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Georgia Statute of Limitations Bars Parents’ Child Injury Claim

There’s an expression, “don’t sweat the small stuff,” that implies that the finer details of a situation often do not really matter. While this may be true for some things, it is definitely not true in a Georgia premises liability case.

The details matter, and they matter very much. The “small stuff,” like who exactly paid an injured child’s medical expenses, can make a big difference in the outcome of a lawsuit. In a recent case, overlooking such an issue cost the parents more than $35,000.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate court case, the plaintiffs were the parents of a child who had been injured due to the alleged negligence of the defendant landlord. At the time of the accident, the child (who was then a minor) was leaning against a brick wall of a carport when it collapsed, causing him serious injuries. The mother filed suit on the child’s behalf, but she was dismissed from the case once the child reached the age of majority. At trial, the son was awarded $50,000 for his pain and suffering, but he was not awarded anything for his medical costs because the parents, rather than him, paid those expenses.

Thereafter, the parents filed a second lawsuit, seeking to recover the $35,485 in medical expenses that they had paid on their son’s behalf. The trial court dismissed their case as untimely because it was not filed within Georgia’s two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims.

Ruling of the Court

The parents appealed, insisting that their claim was controlled by the four-year statute of limitations for personal property claims, rather than the two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. The Court of Appeals of Georgia disagreed and dismissed their lawsuit as untimely. According to the court, the two-year statute of limitations contained in OCGA § 9-3-33 for personal injury claims “applies with equal force to a parent’s attempt to recover a minor’s medical expenses under OCGA § 19-7-2.”

This was a very unfortunate result for the parents, especially considering that the mother had filed a timely lawsuit seeking to recover both medical expenses and damages for pain and suffering on her son’s behalf. Apparently, she did this only “on behalf of her son” as his next of kin and did not assert her own right to recover medical expenses paid on his behalf. At any rate, she was voluntarily dismissed from that lawsuit, with prejudice (meaning her claim could not be refiled later and be considered filed as of the original filing date), once her son reached the age of majority.

Speak to an Atlanta Injury Lawyer

This case shows one of the many pitfalls that lurk in the field of personal injury litigation. Often, a case seems simple enough, but then an issue arises concerning a procedural matter such as timeliness or the formal identification of parties to the lawsuit. Such matters are best left in the hands of a qualified professional. At the Law Offices of T. Andrew Miller, LLC, we handle a variety of Atlanta personal injury claims. For a free consultation, call us today at 678-605-9109.