Archive for December, 2007

Can Use of Cell Phones Alter the “Coming and Going” Doctrine?

Currently, injuries that occur as an employee is coming from or going to work are not compensable under Georgia Law. However, with the rise of cell phone use while driving, it is common for employees to conduct business in the car on the way home or going to work. Is this enough to eliminate the “coming and going” doctrine if an accident occurs while the driver is on the cell phone? On October 1, 2007, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment to Modern Continental in Hunter v. Modern Continental Construction Company, Inc. Hunter’s complaint for damages arises from a vehicular accident between Hunter and the driver of a truck driven for Modern who was on his way to work at the time of the accident. The court held that the jury should decide whether the truck driver was in the course and scope of his employment as there is some evidence that he was talking on his cell phone discussing company business when the accident happened. Hunter is not a workers’ compensation case but it represents a growing trend that may affect future analysis of “in the course and scope” for workers’ compensation purposes.

For more information, please contact Catherine Dellinger Buckley at (404) 974-4588.

Georgia Redefines Role of Sheriffs

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently redefined how sheriffs are viewed under state law in Nichols v. Prather, A07A0148 (7/16/2007). Previously, in Brown v. Dorsey, 276 Ga. App. 851, 625 S.E.2d 16 (2005), the Court of Appeals held that sheriffs are not policy-makers for the purpose of holding a county liable for violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 because counties have no control and thus have no authority to alter a sheriff department’s policies. Nichols, on the other hand, involved a deputy sheriff (Nichols) who, while driving his patrol car without his lights or sirens activated, struck and killed the plaintiff’s decedent. Plaintiff brought suit against Nichols, Pickens County, and Pickens County Sheriff, Billy Wofford. With respect to the liability of Pickens County, the Court of Appeals held that a county cannot be vicariously liable for the alleged negligence of a sheriff’s deputy because sheriff’s deputies are employees of the sheriff only. The Court of Appeals explained that its decision in Brown v. Dorsey applied only to immunity for a sheriff’s violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and had no application to a sheriff’s liability under respondeat superior for his deputy’s negligence or the county’s liability under agency principles.

For more information, please contact Tim Buckley at (404) 974-4570.

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