Important Supreme Court and Appellate Court Rulings of 2023

judge banging gavel in legal trial

The past year was full of important legal decisions, some of which will have a significant impact on how personal injury attorneys and legal professionals conduct their cases in 2024. To mark the start of the new year, we decided to explore some of the most important legal rulings of 2023 in the latest episode of the Championing Justice podcast

In Episode 8, “The Most Important Case Rulings of 2023,” our host Darl Champion sat down with trial and appellate lawyer Max Thelen to disucss some of the most interesting personal injury case rulings of the last year and what impact these decisions will have on future cases.

Keep reading to learn more about the details of each case they discussed, or watch the full episode on YouTube here:


6 Important Supreme Court & Appellate Court Cases from 2023

1. Georgia CVS Pharmacy v. Carmichael

This Georgia Supreme Court case, decided in June 2023, is part of several related cases, including Welch et al. v. Pappas Restaurants, Inc. et al. and Welch et al. v. Tactical Security Group, LLC. In these cases, the GA Supreme Court shed light on liabilities for premises owners concerning personal injuries as a result of third-party criminal acts. 

This case was important because it clarified existing laws, especially as they pertain to the totality of circumstances test.

“I think the first and most important thing to say about Carmichael,” says Max, “is, especially as it pertains to the totality of the circumstances test, is that it doesn’t change the law. That’s essentially what the law has always been. There have just been some poor articulations that have clouded the law over the years. And so, really, all the Supreme Court was doing there, in my opinion, is cleaning it up.”

Learn more about the details of Carmichael here, or jump to this part of the episode discussion on YouTube.

2. Taylor v. The Devereux Foundation

Decided in March 2023, Taylor v. The Devereux Foundation was a Georgia Supreme Court Case that upheld the constitutionality of the state’s punitive damages cap. Well, sort of. 

The jury in this case returned a verdict of $10 million in compensatory damages and $50 million in punitive damages, due to the nature of the case, which was related to the sexual assault of a 15-year-old girl. However, the trial court enforced Georgia’s statutory cap on punitive damages of $250,000. The Supreme Court held that the cap did not violate the Georgia Constitution. 

“So Taylor is looking at the Nestlehutt framework for analyzing whether a cap violates the Georgia Constitution,” Darl explains.

“The only thing they could find were cases on intentional conduct,” he says. “And they said there was a right to trial by jury for punitive damages claims based on intentional conduct. So, although the plaintiff in Taylor did not have a constitutional right to trial by jury to uncap punitive damages, they [the Court] left open the door that you would if the conduct of the issue was intentional.”

Read more about this case here, or jump to this part of the podcast on YouTube.

3. Miller v. Golden Peanut Company

This case, decided in August 2023, involved a wrongful death lawsuit arising out of a car and tractor-trailer collision. It was an important decision in the past year because it overwrote the investigating officer rule, which previously held that testimony from police officers based solely on their opinions could be admitted into evidence. Thanks to Miller, this is no longer the case. 

“This case was interesting because, even though Georgia adopted the evidence code 10 years ago, trial courts were still like, ‘Investigating officers can testify as experts without having to meet a Daubert Standard,’ which makes absolutely zero sense,” Darl says. “Miller says they do have to meet the Daubert Standard because they’re giving expert testimony.”

Learn more about the ruling in Miller here, or jump to it in the podcast on YouTube.

4. White v. Stanley

In White v. Stanley, which was decided in October 2023, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that pattern jury instruction on the preponderance of the evidence standard is an incorrect statement of the law. Essentially, White showed that the suggested pattern jury instructions are not always correct. 

“As I read the case,” Darl says, “until there’s a new pattern charge on preponderance, the jury just needs to be instructed: ‘Preponderance means more likely than not.’” 

“Yeah, that’s right,” Max agrees. “Or you could give the 11th circuit pattern charge. It’s got a lot cleaner language.”

Read more about what this could mean for trial lawyers in 2024 here, or jump to this part of the podcast discussion on YouTube.

5. Eliezer v. Mosley

Decided in August 2023, the Eliezer ruling that lawsuits filed before May of 2022 are subject to a different version of the apportionment statute than cases filed after that date. 

“What the Mosley decision says is, if the two defendants you’re suing are employer and employee, they don’t get to apportion to non-parties,” Darl says.

“Even in Alston & Bird v. Hatcher,” Max says, “there’s this distinction between apportionment of fault versus apportionment or reduction of damages, and the court allowed fault to be apportioned to a non-party, but just said there was no reduction of damages for fault apportionment to that non-party.”

“I think that when all of those principles have to be reconciled, there’s going to need to be a realization that fault can be a portion to a non-party, but there can be no reduction of damages for fault to portion to a non-party,” says Max.

For all we know, the Supreme Court could overrule this decision in the future and make Eliezer irrelevant, but only time will tell. 

Read more details of this case here, or jump to this case discussion on YouTube.

6. Carr v. Yim

Lastly, Carr v. Yim was an important ruling decided in October 2023 that held that offers of a settlement served in a first lawsuit have no effect after dismissal and refiling. 

In this case, the plaintiff dismissed an offer of settlement from the defendant and refiled the lawsuit, but did not send an offer of settlement in the second lawsuit. After the jury returned a verdict in the second lawsuit, the plaintiff attempted to amend the judgment to include fees and expenses from the first lawsuit’s offer of settlement. 

“When Alston & Bird v. Hatcher came out,” says Max, “a lot of folks would dismiss their cases and refile them in single-defendant cases, and a lot of defendants are arguing that, because it started in the original action as a multi-definite case, refiling it as a single-defendant case doesn’t change the fact that it was originally a multi-defendant case. Now, that’s wrong because Carmichael says that the time that matters is the time of trial, not the time of filing. But it’s also wrong because in Carr v. Yim the Court of Appeals emphasizes the Supreme Court’s older case law. It’s a de novo action and it is not a continuation of the other action.”

“Even though [Carr] does have the potential to take away a lot of fees,” Max says, “if you do a lot of work, dismiss and refile, it is great for defeating that argument from defendants.”

Get more details about this case here, or jump to this discussion in the podcast on YouTube.

Legal Rulings to Watch in 2024

Of course, something could be said for many, many more cases that were decided in the last year, but we could never hope to cover them all in a single podcast or one blog post. That said, we hope this synopsis was helpful. 

In the year ahead, we’re likely to see a few different cases impact the question of whether Alston & Bird v. Hatcher applies when you start as a multiple-defendant case and dismiss down to a single-defendant case. There’s also likely to be some clarification regarding where you send ante litem notices to when dealing with county sheriffs

There are also likely many more rulings that will be decided which we could never predict in advance. Only time will tell, but you can always find ongoing coverage of impactful personal injury decisions in Georgia on the Case Updates section of this website. 

Learn more about The Champion Firm and the personal injury practice areas we cover here. If you’re an attorney seeking to refer a case or partner with us as co-counsel, learn more here.

About the Author

The Champion Firm is a full-service personal injury law firm serving the greater Metro Atlanta area. Our award-winning team of attorneys specializes in car accidents, wrongful death, premises liability, and slip-and-fall cases. Learn more about our team here.