Road Injury Prevention Litigation Journal
Road Injury Prevention & Litigation Journal
Copyright © 1998 by TranSafety, Inc.
March 1, 1998
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Court Upholds Georgia Driver's Reckless Conduct Conviction for Injury to County Road Worker

A close-passing truck injured a county employee who was working in a ditch beside a road that crossed private land. The trial jury in the State Court, Rockdale County, Georgia convicted the truck's driver of reckless conduct. The Court of Appeals of Georgia affirmed the trial court's decision, maintaining that the driver's conduct disregarded the risk that his act would cause harm and deviated from the behavior of a reasonable person in such a situation.

THE INCIDENT

County employees were working in a ditch beside Black Shoals Road, a gravel road maintained by the county and crossing Mr. Cowan's land. Cowan drove up to the workers and stopped next to a motor grader parked at the side of the road by the ditch where the workers were located. This act "effectively" blocked the road. Cowan began yelling at the workers to leave his property. The crew boss explained that the workers were doing their jobs and Cowan should contact the county public works department. Cowan continued yelling until the driver of a vehicle Cowan's truck was blocking convinced him to move. He drove away, as did the crew boss (in the motor grader).

Cowan returned several minutes later--on the wrong side of the road beside the ditch where the county employees were working. He passed so close that his truck's side mirror struck a county employee, seriously injuring the worker's arm. Cowan stopped his truck and yelled to the injured employee that if the incident had damaged the truck, he (Cowan) would return and hurt the worker.

TRIAL COURT DECISION

The jury in the State Court, Rockdale County convicted Cowan of reckless conduct, a misdemeanor (OCGA 15 16-5-60(b)). He appealed this conviction.

APPEALS COURT DECISION

Cowan challenged the sufficiency of the evidence. He argued that his actions should be construed as either simple negligence or intentional assault, rather than reckless conduct. The Court of Appeals of Georgia considered this challenge and confirmed that Cowan had committed a misdemeanor.

Citing OCGA 15 16-5-60(b), the court stated that a person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he or she commits an act or omission that "causes bodily harm to . . . another person by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk that his act or omission will cause harm" and when that disregard is "a gross deviation" from behavior that "a reasonable person" would display in such a situation.

Evidence presented at trial was sufficient to support the jury's conclusion that when Cowan drove on the wrong side of the road so close to the workers, while he did not intend to hurt them, he "consciously disregarded the substantial and unjustifiable risk that he might do so." That disregard was a gross deviation from the standard of care a reasonable person would exercise in the situation. (See Wofford v. State, 196 Ga.App. 284(1), 395 S.E.2d 630 (1990)).

On August 30, 1995, the Court of Appeals dismissed Cowan's claim of error and affirmed the trial court's decision.

[For further reference, see Cowan v. State (Ga.App. 1995) in West Publishing Vol. 461 South Eastern Reporter, 2nd Series, 587]

Copyright © 1998 by TranSafety, Inc.



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