Injury law is primarily tort law. So what is a tort? (No, it's not a French pastry.)
A Georgia statute defines a "tort" as "the unlawful violation of a private legal right other than a mere breach of contract, express or implied," and states that "a tort may also be the violation of a public duty if, as a result of the violation, some special damage accrues to the individual."
Every tort claim must include four basic elements:
- Duty. The defendant must have a legal duty of care toward the plaintiff.
- Breach of duty. The defendant must have violated a legal duty of care toward the plaintiff.
- Damages. The plaintiff must have suffered a form of harm for which the law authorizes an award of monetary damages.
- Proximate cause. The defendant's breach of a legal duty must be related to the plaintiff's injury closely enough to be considered at least one of several dominant cause or legal causes of the injury.
Private duties may arise from contracts or other private relationships between parties. For example, a contract to repair a car creates a duty to perform the repairs skillfully, carefully, and in a workmanlike manner. However, a violation of that duty supports a tort claim only if the resulting damage goes beyond a mere failure to receive the expected benefit of the contract.
Public duties may be based upon a statute or local ordinance. An extremely simple example is the statutory duty not to run a stop sign.
Tort law serves several important purposes, not least of which is a civilized way to resolve disputes when one party's unreasonable conduct injures another. Even the folks who complain of too many lawsuits shrink from proposing a return to duels and bloody reprisals. Tort law provides a system for compensating injured parties in a way that bears a reasonable relationship to the conduct of the parties and the degree of injury. It allocates risks of injury in ways that our society has deemed appropriate. Last but not least, it defines duties to other people in a practical way that provides economic incentive to take care not to hurt other people.
Tort law has many sources.
First, the common law of torts evolved through centuries of court decisions, originally in England and later in America.
Second, statutes define much in tort law. Georgia is one of the states that has codified much of its common law heritage of tort law, and modified it from time to time in legislation, including "tort reform." Courts also look to statutes on other subjects in determining the rights and duties of parties in a tort case.
Third, contractual relations may create rights and duties which give rise to tort claims between parties.
Fourth, courts may look to persuasive court decisions in other jurisdictions, "Restatements" of the law drafted by groups of prominent judges and law professors in the American Law Institute, and a large body of scholarly legal publications.
In Georgia, courts can respond to new circumstances with the statutory rule that "[f]or every right there is a remedy; every court having jurisdiction of the one may, if necessary, frame the other."
Tort law continues to develop, in the centuries-old tradition of the common law, as courts deal with the facts of specific cases, and as legislators react to pressures from conflicting political forces, including large political campaign contributions from those who seek to severely restrict the rights of individuals to be compensated for serious injuries caused by defectively manufactured products or the negligence of another.
About Ken Shigley:-
Ken Shigley has over 28 years of trial and litigation experience focused primarily on injury and insurance cases. Based in Atlanta, he is able to handle catastrophic cases throughout the Southeast, subject to the practice rules of each jurisdiction, associating local counsel and seeking admission pro hac vice to courts in other states where necessary. Due to proximity to the Atlanta airport, he can fly almost anywhere in the eastern two-thirds of the United States in the morning, handle depositions or meetings, and make it home by bedtime.
Some highlights of Mr. Shigley's professional credentials include:
- Chair, Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute, sponsored by Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama & North Carolina Trial Lawyers Associations.
- "Super Lawyer," Atlanta Magazine (March 2005)
- "Georgia's Legal Elite," Georgia Trend Magazine (December 2004)
- 100+ jury trials.
- Member of Million Dollar Advocates Forum, based on judgments and settlements in excess of one million dollars.
- Listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Personal Injury and Products Liability practice areas)
- Certified Civil Trial Advocate, National Board of Trial Advocacy. One of 23 NBTA Certified Civil Trial Advocates in Georgia.
- Ken Shigley has achieved Martindale-Hubbell's highest rating for legal ability and ethical standards.
- Master, Lamar Inn, American Inns of Court.
- Selected by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission for the "short list" of nominees submitted to the Governor regarding a judgeship on the Superior Court of Fulton County in Atlanta.
- Chair, Georgia Personal Injury Practice seminar for Institute of Continuing Legal Education in Georgia, 2003, 2004, 2005.
- Editor, Georgia Law of Torts: Preparation for Trial (2002 update) and program chairman of the accompanying annual seminar for the Institute for Continuing Legal Education in Georgia.
- Faculty member, Emory University Law School Trial Techniques Program, 1998 - present.
- Former Chairman of the Tort & Insurance Practice Section (then named Insurance Law Section) of the State Bar of Georgia
- Former Chairman of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute
- Board of Governors, State Bar of Georgia (former chair, Member Benefits Committee)
- Georgia Trial Lawyers Association (former chair, State Bar Liaison Committee)
- Advocate, National College of Advocacy. Completed Ultimate Trial Advocacy Institute at Harvard Law School.
- Mr. Shigley has represented clients in litigation of civil cases in 29 of Georgia's judicial circuits, the United States District Courts for the Northern, Middle and Southern Districts of Georgia and the Southern District of Florida, the United States Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court of the United States.
- Graduate of Emory University Law School (Doctor of Law, 1977) and Furman University (B.A., 1973).
- Member of Christian Legal Society since 1974.
- Personal: married, two teenagers, church elder, Assistant Scoutmaster, Children's Tumor Foundation Marathon Team.