State Supreme Court rules in 2009 DeKalb hotel robbery lawsuit
In a case stemming from a 2009 robbery at a DeKalb hotel, the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that juries can be apportioned among all the parties at fault, including criminals and a hotel owner that does not keep guests safe.
“The rules of statutory construction, including reliance on ordinary word meanings, dictate that an assailant who evades hotel security to intentionally abduct, rob and assault a hotel guest is, at the very least, partially at ‘fault’ for the brutal injuries inflicted by the assailant on that guest,” Justice Harold Melton wrote for the majority in the 5-2 ruling published July 9.
“As a party at fault, such an assailant must be included with others who may be at fault, e.g., the property owner in a premises liability action, for purposes of apportioning damages among all wrongdoing parties,” Melton wrote.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed in federal court by Nairobi Couch, who was attacked and robbed by unknown assailants in August 2009 while staying at the Red Roof Inn motel on North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway in Atlanta.
Couch sued the hotel’s owners for negligently failing to keep their premises safe and failing to provide adequate security. None of Couch's attackers have ever been identified. The hotel’s owners filed a notice of their intent to argue “fault of non-party” under a recently amended Georgia law, arguing that their responsibility for damages should be decreased “in whole or in part” due to the fault of the criminals who attacked Couch.
In response, Couch filed a motion challenging the apportionment, or divvying up, of damages and challenging the statute as unconstitutional. The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, which asked the state Supreme Court to answer two questions related to Georgia law before ruling on Couch’s motion.
Justice Robert Benham dissented, arguing that Georgia’s common law prohibits the consideration of intentional conduct in assessing damages.
Candidates’ fair set for central DeKalb July 9
The Civic Association Network of Central DeKalb (www.can-dk.org) will hold a candidates’ fair July 9, 7-9 p.m., at the Hellenic Community Center, 2500 Clairmont Road NE.
Invitations to this meet-and-greet-format event, a tradition that began in 2004, go to all candidates appearing on July 31 election ballots in central DeKalb precincts, including partisan and non-partisan offices at federal, state and local levels.
This event gives voters access to candidates for all offices and allows voters and candidates a chance to talk one-on-one.
Information about ballot questions will also be available at the event.
County to hold special screening of The Weight of the Nation July 9
As part of an effort to combat what they describe as an “obesity epidemic” in DeKalb County, the DeKalb County Board of Health and its partners are hosting a screening of the four-part HBO documentary The Weight of the Nation.
The screening will be held July 9, 6-8 p.m. at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts & Community Center, 3181 Rainbow Drive in Decatur.
The Weight of the Nation examines facts and myths of this public health issue, showing how obesity affects the health of the nation and the health care system. The film features case studies and interviews with leading experts and individuals and families struggling with obesity.
A comprehensive discussion and question-and-answer session will follow the screening. Attendees will receive tips and materials for managing a healthy lifestyle.
To register for the event or for more information, visit www.OneDekalb.com.
Early voting begins July 9
In-person early voting in DeKalb County for the July 31 general primary, nonpartisan and special election begins July 9 at the main office of the voter registration and elections office, 4380 Memorial Drive.
The polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. through July 27, including Saturdays, July 14 and 21.
Disabled and senior voters will be able to cast their ballots in the specially designed ADA accessible polling place at the Memorial Drive location.
This optional polling place will provide space specifically designed to accommodate the needs of disabled and senior voters, including more space to accommodate support apparatus such as walkers and wheelchairs, seated voting positions and units with audio ballots for the hearing impaired.
To make appointments for groups of voters who need assistance, call (404) 298-4020.
Five additional early voting locations will open for the final week of voting, July 23 - 27. Visit www.dekalbvotes.com for details on the additional sites.