Lack of Security Cameras in Decatur Murder Raises Questions

December 16, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for iStock_000006258480Small.jpgIn my last post, I shared several concerns about the recent murder of Karen Pearce near a Decatur parking garage. I raised the question about whether the crime could have been avoided or solved sooner had there been surveillance cameras. As noted in that post, the City Manager and I exchanged emails regarding this issue. In that discussion, Ms. Merris mentioned that the city was considering requiring property owners to have minimum lighting and security standards for their properties. I am not sure what that would involve. It sounds like a good start, but the city also needs to take responsibility for having its own security cameras to intercept and track criminals after they leave a private property, not only to aid in apprehension but to prevent other crimes from occurring. MARTA has security cameras, and these were apparently instrumental in later placing Presley near Decatur around the time of the murders.

As mentioned in my prior post, the suspect in the case was picked up at a MARTA station after he tried to get in without a ticket. But what if he had not tried to jump the turnstile? It is possible that someone else could have been killed, because the authorities were not able to identify his likeness as he walked through the Decatur Square after allegedly murdering Ms. Pearce. There were no cameras to help solve this horrific crime.

And what about the property owner? What is the owner's obligation to ensure that crime does not occur on the premises? Under Georgia law, a property owner has a duty to protect those lawfully on its premises from unreasonable risks of harm. Generally though, the property owner or operator in Georgia is not liable for the criminal acts of others on his property. However, there are exceptions. The true legal test is the superior knowledge of the landowner vis-à-vis the injured victim. If the owner or operator of the property has greater knowledge of the danger of criminal acts than the potential victim on the premises, the owner/operator can be held liable.

Continue reading "Lack of Security Cameras in Decatur Murder Raises Questions" »

No Security Cameras at Decatur Murder Premises

December 15, 2014, by

iStock_000006258480Small.jpgFor a small town adjacent to the much larger city of Atlanta, Decatur is a relatively secure city with a relatively low crime rate. Although there are isolated instances of street crimes, including muggings and robberies, these generally do not involve loss of life. But for the past week local residents, including my family and myself, have been shaken and concerned about their safety. The recent shooting death of a Smyrna hairstylist and nursing student, Karen Pearce, less than a block of the Decatur Square, caused confusion and fear within a normally relaxed community.

Before going further, we want to express our sympathies to Ms. Pearce's family and friends. It is truly a human tragedy for her loved ones. On behalf of our firm, we extend our deepest condolences.

Immediately after her murder, there was little known by the public about the crime. Initial reports indicated a lack of camera surveillance on the property or even near the property on which Ms. Pearce was killed. I will get to this issue, but first the background on this crime. What is known is that the victim was enjoying time with friends, that she left her friends on her own and was on her way to the parking deck where her car was parked. She never made it there. Her body was found later near One Decatur Town Center along a driveway separating the office building from the parking deck.

Continue reading "No Security Cameras at Decatur Murder Premises" »

Graco's Car Seat Recall Triggers Fed Inquiry

December 3, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for ago-180_1z.jpgOver the recent months, we have posted on a big issue within corporate giant General Motors; whether and when corporate executives knew of a problem with their ignition switches prior to the massive recall this past year. The company has recalled these ignition devices after they are alleged to have caused serious and fatal injuries in several cases. One of the most difficult aspects of the GM recall is the culture that allowed knowledge of these defects to be kept from regulators and the general public. When we hear of situations like this, we hope that this is isolated within the culture of a particular company. But recently it has come to light that another American manufacturer may also have known of defects and kept that knowledge from regulators and the general public. This time the product is something used to carry precious cargo, our children.

We have just learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun an investigation into the kids corporate giant, Graco Children's Products. The issue they are reviewing is whether the company failed to inform American consumers that there was a major issue with its car safety seats for children. The agency has announced that it intends to determine when the company knew that its child seats had a major safety issue. The issue with the seats involves difficulty consumers have had in getting their children unbuckled.

