does she? And yet I heard it with my own two ears! Interesting.

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