Affirming a ruling by the late Judge Rowland Barnes, who was murdered in his courtroom a few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals has held that the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is not subject to punitive damages. Ironically, the case arose from a brutal assault at the Lindbergh MARTA station, for which the victim sued for MARTA’s allegedly inadequate security on the premises. See text below.

In Marrale v. Gwinnett Place Ford, the Court of Appeals helped to clear up some earlier case law that had treated used car sales at dealerships as “private transactions” outside the scope of the Fair Business Practices Act FBPA). Consumers and their lawyers who seek to use the FBPA should carefully review this case, and develop evidence of all advertising, marketing and promotion that led the consumer to enter into the transaction with the defendant, in order to put that transaction in the context of the defendant’s activity in the consumer marketplace. See text below.

Two cases decided in November 2004 help to clarify the often befuddling concept legal doctrine of “proximate cause” in Georgia jury instructions. In John Crane Inc. v. Jones, 278 Ga. 747, 604 S.E.2d 822 (2004), the Supreme Court of Georgia held that it is error to charge that each of multiple defendants must have been a “substantial contributing factor” in causation, as any contributing factor is sufficient. Similarly, in Thompson v. Thompson, 278 Ga. 752, 605 S.E.2d 30 (2004), the court held that it was reversible error to use the “dominant cause” phrase to explain proximate cause.
These decisions are significant both in simplifying the often confusing issue of proximate cause for jurors, and perhaps in leading to clarification of jury instructions generally.