Continue reading "Graco's Car Seat Recall Triggers Fed Inquiry " »

When HERO's Are Hit

November 30, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emergencyvehicle.jpegFor two decades now, HERO units have been used in and around metro Atlanta to get traffic flowing after an accident on our interstate highways. This work has proven very important as our traffic congestion has worsened over this period, especially in the Atlanta metro area. HERO units are also able to provide some support to those stranded on the road due to mechanical problems with their vehicles or even when someone in the vehicle needs first aid of some sort. Recently, our HERO's have even been provided updated uniforms, in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of the program. HERO work is very helpful to our community. It can also be dangerous when, in the process of clearing an accident or attending to stranded drivers, others on the road do not drive carefully around them.

Just such an incident is currently under investigation after a HERO unit was hit by a vehicle on I-20 as the unit was present following an accident. Tragically, the HERO unit was working on a fatal single vehicle crash in which a driver had been ejected. The initial determination is that the original driver lost control of his vehicle after attempting to change lanes. While the HERO unit was doing its work, a distracted driver, who was also allegedly traveling too fast, hit the HERO unit and another vehicle. That driver was charged with speeding and other violations.

Continue reading "When HERO's Are Hit" »

Air Bag Wrongful Death Suit Filed

November 25, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgThe auto air bag recalls have taken a turn after a law suit was filed earlier this week in federal court. Prior to this filing, most of the litigation involving the defective air bags has been brought in class actions, rather than cases filed by individual plaintiffs. Only one other federal action is known to have been filed thus far. The new federal filing comes in the wake of horrific air bag deployments that have severely injured and killed an estimated five victims. The particular air bag at issue was manufactured by the Takata Corporation, whose airbags have been installed in millions of vehicles. The company has been involved in car safety for many years and has never had such widespread issues with their products.

Unfortunately and tragically, there is now a major recall on many air bags made by Takata that were installed in nearly ten different car makes and models. These airbags have been known to distribute shrapnel metals on deployment. In the most recent filing, the propellant is alleged to be the problem, making the "explosive" nature of the deployment dangerous for those it is intended to protect. Although the malfunctions have occurred in warmer climates, the recall is likely to spread nationwide.

This federal case was filed in South Carolina. The wrongful death action has been brought by the brother of a woman who died after an airbag opened and caused catastrophic injuries to her spinal cord. She was driving her Honda and was involved in a single car accident in which her airbag deployed; she passed away a couple of weeks later. Honda is also named in the lawsuit. The victim's brother is in a position to claim damages for her injuries and death. We have often posted on the rights of family members to file a wrongful death action. Georgia law specifies those who are permitted to file a lawsuit in the event that a close family member dies due to the fault of another person or entity. When a loved one is fatally injured the surviving husband or wife, children, parent and any other heir or next of kin, designated by a will or by Georgia probate law, may file a wrongful death action.

Continue reading "Air Bag Wrongful Death Suit Filed" »

Next Generation Sports Safety -- Air Bags for Skiers

November 19, 2014, by

downhill-skier_6188.jpgThe most recent advance in downhill skiing may not be skis, not boots, not aerodynamic clothing ... it is airbags. These new airbags for skiers are intended to protect skiers from catastrophic injuries after losing control on a run. Many well-known skiers have suffered severe injuries in recent years and some have had to drop out of racing or jumping at Olympic Games due to their injuries. An airbag system for skiers will be permitted for use at the World Cup and other major races. This is not something that skiers are required to use, but officials have been working on the system with manufacturers and are hoping skiers will give the airbags a try.

The possibility for serious injury is a risk that skiers are simply willing to take. But a rash of accidents, that included high-profile skiers, which included severe limb and brain injuries was the motivator for this new device. The airbag system which can be worn as part of the skier's racing gear, is intended to inflate when it senses that the athlete is out of control. Although the device has been tested to ensure that it doesn't slow the racer down or interfere in their performance, it remains to be seen whether racers will adopt the device. One of the more difficult aspects of the development of the device has been ensuring that it deploys at precisely the right moment. Some truly horrific injuries have been suffered by skiers over the past several years. It is hoped that this device will help avoid further injury to life and limb.

