The judicial system in most states consists of three levels of courts, including in Georgia. The lowest court, where a trial is held, initially determines which evidence is admissible and makes rulings on issues of law that arise during the trial. The trial court also hears all post-trial motions from both parties. The intermediate court, often called a court of appeals, is the first level of review if a litigant believes that the trial judge made an incorrect ruling of law. Finally, the highest court in the state, usually called the supreme court, hears the next level of appeals. Most often, a state supreme court’s decision on an issue of state law is final and unreviewable.
By far, trial courts hear the most cases. As a case moves up through the appellate process, courts take on fewer cases. Since there are so many cases in which litigants seek appellate review, courts enact strict rules that must be followed before a case can be reviewed. This ensures that only the most diligent litigants obtain a review of their case. One very important rule of appellate review is that a litigant seeking appellate review must have objected to the alleged error at trial. If a litigant fails to object below, the appellate court will generally dismiss the appeal. A recent case illustrates how the application of this strict principle can prevent appellate review of even seemingly meritorious issues.
Small v. Sayre: The Facts
Mr. Small was driving a car with his wife and daughter when they were rear-ended while stopped at a traffic light. The Smalls filed a personal injury case against the other driver, Sayre, who conceded that the accident was his fault but argued that the accident was not the cause of the injuries sustained by the Smalls.
The case went to a jury trial, and the Smalls were successful. However, the jury’s award was unusual in that it was inconsistent as it applied to each of the three plaintiffs. Specifically, the jury determined that the accident only contributed to the parents’ injuries. Furthermore, the jury awarded Mrs. Smalls economic and non-economic damages, but it awarded Mr. Smalls only non-economic damages. The jury awarded none of the plaintiffs future damages, despite evidence that Mrs. Smalls would need a surgery in the near future.
The Smalls’ attorney failed to object to the inconsistent award when it was handed down. However, they later filed an appeal, arguing that the jury’s verdict was inconsistent and should be reviewed by an appellate court. The court, however, refused to review the issue because the Smalls failed to object at trial. Thus, the Smalls will be stuck with the jury’s potentially inconsistent and inadequate award.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Georgia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. As you can see from the discussion above, the importance of a diligent attorney’s role in your case cannot be overestimated. A dedicated attorney knows when to object, which arguments to make, and when to raise them. The skilled personal injury attorneys at Miller Legal Services have significant experience representing Georgia plaintiffs in all kinds of personal injury cases and offer free consultations to victims. Call 770-284-3727 to set up a free consultation.
More Blog Posts:
Injured Georgians May Have a Claim Against an Insurance Company that Acts in Bad Faith, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 6, 2016.
Court Permits Case Against School Administrators Following Car Accident on School Grounds, Marietta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, December 1, 2016.