Georgia Court of Appeals: No Claim Against Third Party for Losing or Destroying Evidence

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One of the reasons that it is so important to talk to an attorney as soon as possible after a motor vehicle collision or another accident resulting in injuries or death is that there may be several potential theories of recovery, some of which may not be obvious to the injured party or his or her family.

Unless these claims are handled promptly and appropriately, the plaintiff may not be able to effectively pursue compensation from certain potentially liable parties later.

 

Facts of the Case

In a case recently under consideration by the Court of Appeals of Georgia, the plaintiff was a man who was severely injured in an automobile accident 0n May 11, 2013. The plaintiff believed that the accident happened because of a tire blowout. Through his attorney, he notified the defendant insurance company (which covered the vehicle for property damage) that he intended to pursue a product liability claim against the makers of the car or its tires.

The parties agreed to a settlement of the plaintiff’s property damage claim on June 12, 2013, and the vehicle was kept at a storage lot for quite some time thereafter, per the request of the plaintiff’s attorney. In February 2015, the plaintiff’s attorney contacted the defendant’s adjuster to procure the damaged tire from the plaintiff’s vehicle so that it could be inspected in reference to the plaintiff’s product liability claim, but he was told that the vehicle had been sold in October 2014.

The plaintiff reached a settlement agreement with the tire manufacturer, under which the manufacturer agreed to pay a portion of the plaintiff’s medical expenses. The plaintiff then sued the defendant insurance company, claiming that its sale of his car foreclosed his opportunity to recover full damages from the tire manufacturer.

The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant on the plaintiff’s claim of third-party spoliation of evidence. (The plaintiff also alleged claims for negligence, breach of contract, and promissory estoppel, but those claims were not part of the summary judgment motion.)

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed, declining to recognize an independent tort of negligent third-party spoliation of evidence under Georgia law. In so holding, the court found that the facts of the case did not suggest that the creation of new duties in tort were necessary to fill a gap in the remedies already provided by judicial process, the law of contract, or the equitable doctrine of promissory estoppel.

The court noted that the plaintiff’s traditional negligence claim was still pending against the defendant in the trial court and stated that its opinion “expressly [does] not address whether the conduct at issue… was actionable under traditional negligence principles.”

Get Legal Advice About an Injury Claim as Soon as Possible!

The lesson here is that you must act very quickly to preserve important evidence if you intend to move forward with a claim for damages. In many situations, this requires retaining an experienced and competent attorney that will take all steps necessary in a timely fashion in order to protect your legal rights.

If you or a loved one has been hurt because of another party’s negligence, the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, can help. For a free consultation with an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney, call us today at 678-894-4758. We assist people who have been hurt in car accidents, as well as employees who have been injured on the job, throughout the greater Atlanta area.

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