The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reversed the decision of a trial court that granted summary judgment to a driver who collided with a calf on a dark, South Georgia road, resulting in injuries to the driver. The animal had escaped from its pasture, and despite efforts of the farmer and his son to locate and retrieve the calf, the driver collided with it shortly before midnight. The case was Morris et al. v. Pope, Georgia Court of Appeals Case No. A17A1102, decided October 31, 2017, and the decision is available on the Court of Appeals web site.
Under Georgia law, owners of livestock, including cows, have duties to properly maintain their animals in proper enclosures. If an animal escapes from its enclosure, a permissible inference is created by the law that the owner was negligent. But if the owner can present evidence that he or she properly maintained the animal, the inference can be eliminated. And in such cases, if the victim cannot present further evidence of negligence, the case may be dismissed on summary judgment.
In this case, which was handled by John Hadden, the victim raised two arguments to the Georgia Court of Appeals for why the trial court should be reversed and the case be allowed to be heard by a jury.
First, he argued that evidence of other cattle escaping from this and other fields, among other evidence, was sufficient to establish sufficient facts to show that the owner was negligent in maintaining THIS cow. Second, he argued that because there was evidence that the owner and his son located the cow approximately 5-10 minutes before the collision but were unable to return the animal to the field, the jury could conclude that the farmer was negligent.
The Court of Appeals found that there was insufficient evidence of negligence under the first argument, but agreed with the victim that the actions of the owner AFTER the cow was found was sufficient for the jury to consider the case, and reversed the ruling of the trial court judge.
Cases involving injuries caused by livestock and other animals, including dogs, can require specific knowledge of the different statutes and case law that apply to particular types of cases. In addition to this successful appeal involving an injury caused by cattle, John Hadden has handled other sorts of cases, such as those involving injuries caused by alleged dog bites/attacks.