Continue reading "Next Generation Sports Safety -- Air Bags for Skiers " »

The Stunning List of GM Recalls

October 28, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000017099921XSmall.jpgAtlanta's local and global CNN has just published the entire list of every vehicle that General Motors has recalled during 2014. The list is stunning and worth a look to ensure that your vehicle is not on it. If you own a vehicle that is on this list, you could well avoid serious injury or even death, as some vehicles on this list have significant defects that have done just that. Those owners who sit back and think it won't happen to them, it won't be their car or truck that ends up having one of these recalled defects, are taking a significant risk. This is something that cannot be stressed enough. Don't let that recall notice sit in your mail pile, make an appointment and get your car in for service.

The GM recalls are unprecedented in their breadth and depth. In general, CNN Money reports that one in every five US vehicles has been recalled this year. There are one million vehicles currently on the road that have uncorrected defects. This includes GM and non-GM vehicles, but it is also a stunning number. What happened to the quality control at GM could happen at any company. It was a combination of faulty parts, a culture of silence and a lack of executive responsibility. The GM recalls have cost the company $2.5 billion and there was no profit this past quarter. The CEO Mary Barra has stated that it may well be a no-bonus year for GM workers.

Continue reading "The Stunning List of GM Recalls" »

Fatal Crash After Driver Tries to Evade Law Enforcement

October 25, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emergencyvehicle.jpegIn recent years we have seen an increase in dangerous situations arising from those evading law enforcement on our roads and highways. Just last week in California, a California Highway Patrol officer on a motorcycle was unable to stop or to cite a group of riders also on motorcycles who were taunting him. Although these riders engaged in numerous violations, the officer had to let them ride off, since he had to wait for back up and the riders failed to respond to his siren and signal to pull over. Once back-up arrived he and his colleague tried to follow the riders, but this chase became too dangerous once it was off the highway and on city streets. Although in this situation there was no one injured, it could have become very dangerous. It seems that increasingly there is a failure on the part of some to do things we used to take for granted, such as pulling over for an emergency vehicle or for law enforcement. And as this disrespectful, and often illegal, way of responding to the instructions of our law enforcement and first responders rises, so does the impact on innocent bystanders.

Case in point, the price that one teen may pay for having attempted to evade Georgia State Patrol officers as they pursued him in a stolen vehicle. His alleged failure to stop now means that he will be charged as an adult in Fulton County not just for stealing a vehicle, but for murder. As he attempted to get away from law enforcement, he is alleged to have run a red light and in turn crashed into another vehicle that was traveling through the same intersection, killing a passenger. Yet another vehicle was hit during this pursuit and others were injured. Reports indicated that five individuals were taken to the hospital after this hot chase. This teen has many charges to deal with now, including DUI, unlicensed driving, serious injury by vehicle and many more.

Continue reading "Fatal Crash After Driver Tries to Evade Law Enforcement " »

Atlanta Pedestrians: Use Caution When Walking

October 9, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for iStock_000016030629XSmall.jpgOver the past several years we have posted readers about the dangers that face us all when we cross a street in America. Recently, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sought information on pedestrian statistics for Georgia from our Department of Transportation. In its report we learned that in 2013, more deaths occurred on Georgia roads than in nearly two decades, despite a decline in pedestrian crashes. So, in other words, when vehicles and pedestrians collide, these crashes are proving more dangerous.

Not surprisingly, the Atlanta area was found to be the most dangerous for those on foot and a national study has placed Atlanta as the eighth most dangerous metro region for walkers. It used to be that taking a stroll was a relaxing and enjoyable way to get around. But these days, we must be extremely cautious when entering a roadway on foot. Those who are disabled in some way, are unable to walk on foot, or whose mobility depends on a motorized or hand-powered chair or have challenges with vision may be even more vulnerable.

