After a Gwinnett County jury found no liability on the part of a motorist who struck a woman in a crosswalk, the defense attorney said that—in addition to a welcome verdict—he got a cultural lesson.
Key to G. Lee Welborn of Downey & Cleveland‘s case were arguments that the plaintiff looked left and right then stepped off the curb. Eight of the jurors were citizens who were originally from Latin American countries, he said.
“I was talking with them, and the man who sort of spoke for them said, ‘When we go home and are crossing the street, our heads are going back and forth and we run across the street because of the way people drive there,’” Welborn said.
“As soon as they heard her say she only looked left once, they decided she was negligent,” he said.
“It never occurred to me what it must be like to be a pedestrian in the home countries of prospective jurors, but it’s something I’ll keep in mind in the future,” Welborn added.
Morain noted, however, that the jury form indicated there was no contributory negligence on DeMars’ part.
The lawyer said their client has not decided whether to seek an appeal or otherwise challenge the verdict.
“We’re still talking to her about that,” Morain said.
According to the lawyers and court filings, Kimberly DeMars, now 35, was crossing Ponce de Leon Avenue in Decatur in 2013 en route to her yoga class. She was barely into the crosswalk when she was struck by a Chevrolet Sonic driven by Rachel Weber.
“She said she pushed the button for the ‘walk’ sign, looked left and didn’t see anything, saw a car in the distance to the right and started across the street,” said Welborn. “My client said she had a solid green light. She admitted there were several ‘Watch for Pedestrian’ signs around.”
DeMars suffered a fractured left wrist and broken big toe and had no recollection of the crash, her lawyers said.
DeMars underwent surgery to implant a plate and screws in her wrist and accrued about $114,000 in medical bills, he said. DeMars, an architect, also had about $10,000 in lost wages claims.
Investigating officers did not cite either party, they said.
DeMars sued Weber in Gwinnett County State Court in 2015.
During a three-day trial before Judge Carla Brown, the lawyers said the key plaintiff’s expert was DeMars’ surgeon, Eric Furie of Buckhead Sports Medicine.
The defense presented testimony by accident reconstructionist Scott Short with Gainesville’s Collision Specialists Inc.
“We made a conscious decision not to call an accident reconstructionist, because we just didn’t think they really provided any value,” Morain said.
At closing, the plaintiff’s lawyers asked the jury to award $615,000, the lawyers said.
The jury returned a defense verdict on Aug. 1.
DeMars lawyers said she was “an outstanding client and made a great appearance on the stand.”
“But, obviously, Lee Welborn is an experienced trial lawyer, and he tried a great case,” Morain said.
In addition to his cultural lesson concerning nonnative jurors’ perceptions of being a pedestrian in the United states, Welborn said he gleaned another tip from the trial.
“I was reminded that I need to prepare my defendants for X-rays of broken bones and closeups of bones and screws,” he said. “This was jury trial 118 for me and I’m immune to it, but my poor young lady client had never seen anything like that. She had to bolt for the bathroom.”