X

Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Plaintiffs lawyers last week reaped millions of dollars in Georgia’s Coweta County State Court from what turned out to be a very generous jury pool. Over three days, in two successive suits before Judge John H. Cranford, Coweta jurors awarded a total of $5.75 million to plaintiffs in driving-related cases. In the first, jurors awarded $3 million to a woman punched in the face by a truck driver during a road-rage incident. In the second, jurors awarded $2.75 million to the family of a 19-year-old man who was killed after he drove into the path of a truck. Kam, Ebersbach & Lewis’ Randy J. Ebersbach, who represented plaintiff Sandra D. England of Coweta in the road-rage case, said he’s never seen such a run of big plaintiffs’ verdicts in his decades of practice in Coweta. “$5.75 million in two days isn’t bad, is it?” he said. “Not in any county.” Ebersbach tried the case with Wayne D. “Dan” McGrew III of Atlanta-based Carlock, Copeland, Semler & Stair. According to the plaintiffs, on Aug. 30, 1999, England and her husband were trying to get off Interstate 85 and turn onto Bullsboro Road in Newnan, Ga., when Rickey Barron began to pull his semi into the lane she was occupying. She honked, according to the plaintiffs, and Barron ignored her. So she sped up, zipped around Barron’s truck and pulled into a gas station to fill up her car. Barron followed the Englands to the gas station, left his truck and exchanged words with Sandra England. Then Barron “punched Plaintiff Sandra Dianne England in the face and then in cowardly fashion ran back to his truck,” Ebersbach wrote in the complaint. Barron fled. The Englands sued him, Keystone Freight Corp. and Aldworth Company Inc., which provides drivers and performs truck maintenance for Keystone. Keystone is based in North Bergen, N.J. Aldworth is based in Lynnfield, Mass. Barron and Aldworth failed to respond to the complaint, and the case went to trial solely on damages. Nobody has been able to locate Barron, who was served by publication. Keystone was represented by E. Harold Stone of Duluth, who argued that his client had nothing to do with Barron’s behavior and that Barron was a contract worker. EYE SURGERY NEEDED AFTER PUNCH According to the plaintiffs, England suffered neck pain and “extreme trauma” to the left side of her face. She had medical bills of approximately $3,233 and requires surgery to repair damage to her eye and orbital bone — surgery that will cost $16,000, she estimated. She also claimed lost wages of $2,465. The jury came back with a verdict of $750,000 in compensatory damages against all three defendants, $250,000 in punitives against the driver and $1 million each against Keystone Freight and Aldworth. The verdict may be one of the largest ever in a Georgia road-rage case, but Ebersbach said he knows he’s unlikely to collect all of it. England v. Barron, No. 015V541 (Coweta St. April 21, 2004). “I don’t expect we’re going to collect all that award,” he said. Ebersbach said he had no idea the jury would find so favorably for his client. “It actually looked like a very conservative group to me,” he said, noting that the jury included a Delta Air Lines executive and a Kilpatrick Stockton paralegal. “These were highly educated people; they just got [annoyed],” he said. “As they should have — the facts in our case were outrageous.” VERDICT SURPRISES BOTH SIDES The next day, Eric J. Hertz of Hertz, Link & Smith, co-counsel Mark D. Link and Michael L. Werner began their case with a jury selected from the same pool that was so generous to England. Hertz said he didn’t have especially high hopes for the case. He had offered to accept $125,000 in settlement. The defendants had countered with an offer of $100,000, and they couldn’t reconcile. “We were prepared to accept that $125,000, right up to the openings,” he said. “We went to trial over $25,000.” According to the pretrial order, on Dec. 20, 2001, 19-year-old Justin Brooks, a pet store employee, ran a traffic light to make a left turn off Highway 124 in Gwinnett County, Ga., onto Web Gin House Road. He pulled in front of the 1984 Chevrolet pickup that Ognio Grading Inc. employee Daniel Hancock was driving on his way to a work site. Ognio Grading Inc. has offices in Coweta. Hancock’s truck hit Brooks’ car, and Brooks died. According to both sides, Brooks had marijuana metabolites in his system, and the defense claimed in the pretrial order that Brooks had run the red light. At trial, a police officer testified that Hancock had the right of way. “Mr. Hancock was not able to avoid the collision,” wrote William D. Harrison, of Atlanta’s Mozley, Finlayson & Loggins. Harrison represented defendants Hancock and Ognio Grading Inc., which owned the truck. “When the jury went out, we were sweating it because we thought they had us beat,” Hertz said. Harrison agreed with Hertz’s assessment. “I think that was the general consensus at the end of the trial,” said Harrison, who added that he thought everything went his way in the trial, from openings and closings to evidence. “I don’t have any regrets,” Harrison said. “You just never know.” But the jury came back with a $2.75 million verdict — all compensatory damages on the loss of life claim. Brooks v. Hancock, No. 02SV351 (Coweta St. April 23, 2004). Hertz said he was completely surprised. “Smaller counties usually return smaller verdicts,” he said. “We were shocked.” Harrison said he was also surprised at the size of the verdict. “I don’t expect a seven-figure verdict no matter where I am,” he said. Harrison said there was a high-low agreement in place, so his clients will not have to pay the amount of the verdict the jury returned. Although he would not disclose the range, Harrison said the amount was “well less than the amount of the verdict.”

This content has been archived. It is available exclusively through our partner LexisNexis®.

To view this content, please continue to Lexis Advance®.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber? Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® is now the exclusive third party online distributor of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® customers will be able to access and use ALM's content by subscribing to the LexisNexis® services via Lexis Advance®. This includes content from the National Law Journal®, The American Lawyer®, Law Technology News®, The New York Law Journal® and Corporate Counsel®, as well as ALM's other newspapers, directories, legal treatises, published and unpublished court opinions, and other sources of legal information.

ALM's content plays a significant role in your work and research, and now through this alliance LexisNexis® will bring you access to an even more comprehensive collection of legal content.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

 
 

ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.