BOBBY, DIANE AND DEDRA
Bobby, his wife Diane and their 18 month old daughter Dedra were moving the last load of furniture to the family’s new apartment. Bobby’s best friend, Ronnie, was helping. Bobby was driving, Ronnie was sitting in the front passenger seat, Diane was sitting in the middle with Dedra in her lap. As they drove through an intersection, suddenly, and with absolutely no warning, a large commercial truck traveling at a high rate of speed slammed into the driver’s side of their vehicle. Bobby was knocked unconscious when his head hit the driver’s side door. The force of the impact was so great, Ronnie’s door was jarred open and he was thrown into the street. The rear wheels of Bobby’s truck ran over and killed him. Diane and Dedra were thrown from the vehicle and, as it continued to spin, it came to a stop over Dedra. The battery broke and battery acid dripped down to the pavement pooling around the side of Dedra’s face burning it horribly. Diane regained consciousness, crawled under the vehicle and tried to rescue Dedra. In doing so she suffered third degree burns from the battery acid over the length of her left arm. She passed out again and paramedics found her holding Dedra under the truck, both unconscious.
Bobby awoke in the hospital the next day. The blow to his head caused him to lose fifty percent (50%) of his hearing in his left ear. Bobby learned his wife Diane had suffered a badly broken jaw which was wired together and third degree acid burns over her entire left arm which would disfigure her for life. Dedra, their 18 month old child, was hurt worst of all. Both of her arms and legs were broken. She suffered severe internal injuries. The injury to her dominant arm was so severe it ripped the nerves which controlled the use of the arm away from the spinal cord, causing her to permanently lose the use of her dominant hand. One side of Dedra’s face was permanently disfigured from the battery acid burns. Dedra remained on life support for weeks before she began to recover.
The driver of the commercial truck which caused this tragedy was cited for driving under the influence. A construction crew supervisor from Alabama, he and the rest of his crew decided to hold a “topping off” party the afternoon of this wreck. He bought beer and liquor for all the workers to drink at a fish fry on the job site. The home office approved purchase of the alcohol and agreed to host the fish fry. According to witnesses at the party, the drunk driver had been drinking steadily for more than six (6) hours before the wreck occurred. At the time of the wreck, his blood alcohol content was two and one-half (2½) times the legal limit required to prove he was intoxicated.
Suit was filed against the drunk driver and the company for which he worked. After two (2) years of intense investigation and pre-trial preparation, the case was scheduled for trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Our careful examination of the drunk driver’s background revealed that he had been caught for driving under the influence at least once before in the State of Georgia and once before in his home state of Alabama. One (1) week before trial, the Defendant’s insurance carriers agreed to pay Bobby, Diane and Dedra a combination of cash, monthly and annual payments which, over the course of Dedra’s lifetime, will amount to more than Twenty-Three Million Dollars ($23,000,000.00).
Seventeen year old Melanie was a full-time high school student and worked two part-time jobs saving money for college. She had bought her own car with money she earned, and she paid for her own insurance. Melanie left her house every morning at 6:30 so she could arrive at school early to review her homework, study for tests and socialize with her friends.
One morning, just like any other, Melanie left home for school. She turned left out of her subdivision and onto the two-lane roadway which would take her directly to school. It was 6:45 a.m. and still dark, so Melanie had turned on her headlights. She didn’t make it to school.
Melanie awoke three weeks later in the trauma center of a local hospital. She had suffered a severely fractured skull and brain injury after her car crashed into the side of a flatbed truck which had pulled out in front of her and blocked the roadway. Melanie couldn’t see the truck in the dark because it did not have side reflectors as were required by law.
Suit was filed against the driver of the flatbed truck and company for which he was employed. After twelve months of litigation and trial preparation, the suit was settled for the truck driver’s liability insurance limits of $750,000.00. All of Melanie’s medical expenses were paid for by her group health insurance carrier and she subsequently made a good recovery from her injuries.
Tammy left for work every morning at 6:00 a.m. while it was still dark. Approximately fifteen minutes after leaving her home, she ran into the rear of a disabled van which had stalled within her lane and which the driver had abandoned to call for help. Tammy’s car was totaled and she suffered a ruptured disc in her neck and injuries to both her legs.
Suit was filed against the van owner and driver. During trial preparation, it was discovered the van had been involved in a wreck approximately ten minutes before Tammy hit him and from which he had fled the scene. The earlier wreck involved the van being rear-ended by a following vehicle while stopped for traffic. The van owner claimed he left the scene of the first wreck, “because it didn’t seem to be that big a deal”. However, after suit was filed, the van owner claimed his vehicle was disabled by the impact from the first wreck and it should be their responsibility to pay Tammy, not his. After eight months of pre-trial preparation, the case was settled with the van driver’s insurance carrier for the sum of $100,000.00.
Seventy-one year old Julia was turning left at a green traffic signal when an oncoming driver passed a slower car, crossed the center line and ran into her. As a result of the wreck, Julia suffered an aggravation of her osteoarthritis and several bulging discs in her lower back. Julia’s medical bills were paid by Medicare. She was retired, so she didn’t incur any lost earnings. An attempt was made to resolve the case with the other driver’s insurance carrier; however, they only offered Julia $5,000.00 to settle her case.
