Law & Moran partners Pete Law and Mike Moran notched a $21.6 million award last week for a man who lost a leg after being struck as he walked toward a Whitfield County highway to stop traffic for a truck. That on top of another $110 million the law firm has already notched in verdicts this year.
The Dalton jury’s verdict is notable both for its size in the rural North Georgia county and because it marks the third major verdict this year for Law & Moran, which garnered a nearly $70 million award against Kroger last month and—along with lawyers from James A. Rice Jr. P.C.—landed a $43 million award against CVS Pharmacy the month before.
Both of those cases involved plaintiffs’ shot during robberies at the businesses.
“We’ve had a busy year,” Law said Monday.
During a one-week trial before Judge Scott Minter, Law and Moran were assisted by firm associate Patrick Wheale.
Law and Moran said they were struck that the at-fault parties in the just-concluded trial never offered any meaningful settlement despite their client’s permanent, life-altering injuries.
“There was a court-ordered mediation, but it didn’t resolve anything, Law said.
“The [medical bills] alone were more than $411,000, and they never even offered that,” he added.
James said they will file motions for remittitur and for a new trial and, depending on the court’s rulings, may also file an appeal.
“[W]e believe there are issues, testimony, and facts in the record that warrant the filing of such motions,” he said via email.
His client is a small trucking company, James said, “a business providing valuable transportation services to keep our country, and economy, strong. Therefore, we feel, for a wide variety of reasons, the verdict requires judicial review because of the serious impact it has on this family-run business and on the community.”
The verdict may also be noteworthy for the size—or lack thereof—of apportioned liability to the co-defendant motorist who actually struck the injured man: He was allocated one one-hundredth of the fault, which works out to $2,160 of the $21.6 million award.
That driver, Greefus Patterson, is represented by Brian Spitler and Angela Kopet of Carlock Copeland & Stair’s Chattanooga office. Spitler said he did not have permission to comment.
According to Law, Moran and court filings, the accident happened in 2016 at the All South Metals recycling center in Dalton.
The plaintiff, employee Donald Monroe, was operating a loader and had finished loading scrap metal onto a tractor-trailer to be hauled to another recycling center. As the truck was preparing to leave, Monroe climbed of the loader and walked up to the center’s exit to act as a “spotter” and stop traffic for the truck.
According to the plaintiffs portion of the pretrial order, truck driver Daniel McGuffee didn’t wait for Monroe to get into position before pulling into the highway.
Patterson’s pickup was approaching the semi and, in an attempt to avoid the rig, he pulled off the road to the right, hitting a Dumpster, some metal bins and Monroe.
Monroe suffered injuries, including multiple fractures to his right leg that required the insertion of a metal rod; a broken clavicle; and severe injuries to his left leg that required it to be amputated below the knee.
The Georgia State Patrol cited McGuffee for failure to yield and Patterson for failure to exercise due care.
Lane’s Equipment’s portion of the order said Monroe had acted as a spotter for McGuffee’s truck but had failed to don a reflective orange vest, and that the trucker looked both ways before turning onto the highway.
Patterson, it said, was driving too fast and suffered from “extremely poor eyesight” such that, by the time he saw the semi, it was too late for him to stop.
“Patterson’s failure to keep his vehicle under control and failure to exercise due care was the cause of the accident,” it said.
Patterson’s account blamed McGuffee for pulling out before checking for oncoming traffic without providing “sufficient warning, time, or space” and failing to yield.
Monroe and his wife sued the trucking company, McGuffee and Patterson in Whitfield County Superior Court in 2016.
Law said the defense made one offer to settle for less than Monroe’s medical bills and that his client never made any certified offers to settle.
The defendants worked to shift blame to each other and the plaintiff, Law said.
“The evidence was pretty clear that the trucking company pulled out in front of [Patterson],” he said. “They were blaming each other, and the plaintiff and tried to blame the plaintiff’s employer as well.”
Law said key plaintiffs’ witnesses included Monroe’s doctors and medical experts, accident reconstructionist Jeff Kidd of Gainesville and Watkinsville lifecare expert Audrey Cowart.
“A lot of local lawyers came to watch the trial,” Moran said. “They don’t get a lot of civil trials up there.”
In closing, Law said he asked for $21.6 million.
“That was my exact number, plus more for medical bills,” he said.
After about five hours of deliberations, the jury awarded $20 million to Monroe and $1.6 million to his wife on her loss of consortium claim. The panel apportioned 99.99 percent of the damages to Lane’s Equipment Rental and its insurer, Acuity.
Lane’s lawyer, Stuart, said he felt Minter would weigh the issues carefully before allowing the verdict to stand.
“We have confidence in the court, we know the court will take the posttrial motions seriously, review the record and make a ruling,” he said.
In conversation with jurors after the trial, Law said they complimented the plaintiffs’ experts and were particularly impressed with the quality of their presentation and exhibits.
“They said they really liked our technology from Legal Technology Services,” he said.
The lawyers said they won’t have much time to savor their victory.
“We’ve got another trial in four weeks in DeKalb—premises liability case,” Law said.