Atlanta, GA — The Georgia Court of Appeals last week upheld a total award of more than $6 million following the traumatic brain injury a taxi driver suffered when he was struck by a pipe that fell from a hotel rooftop.
In an opinion by Presiding Judge Anne Elizabeth Barnes, the appellate court concluded Cajun Contractors, the company overseeing a hotel pool renovation where the 2015 accident occurred, could be held vicariously liable for the negligence of another company working on the project, RYR Construction.
“Here there was evidence that Cajun, through its owner [Troy] Bossier, exercised the right to control the time, manner, and method in which RYR performed the pool renovation,” Barnes wrote, in concluding RYR could be deemed an employee of Cajun.
Max Laguerre suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was struck by a pipe that fell from an Atlanta hotel’s fourth floor pool deck undergoing renovations.
Jurors in the 2019 trial, covered gavel-to-gavel by CVN, found Cajun Contractors 100 percent responsible for the accident, awarding $5 million in compensatory damages, plus $500,000 in punitives. The trial court reduced that punitive award, pursuant to state law, to $250,000 and awarded about $1.1 million in attorney fees and litigation expenses.
However, Cajun contended it was not responsible for the accident because RYR, whose workers it claimed were responsible for the accident, acted as an independent contractor on the project and the accident was not reasonably foreseeable.
In rejecting Cajun’s contention, the court noted evidence that Cajun’s owner, Troy Bossier, was considered RYR’s “boss on the job,” while Cajun provided tools, direction, and controlled the work flow and job site.
The court concluded that evidence, combined with the fact that there was no contract between Cajun and RYR regarding the pool-site job, supported a jury finding that Cajun acted as RYR’s employer on the project.
Further, the court noted that it was reasonably foreseeable that an accident could occur during the rooftop demolition RYR performed.
“Indeed, RYR acknowledged that there was a danger of objects falling from the hotel roof as a result of the demolition, and Bossier testified that he told RYR to ensure that nothing fell from the roof, thereby indicating that Cajun was aware of the risk of falling objects,” Judge Barnes wrote.
The court also affirmed a $1.05 million award of attorney fees, finding that pre-trial offers Cajun had rejected were sufficiently specific to entitle Laguerre to recover fees from the company under state law.
In an email to CVN, Laguerre's attorney, Schneider Injury Law's Bethany Schneider, praised the court's reasoning in reaching its decision.
"We are extremely pleased by the thorough and thoughtful Court of Appeals’ opinion. The clarity that the opinion gives to Georgia lawyers on the questions of independent contractors versus employees and what is required to prove an attorney’s fee claim will be extremely helpful going forward," Schneider said.
"We hope that this opinion will bring resolution to the case and that our client can finally receive justice for the harm he suffered."
Last week’s decision ruled on a pair of appeals in the case. In the companion case, the court reversed a summary judgment in favor of the hotel’s cross-claims for contractual indemnification against Cajun.
CVN has reached out to attorneys connected with Cajun on the case and will update this article with their comments.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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