If you have reached this page while trying to make sense of a loved one’s untimely passing, The Stoddard Firm is truly sorry for your loss.
At this point, you may already feel certain that your loved one’s death was wrongful, and have a defendant in mind for a wrongful death lawsuit. Or, you may just have a feeling that someone needs to dig deeper into what happened.
While no two wrongful deaths are exactly alike, all successful wrongful death lawsuits come down to proving three things:
- A person or organization had some kind of responsibility for your loved one’s safety.
- That person or organization failed to meet that responsibility.
- That failure caused your loved one’s death.
Below, we’ll go into detail on some of the most common causes of wrongful death in Newnan, and how wrongful death law can help support grieving families and enforce accountability. If at any point you would prefer to speak directly with a Newnan wrongful death lawyer about your case, feel free to reach out by phone or chat.
Landlords Are Responsible for More Aspects of Home Safety Than Many Realize
Most renters know that their landlords are responsible for fixing any issues with the property that make it unsafe to occupy, such as missing handrails, or leaking pipes that lead to dampness and mold.
Landlords are also legally required to meet high standards of fire safety, including providing alarms, extinguishers, and clear exit routes, to minimize the risk of death in case of any fire, regardless of what starts it.
But the biggest threat to the lives of Newnan renters is not mold poisoning or even fire. It’s gun violence.
- In December of 2020, a group of people tried to rob a man in the parking lot of the apartment complex at 414 Jefferson Street. When he defended himself, they shot him to death. One of the attackers later confessed that the group had driven out from Columbus to break into cars.
- The next December, a man was lured to the Newnan Crossing Apartments with the promise of a PS5 for sale, via Facebook Marketplace. When he arrived, the people claiming to have the system for sale mugged him at gunpoint.
- In July of 2022, a shootout broke out between multiple people at the Shenandoah Forest Apartments, ending with a 19-year-old being struck in the pelvis and airlifted to an Atlanta hospital.
Most landlords will argue that they have no control and no responsibility when it comes to other people’s violent crimes, but that’s not entirely true.
Any time there is a foreseeable threat to tenant safety, and a landlord can reduce or eliminate that threat by making a reasonable change, the landlord is obligated to do so. When gun violence is an ongoing problem in an area, that counts as a foreseeable threat. Reasonable changes would include installing gates, security cameras, and better lighting in common areas, and employing security guards.
The examples above are just a few recent ones that took place on clearly rented property. Gun violence also happens regularly in the suburbs of Newnan, some of it connected with gangs. Any landlords renting out property, whether in the form of houses or apartments, in the vicinity of past violent incidents, should expect to invest in security for their tenants.
Commercial and Government Landlords Are Also Responsible for Maintaining Safe Premises
Exactly what steps a landowner must take to protect tenants, employees, and guests on a property depends on what the property is used for, and what dangers are likely to arise.
For example, the Hitachi Construction Machinery headquarters in Newnan doesn’t have to worry about maintaining dozens of kitchen stoves while preventing carbon monoxide leaks, like an apartment management company would. Instead, it has to handle the safety logistics of storing and transporting heavy construction equipment, which could easily injure untrained users.
The basics of landlord safety obligations come down to common sense, however. If something seems likely to be a threat to safety on a property, it’s generally the owner’s responsibility to reduce that threat as much as reasonably possible. This applies to all types of property, whether the landlord is a corporation, an individual, or a government agency.
Just like in residential areas, gun violence is a serious problem on other types of property in Newnan. In 2022 alone:
- In May, a man shot his fiancée five times, including once in the face, in their shared room at America’s Best Value Inn along the GA-29. He then ran down the road to the nearby Red Carpet Inn, where another woman let him into her room. A standoff ensued with police, and the suspect eventually surrendered to a SWAT team. The victim survived with a serious spinal injury.
- That same month, a mass shooting threat was found written on a bathroom wall at Newnan High School. The school informed the authorities quickly, police patrolled the campus for the day, and no shooting actually occurred. However, this happened just a month after the Newnan High School prom, held at the College Football Hall of Fame, was cut short by a shooting at the nearby Waffle House. Five teens were injured.
- In July, at the CJ Smith Skate Park, a 15-year-old boy opened fire on a group of people “over a previous dispute.” Thankfully, no one was actually hit, and the boy was soon apprehended.
In some ways, commercial property owners, and government-run facilities like public schools, actually have more power to curb gun violence than residential landowners do.
While residential landlords in Georgia are barred from interfering with their tenants’ legal right to store guns at home, owners of non-residential properties are free to institute gun-free spaces and enforce them through security checkpoints.
