UPDATED Through Trials Ending 10/27/15
The week before Labor Day was a significant one in Georgia courtrooms as juries delivered multi-million-dollar verdicts in two worksite wrongful death cases. Courtroom View Network was on hand to record the proceedings in both Fulton County and Gwinnett County and to make gavel-to-gavel coverage of those trials available to the Georgia legal community.
These two verdicts continue a growing trend of CVN providing coverage at major civil trials throughout Georgia. Less than nine months into the year, CVN has recorded 12 Georgia trials leading to million-dollar verdicts, including Decatur County's Walden v. Chrysler Group, LLC, the largest jury verdict ever reported in the state. Two additional cases just missed the million-dollar level, with awards over $995,000 each. As a point of reference, according to the Fulton County Daily Report, in 2014, only 31 state and superior court cases in the entire state ended in million-dollar verdicts.
Courtroom View Network has also covered a significant number of major cases that have resulted in defense verdicts this year, including two medical malpractice cases in Chatham County State Court, Shane Berryhill and Pamela Berryhill v. Dale Daly, MD, et al. (STCV1102180) and Keith Morges and Crystal Morges v. Savannah Pain Management, Inc. et al. (STCV1300305).
Here are the cases that have resulted in million-dollar and near million-dollar verdicts this year, along with links to previous CVN reports on the cases (including trial clips) and the complete trial coverage for each case.
Courtroom View Network Top Verdicts of 2015
1. James Walden and Lindsay Walden v. Chrysler Group, LLC, and Bryan Harrell (Decatur County Superior Court; 12CV472)
Date: March 24 – April 2, 2015
Four-year-old Remington Walden burned to death when the gas tank of the Jeep Grand Cherokee in which he was riding exploded following a collision caused by Bryan Harrell.
Notes: The verdict consisted of $30,000,000 for Remington Walden’s pain and suffering, and $120,000,000 for his wrongful death. The jury apportioned fault at 99% to defendant Chrysler Group, manager of the Jeep, and 1% to defendant Bryan Harrell. Following a motion by the defense, the Court subsequently reduced the judgment to $40,000,000.
2. Stephen Wells v. Aslan Commons, LLC, and WSE, LLC (Fulton County State Court; 12EV014728)
Date: January 12 – 15, 2015
Plaintiff Stephen Wells was a tenant at the Edgewater Apartments in Sandy Springs owned and managed by the defendants. He was badly burned in an explosion in an apartment resulting from natural gas emitted from an uncapped gas line.
Notes: The verdict consisted of $17.9 million in compensatory damages, $47.9 million of punitive damages, and $7.16 million in attorneys’ fees. Subsequently, the Court reduced the punitive damage award to the maximum allowable under O.C.G.A. § 52-12-5.1(g), $250,000. The Court also awarded pre-judgment interest of $561,640.96, based on plaintiff’s pre-trial unliquidated damage demand, resulting in a final judgment of $25,871,640.96.
3. Efrain Hilario et al. v. Newell Recycling of Atlanta, Inc. (Fulton County State Court; 12EV015400)
Date: August 26 – September 3, 2015
Erik Hilario, a worker at Newell Recycling died in a fire at the Newell Recycling plant in East Point when gasoline on the ground ignited and engulfed the reloader Hilario was operating at the time of his death.
Notes: The verdict consisted of $8,250,000 for pain and suffering and $21,000,000 for wrongful death. The jury found that Hilario was an employee of Newell Recycling, LLC, at the time of his death, so that the cause of action against defendant Newell Recycling of Atlanta, Inc., was not subject to the workers’ compensation bar. The jury also ruled for plaintiff on a product liability claim for negligent design and failure to warn regarding the equipment that caused the gasoline spill, as well as on a premises liability claim admitted by defendant prior to trial. The jury also found that punitive damages were warranted; however, the parties entered into a confidential settlement before the jury heard any evidence on the issue of punitive damages.
4. Sterling Brown v. Southeastern Pain Specialists, PC et al. (Fulton County State Court; 10EV010621)
Date: January 12 – 27, 2015
Gwendolyn Brown underwent an epidural procedure performed by Dr. Dennis Doherty at the Southeastern Pain Ambulatory Surgery Center. During the procedure, the oxygen supply to her brain was reduced significantly, resulting in severe brain damage and, ultimately, her death.
Notes: The verdict consisted of $5,981,093 in compensatory damages to Gwendolyn Brown’s estate, and $16,000,000 in damages to her husband Sterling Brown for her wrongful death and loss of consortium. The jury apportioned the fault at 50% to Dr. Doherty, 30% to Southeastern Pain Ambulatory Surgery Center, LLC, and 20% to Southeastern Pain Specialists, LLC, Dr. Doherty’s practice. The jury found in favor of a fourth defendant, Mary Hardwick, RN, who assisted in the procedure. The jury also found that punitive damages were warranted against Dr. Doherty but subsequently declined to award any punitive damages.
5. Renee Lewis v. The Emory Clinic, Inc. et al. (DeKalb County State Court, 11A36471)
Date: September 21 – 25, 2015
Brandon Harris died of complications resulting from severe respiratory distress while participating in a sleep study conducted by The Emory Clinic.