Continue reading "Atlanta Pedestrians: Use Caution When Walking" »

Atlanta MARTA Bus & Pedestrian Tragedy

September 29, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000016030629XSmall.jpgEarlier this week a 19 year-old teen was hit by an Atlanta MARTA bus. She did not survive the injuries and passed away several days later at Grady Hospital. This accident has had a tragic end and our hearts and sympathies are with the family and friends of the deceased teen. This truly is a terribly sad time for them. Although the bus driver is unlikely to be charged in this tragedy, due to the early investigative report that the young woman was not crossing legally when the accident occurred, there are potential legal ramifications. Even if the driver is not charged criminally, this does not necessarily indicate the end of the legal options and the victim's family could well file a civil suit against MARTA and others after further investigation. For example, under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-93 a driver must exercise due care not to strike a pedestrian regardless of the circumstances. This provision requires that if a driver observes a child or a confused or otherwise incapacitated pedestrian he or she must try to avoid colliding with that pedestrian. More investigation is needed to determine whether the bus driver violated this provision.

MARTA has issued a statement expressing sympathy to the family of this young woman. Since the accident just occurred, it might take some time for the public to understand just what happened in this tragic incident. Although in many instances, pedestrians have the right of way, that is not always the case. We have seen in recent years that more and more pedestrians are being struck by vehicles that are either traveling too fast or in which the driver is distracted. But there are some instances in which a pedestrian can be viewed by the law as having some responsibility for his or her injuries. Although the driver of a vehicle is responsible for exercising due care when in the presence of a pedestrian, there are limited situations in which the driver may not be held fully responsible for the injuries of a pedestrian.

Continue reading "Atlanta MARTA Bus & Pedestrian Tragedy " »

Tractor Trailer's Flying Wheels Prove Deadly

September 18, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Truck7.jpgA tractor trailer crash shut down eastbound Georgia I-20 recently as the vehicle ended up on its side over several lanes of traffic. Details on the cause of the crash are not yet available, but the metro Atlanta area is unfortunately all too familiar with similar truck crashes. When large trucks crash, they can cause major issues for the traffic around them, whether or not other vehicles are involved. For example, in a recent truck accident in the east, two people lost their lives when the wheels of an oncoming truck flew off and hit their oncoming vehicle. Another similar crash killed a motorcyclist in Iowa last month when a truck wheel came loose.

There are many other circumstances in which debris falling off or flying off a truck can cause injury or death, including when cargo falls off or out of the vehicle. Flying truck debris can indeed cause serious injury or death on our roadways and only a few years ago, a child was killed when a truck's transmission parts flew off. Under federal regulations, commercial truck drivers are required to perform inspections on their trucks, but parts or debris-related accidents can happen and are especially dangerous at high rates of speed with heavy vehicles. Despite this, officials say that a flying truck wheel is actually not a common occurrence and this specific hazard is not tracked by federal agencies that collect crash statistics. We do know one general piece of information about these hazards. Although accidents involving tractor trailer wheels flying off are actually a very low percentage of overall truck crashes, they can prove quite dangerous.

Continue reading "Tractor Trailer's Flying Wheels Prove Deadly" »

Fatal Gwinnett County Crash Could Lead to Charges

September 17, 2014, by

DUI Picture 1.jpgA recent Gwinnett County car crash may well have been the result of excessive speed and alcohol use. This often-deadly combination is part of the investigation currently under way after a tragedy occurred in Buford. The crash occurred in the early morning hours, which is statistically a more dangerous time to mix driving, drinking and speed. The first reports of the crash are that two men were fatally injured as they traveled together. As their vehicle approached an intersection, the man who was driving did not stop at a stop sign at the intersection of the Buford Highway. Unfortunately and tragically, a second vehicle was driving on the Buford Highway approaching that same intersection at the same time. The second vehicle was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the car in which the men were traveling. Although the facts are not clear yet, it is possible that the second vehicle was driving faster than the speed limit and there may have been alcohol involved. The two adults and two children in that vehicle sustained injuries that were reportedly not life threatening. The two men lost their lives.

