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Supreme Court of Georgia reverses summary judgment in wrongful death case

By John Sammon | Dec 22, 2017

General court 06

ATLANTA (Legal Newsline) – The Georgia Supreme Court on Dec. 11 said lower courts erred when they awarded summary judgment to Grady Memorial Hospital Corp. in a wrongful death lawsuit.

“The court of appeals erred when it concluded that prejudgment filing of a motion is analogous to post-judgment filing for attorney fees,” the brief read.

According to the opinion, in 2010 Patrick Edokpolor and Linda Iyahea filed suit against Grady Memorial Hospital Corp. of Atlanta over the death of Rose Edokpolor.

In 2013, a trial court granted a motion for an award of expenses but reserved the amount of the award for determination at a later date. On October 2014, the trial court awarded summary judgment in favor of Grady Hospital, but did not act on the expenses award.

The plaintiffs entered a motion to reconsider and modify the summary judgment under the assertion that the case was not final and was still pending, that the judgment was still subject to reconsideration.

In September 2015 the trial court established an amount of expenses to which the plaintiffs were entitled, but concluded "the summary judgment was final and not subject to reconsideration," according to the opinion.

The plaintiffs appealed, claiming the court erred when it gave a summary judgment to Grady and contended the summary judgment could still be appealed because the expenses reward had been left outstanding until September 2015.

The appeals court disagreed and dismissed the appeal, deciding the expenses issue was ancillary to the case and so the summary judgment was final because it needed to be appealed within 30 days (after October 2014).

The Georgia Supreme Court differed however, saying that the expenses remained undecided at the time the summary judgment was given and so the summary judgment was not a “final decision.” Thus the plaintiffs were not required to bring their appeal within 30 days of the judgment.

The Georgia Supreme Court reversed the appeals court summary judgment decision as final and remanded the case back to that court for reconsideration.        

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