Winston worked the counter at one of our local auto parts stores. Winston’s job required he be at work no later than 7:00 o’clock each morning. He kissed his wife goodbye and left for work, the same way he always did.
Two hours later, Winston’s wife received a call from the police department. As Winston was driving his usual route to work, he came around a corner and crashed into the side of a logging truck which had pulled out in front of him to make an illegal left turn. Winston could not have seen the truck because it was dark and the truck did not have the required side lights or reflectors.
Winston’s wife filed suit for his wrongful death against the truck driver and the company for which the truck driver worked. After twelve months of litigation and trial preparation, the parties reached a confidential settlement agreement.
Jessie was four years old. Her mom and dad divorced when she was only one and a half, but Jessie’s dad saw her every weekend and kept her during the summer. Jessie was the apple of his eye and he treated her like a little princess.
Jessie’s mom was on her way to shop one morning and Jessie was in the back seat in her car seat. It had snowed the day before and there was snow on the ground but the roads were clear. A car coming from the opposite direction lost control and ran head-on into Jessie’s car. The impact was so great that Jessie and her mother died instantly. The other driver claimed he slid on “black ice” which he never saw, but which caused him to lose control of his car and drive into oncoming traffic. The investigating officer did not charge him with the wreck.
Our investigation involved obtaining copies of photographs taken by the investigating officer as well as reviewing statements of witnesses who drove through the roadway both before and after this tragic wreck occurred. I determined that as many as 100 vehicles would have passed the same spot before this incident occurred and there had been no other wrecks reported. The evidence plainly suggested the other driver had become distracted and drifted into the path of Jessie’s mother’s car.
Jessie’s father filed suit against the driver who caused this horrible wreck for the wrongful death of his little girl. After two years of trial preparation and one day of mediation, the case was settled for a confidential sum.
Larry and his sons, Donnie and Mickey, along with Mickey’s best friend Richard, left Atlanta for Kentucky to start new jobs as satellite installers for a new company. Larry and Donnie rode in one car while Mickey and Richard rode in another.
The route they chose took them through the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee. As they were driving down a two-lane highway before 6:00 a.m. on morning, Larry noticed Richard had steered his car from the roadway onto the paved shoulder, as though he were stopping for some sort of emergency. It was still dark, and foggy, but Larry had a clear view of Richard and his son Donnie, who was asleep in the front passenger side of Richard’s car. As Richard pulled into the emergency lane, Larry, to his horror, saw the back end of an illegally parked tractor-trailer. Larry watched as Richard drove under the back end of the tractor-trailer. Larry saw both Mickey and Richard decapitated.
Suit was filed against the truck driver and company for whom he worked for failure to have his emergency flashing lights engaged and failure to have placed reflective triangles which would have alerted Richard to the truck’s presence in the dark and foggy conditions. During our pretrial investigation, it was discovered the truck driver had stopped not because of any accident; rather, he had pulled off the roadway and into the emergency lane to catch a few hours sleep. The evidence we uncovered suggested the truck driver did not turn his emergency flashers on because the clicking sound the flashers made would have kept him awake. Additionally, we discovered that the trucker was fired from his company after this incident for refusing to take a blood test following the wreck.
After eighteen months of intensive trial preparation, the case was settled for a confidential sum.
Susan and her best friend Sara were students at a University located near Atlanta. During a late night study session they decided to take a break and drive to a local grocery store for snacks they would bring back to share with their friends. Susan agreed to drive. The last thing Susan remembers about that night was leaving the store and beginning her drive back to school. Susan woke up two months later in an Atlanta hospital recovering from a brain injury.
Susan’s family, and Sara, told her that on the way back from the store, a police car responding to an emergency call crashed into the front of her car completely destroying it, the police car and badly injuring the police officer, Sara, and almost killing Susan. Susan had no memory of anything happening that night other than leaving the grocery store. Sara remembered only driving down the roadway toward their school, seeing bright lights and hearing a crash. However, Sara was confident that Susan was driving well within her own lane when the crash occurred. Notwithstanding Sara’s statement that Susan was not violating any law when the wreck occurred, the investigating officers charged Susan with causing the wreck by failing to yield to an emergency vehicle.
Our preliminary investigation involved obtaining a copy of the police report and our physical inspection of the roadway where this wreck occurred. The investigating officer had somehow reached the conclusion that Susan and Sara were turning left out of a motel after leaving a party and drove into the path of an oncoming police officer who was traveling at a high rate of speed with his siren and flashing lights engaged. Since Susan and Sara were adamant they had been only to the grocery store and not to any party, we decided suit should be filed so that various police records could be subpoenaed to determine if there were other facts which supported Susan’s case. After suit was filed, we took the statement of the police officer driving the car which crashed into Susan’s. The police officer also suffered a closed head injury and had no memory of how the wreck occurred. He could only remember he was responding to a reported car theft when he hit Susan’s car. Our examination of the physical evidence including skid marks, photographs of debris at the wreck site taken by the investigating officer, and our establishment of a timeline based on the testimony of students who were studying with Susan and Sara, showed it would have been impossible for them to have left the grocery store and stopped at a motel before this wreck occurred. Additionally, we were able to locate a witness who said the police officer swerved into Susan’s lane to avoid a car pulling out of a side street to the officer’s right immediately before the wreck. After eighteen months of trial preparation, the case was settled for the full amount of liability insurance coverage provided for the officer’s vehicle.