Auld v. Forbes

Citation848 S.E.2d 876
Decision Date28 September 2020
Docket NumberS20G0021,S20G0020
Parties AULD et al. v. FORBES et al. Auld et al. v. Forbes et al.
CourtSupreme Court of Georgia

848 S.E.2d 876

AULD et al.
FORBES et al.

Auld et al.
Forbes et al.


Supreme Court of Georgia.

Decided: September 28, 2020

Douglas Lee Clayton, Jennifer Lauren Nichols, Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers, LLP, The Peachtree, Suite 300, 1355 Peachtree Street, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30309-3231, Leigh Martin Wilco, Weissman PC, One Alliance Center, 3500 Lenox Road, 4th Floor, Atlanta, Georgia 30326, Attorneys for the Appellant.

Latif Oduola-Owoo, Robert Louis Arrington, Jr., Arrington Owoo, PC, 1230 Peachtree St NE, Ste 1900, Atlanta, Georgia 30309, Katrenia R. Collins, Katrenia R. Collins, LLC, PO Box 55167, Atlanta, Georgia 30308, Michael Brian Terry, Amanda Kay Seals, Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, LLP, 1201 West Peachtree Street, N.W., Suite 3900, Atlanta, Georgia 30309-3417, Tricia Purks Hoffler, The CK Hoffler Firm, 23 Lenox Pointe, NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30324, Attorneys for the Appellee.

Todd Emory Hatcher, Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers LLC, 49 Atlanta Street, Marietta, Georgia 30060, Steven Stein, Brady Law Group, 1015 Irwin Street, San Rafael, California 64901, Attorneys for the Other Party.

Bethel, Justice.

Following Tomari Jackson's drowning death while on a school trip in Belize, his mother, Adell Forbes, individually and as administrator of Jackson's estate (collectively, "Forbes"), filed a wrongful death action in Georgia. Because Forbes filed the action outside the applicable limitation period provided for under Belize law but within the period that would be applicable under Georgia law, whether Georgia's or Belize's limitation period applies to that wrongful death action is of critical importance. In Forbes v. Auld , 351 Ga. App. 555, 557-560 (2), 830 S.E.2d 770 (2019), the Court of Appeals held that Georgia law, and not Belize law, controlled the limitation period governing the wrongful death claim. Because we hold instead that Belize's limitation period applies to Forbes's wrongful death action, we reverse the Court of Appeals’ decision as to that issue.

1. Background

The facts, as set forth by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:

On February 13, 2016, 14-year-old [Jackson] drowned while swimming in a river on a school trip to Monkey Bay Wildlife Sanctuary in the country of Belize. [Forbes] filed this action on March 24, 2017, against Monkey Bay, its owner [Matthew Miller], Cobb County Government, Cobb County School District, and the chaperones, some of whom were employed by the school district at the time [including James Auld] and some of whom were volunteers. Forbes asserted claims for her son's personal injuries before his death and for his wrongful death.

Forbes dismissed her claims against Cobb County Government, and the trial court granted Cobb County School District's motion to dismiss on the ground that it was immune from liability on the basis of sovereign immunity.[1 ] The trial court then granted the remaining defendants’ motions to dismiss, finding that the teacher chaperones were entitled to official immunity and that the one-year limitation period in the Belize Law of Torts Act barred all of Forbes's claims against all defendants. Law of Torts Act, Chapter 172, § 10 (2011).

Forbes , 351 Ga. App. at 556 (1), 830 S.E.2d 770.

Forbes appealed, challenging the trial court's ruling that her claims were time-barred.

848 S.E.2d 879

See id. at 557 (1), 830 S.E.2d 770. The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that Georgia's two-year statute of limitations on wrongful death claims, and not Belize's one-year limitation period under the Law of Torts Act of Belize, applied to Forbes's claim.2 See id. at 557-560 (2), 830 S.E.2d 770. We granted the defendants’ petition for certiorari to consider whether the Court of Appeals correctly determined that Georgia law applies to the wrongful death claim. Because we hold that Belize's limitation period applies, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals with respect to the wrongful death claim.

2. Determining the Law Applicable to an Extraterritorial Harm

When a civil tort action is brought in a Georgia court for a harm that was sustained in an out-of-state jurisdiction, the Georgia court must determine which jurisdiction's laws apply to the claim. Georgia law differentiates between substantive and procedural law in such instances and determines which law will apply to the case through the doctrines of lex loci delicti (the law of the place where the injury was sustained) and lex fori (the law of the forum state).

a. Lex Loci...

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