If you’ve lost a loved one to gun violence, or any other hazard, on a property that didn’t belong to your family, a lawyer can investigate whether the landowner really took all reasonable steps to keep them safe.
Organizations That Care for Vulnerable Individuals Must Adhere to Industry Standards
We’ve already touched a little on how schools are obligated to protect their students from violence. It’s important to distinguish, however, between the duties of a landlord and the duties of a caregiver.
Landlords are responsible for making sure the spaces they own are as hazard-free as reasonably possible, including providing appropriate security based on local crime patterns. In most cases, they are not responsible for actively preventing harm unrelated to the safety of the premises, such as malnutrition, suicide, or accidents caused by reckless behavior.
Organizations that care for people who can’t independently care for themselves, however, are responsible for making sure that care meets a consistent standard. For example, schools for minors must be more proactive about making sure their students’ basic needs are met than colleges or adult education facilities.
Daycares, nursing homes, and hospitals are also responsible for meeting life-sustaining needs on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, people in the vulnerable position of requiring care often face neglect and even abuse by the institutions intended to protect them. In 2019, two faculty members at Elm Street Elementary School accused each other of abusing multiple special needs students. Allegations included hitting, throwing objects, and grabbing students by the neck. An administrator waited nearly two weeks before sharing these reports with law enforcement, in spite of being legally bound to do so within 24 hours. A lawsuit by the families is ongoing.
If your loved one was under any kind of professional care when the fatal harm occurred, and you believe they were abused, or that more could have been done to save them, that might point to a potential wrongful death case.
Safety Responsibilities Don’t Always End at Property Lines
When a company spreads its influence into the world, it’s generally responsible for the direct consequences of that influence.
This could include:
- Polluting public spaces with hazardous material.
- Employing drivers to work on public roads without adequate training, screening, or support.
- Providing shoddy services to other businesses or homes, such as faulty repair work.
- Selling products that are needlessly dangerous, or fail to live up to safety-related promises.
In the case of dangerously defective products, the liability may fall to just one company, or to all of the companies in the supply chain, from the manufacturer to the retailer.
This has been a serious point of contention recently for car sales in Georgia.
One investigation in September of 2022 found that multiple used car lots across the state, including at least one in Newnan, were selling cars with recalled Takata airbags, which are known to propel metal shrapnel at their users when activated.
Currently, there are no laws requiring car dealers to check for recalled parts before reselling a vehicle. When a used car with a defective part causes a death, the manufacturer will typically claim that it did its part by issuing the recall, and the seller will claim ignorance as a defense.
However, these strategies are not airtight. If there is any evidence that a seller knew or should have known that a product was dangerous, they can still be sued. If there was no reasonable way for the user to know about the product recall, the manufacturer may still be liable as well.
If you believe your loved one’s death was caused by a company’s action or inaction in any way, it’s worth looking into your options for a wrongful death suit, even if your loved one never set foot on that company’s physical premises.
What to Do If Your Family Has Suffered a Potentially Wrongful Death in Newnan
Nothing about the aftermath of losing a loved one to a preventable tragedy will be easy or simple. It’s normal to feel simultaneously overwhelmed and helpless as you work through both the emotions and the practical checklist of settling affairs and saying goodbye.
The question of whether to file a wrongful death suit doesn’t have to be answered during the first days or even weeks after a loss, but there are limitations on how long you can wait. If you think there’s a chance you may want to pursue a suit, it can be helpful to keep this possibility in mind while you handle more urgent tasks.
To keep your options open, be sure to defer any communication with possible negligent parties until you’ve had time to think and speak with a lawyer. Hang on to any documentation you have on the circumstances of your loved one’s death, or your own expenses because of it.
At some point, you may want to check in with other family members on how they feel about a lawsuit. If the victim was married, only the spouse has the legal right to file the suit. If not, the right falls to the victim’s children, followed by the victim’s parents, and finally the executor of the estate. The process is always easiest when survivors are on the same page about their vision for justice.
When ready, reach out to a qualified wrongful death lawyer in the Newnan area. Finding someone local to represent you can be extremely helpful, not just for convenience, but for ease of evidence collection and understanding of context.
The Newnan wrongful death lawyers at The Stoddard Firm know the kinds of negligence Newnan residents have to face every day. We know when something is a freak occurrence, and when it’s part of a long-established pattern. We’re also ideally situated to coordinate with hospitals like Piedmont Newnan, and funeral homes like Seller-Smith, McKoon, or Roscoe Jenkins, to verify everything from your loved one’s physical injuries to your exact expenses. We’re always careful to do this efficiently, discreetly, and with the greatest respect for your farewell plans.
To get started with a free consultation with a Newnan wrongful death lawyer, just give us a call at 678-RESULTS, or reach out through our online chat function.