It is not reported whether the driver of the vehicle that hit the men's car will be charged with any crimes. There are currently no facts that would indicate the specific charges that might flow from this tragic crash. Possibly excessive speed could be charged, as well as Georgia's homicide by vehicle laws in some degree might be under consideration by authorities. It is not clear whether the suspected alcohol involved the fatally injured driver or the driver who hit the vehicle in which the two men travelled.

Continue reading "Fatal Gwinnett County Crash Could Lead to Charges" »

When Trespass is Dangerous

September 3, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for candles .jpgA railroad crash that took place last winter has now become the subject of a law suit in Chatham County State Court. The case involves a terrible accident that occurred during the filming of a biography about famed musician Gregg Allman and starring William Hurt. One of the scenes for the film involved a somewhat surreal image of a hospital bed on railroad tracks. The film's producers chose a location for the scene to be filmed on and around railroad tracks owned by CSX Transportation. The production requested permission to film on and around the tracks. The transportation company apparently denied these requests twice and in writing, supporting the denials with specific concerns about the need to keep the tracks secure and safe. The production had permission to shoot on nearby property owned by a lumber products manufacturer.

However, for reasons that are not clear, the production decided to film on and very near the tracks. Various unidentified people were apparently sighted around the tracks by two CSX train operators on the day of the horrific accident. In one report it is claimed that the producers knew they did not have permission to shoot on the tracks, but let the filming go forward perhaps allowing the crew to believe permission had been given. As the filming was occurring, a CSX train traveled directly into the path of the filmmaking, hitting the objects that were on the tracks and killing a young woman involved with the production. She was fatally injured by flying debris.

Continue reading "When Trespass is Dangerous " »

FedEx Truck in Serious I-20 Crash

August 20, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Truck7.jpgLast week a very serious truck crash took place in the early hours on Wednesday. The Federal Express truck was headed west on I-20 in Carroll County when it is thought that it rear-ended a retired old school bus. The initial comments made by the Georgia State Patrol indicated that the bus had been traveling in the far right lane when it was hit. The bus may have been traveling slowly in its lane. Unfortunately, the impact occurred with sufficient force to overturn both the truck and the bus and, as a result, both drivers were injured.

The crash closed the westbound lanes for about three hours. The vehicles also ended up catching fire. Other drivers, including a UPS driver, saved the FedEx driver as his vehicle burned and he was airlifted to Grady Memorial Hospital. The other driver also needed medical intervention and was taken to a local medical center. The accident is still under investigation.

Continue reading "FedEx Truck in Serious I-20 Crash" »

Daycare License Revocation After Toddler's Death

August 13, 2014, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgThe tragic death of a three-year old in Alpharetta last month has resulted in license revocation of the day care facility in which he was killed and the filing of a civil law suit by the child's parents. The owner of the facility has been in business for 25 years. Her home serves as a day care center and is licensed by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. The agency investigated the event that ended in the child's death and based on that, noted that there were significant violations including dangerous conditions on the property. The allegation with regard to the child's death is that part of a twine type cord was on the play yard swing and the child apparently was caught in that rope and essentially was asphyxiated. The child was left on his own for a short period of time when the tragedy occurred. Although the care giver contacted emergency support and applied CPR, the child ultimately passed away at a local hospital.

The owner of the center has appealed the license revocation. She will have an opportunity to present her case once the Office of State Administrative Hearings sets a date for her to tell her story and why she should be able to stay in business.

Sadly, this horrific death is not the first of its kind in the recent past. A child in England died in similar manner in 2012. She was caught in a rope that had been at the top of the slide. She as alone for 20 minutes and had passed away by the time she was found. It was her first day of nursery school. That center was also criticized for an alleged failure to follow safety rules. Both the facility and the care giver responsible for the child were taken to court. The nursery school was supposed to put ropes away when children were not playing with them and no child was to be on a slide alone. In that little child's case, the physician stated that she might have been saved had she been found sooner.

Continue reading "Daycare License Revocation After Toddler's Death" »