Notes: The verdict consisted of $10,009,284.40 to the estate of Brandon Harris and $10.500,000 for his wrongful death. The jury apportioned fault at 1% to Dr. David Schulman, 0% to Dr. Srinivas Bhadriraju. 0% to The Emory Clinic, Inc., 60% to non-party Neurocare, Inc., and 39% to non-party DeKalb EMT. It also found Emory Clinic responsible for the negligence of Neurocare. The apportionment of fault resulted in a reduction in the final verdict.
6. James Edward Lanier v. Gerdau Ameristeel, US, Inc. (Gwinnett County State Court; 12-C-06887)
Date: August 25 – September 2, 2015
Eddie Lanier, an employee of Action Electric, was working at the Gerdau Ameristeel plant in Cartersville, when he was accidentally struck and killed by a 1,000 pound counterweight.
Notes: The verdict consisted of $1,000,000 for pain and suffering and $3,750,000 for the value of Lanier’s life. The jury apportioned the fault at 75% to defendant Gerdau Ameristeel, US, Inc., 20% to Action Electric and Lanier’s supervisor Michael Harrison, and 5% to Lanier. The apportionment of fault resulted in a reduction in the final verdict.
7. Stephanie Nelson v. Ryan Beiner and Rural/Metro Corporation (DeKalb County State Court; 13A47097)
Date: August 12 – 14, 2015
Plaintiff Stephanie Nelson’s car was rear ended by an ambulance owned by defendant Rural/Metro Corporation and driven by defendant Ryan Beiner, after she slowed when the ambulance began flashing its lights. She suffered significant back injuries as a result of the collision.
8. Jewel Wicker v. American Family Insurance Company et al. (DeKalb County State Court; 13A47336)
Date: February 10 – 12, 2015
Plaintiff Jewel Wicker suffered brain damage when a box truck owned by defendant First Class Produce ran a red light and nearly crushed her vehicle.
Notes: Defendants in the case included Jackie Owens d/b/a First Class Produce, the owner of the truck, and Parker Thomas Owens, the driver.
9. Pamela Douglas Banks v. South Atlanta Neurosurgery, PC (Clayton County State Court; 2008 CV 8001)
Date: July 28 – 31, 2015
Michael Banks underwent a laminectomy performed by Dr. Shahram Rezaiamiri. After Banks was released from the hospital, he developed a severe cough, and his wife called the doctor’s office for assistance. The medical assistant who took Pamela Banks’s calls, Tashara Hall, failed to notify the doctor. Michael Banks’s condition worsened, and he died during the night.
Note: The jury returned a verdict against Dr. Rezaiamiri’s, practice, South Atlanta Neurosurgery, PC, which was Hall’s employer. Dr. Rezaiamiri was originally a defendant in the case but was dismissed prior to trial. The case appears on the CVN website as it was originally filed, Banks v. Rezaiamiri.
10. Eli Peretz, Nick Gabbay and Elite at Golfito Bay, LLC v. S. Alan Cohn and Cohn, Fyvolent & Shaver, LLC (Fulton County State Court; 12EV015232)
Date: June 9 – 12, 2015
Plaintiffs Eli Peretz and Nick Gabbay invested in a failed Costa Rican real estate venture based on the assurance given to them by their attorney, defendant S. Alan Cohn, that the principals in the venture had provided adequate guarantees for the loans made by Peretz and Gabbay. The guarantee was in fact executed by an insolvent entity.
Notes: The verdict consisted of $1,002,900 for Eli Peretz and $500,000 for Nick Gabbay for breach of fiduciary duty against S. Alan Cohn and his law firm, Cohn, Fyvolent & Shaver, LLC. The jury did not award punitive damages or attorney fees in the case.
11. Winfred Evans v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company and Professional Transportation, Inc. (Fulton County Superior Court; 2012CV223527)
Date: April 7 – 10, 2015
Plaintiff Winfred Evans, a Norfolk Southern Railway employee, was severely injured when the van in which he was riding was struck by a Norfolk Southern train in the railyard. The van was operated by Professional Transportation, Inc., under a contract with Norfolk Southern to transport employees such as Evans between work assignments in the yard.
Notes: The verdict against Professional Transporation, Inc., under Georgia tort law, was $1,209,615, including $759,615 for past and future lost wages. The verdict against Norfolk Southern, under the provisions of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), was $998,127, including only $548,127 for lost past and future wages, which are calculated on an after tax basis for FELA claims. The jury also apportioned fault at 80% to Norfolk Southern and 20% to Professional Transportation.
12. Felicia Cheek v. Julia Demmer (Fulton County State Court; 14EV000550)
Date: October 26 – 27, 2015
Plaintiff Felicia Cheek suffered multiple broken bones and other injuries when defendant Julia Demmer ran a red light and spun Cheek's car around, causing a collision with another vehicle..
CVN’s previous articles about the case can be found here. Complete gavel-to-gavel coverage of the case will be available soon for CVN subscribers.
13. Ulysses Anderson v. Brian Hensley (McDuffie County Superior Court; 2014CV0199)
Date: January 12 – 14, 2015
Plaintiff Ulysses Anderson was riding his motorcycle when struck from behind and severely injured by defendant Brian Hensley who fled the scene immediately after the accident and was later cited for DUI.
Notes: The initial trial of this case covered by CVN resulted in a mistrial. The verdict on retrial in March, 2015, included $786,733 in compensatory damages and $250,000 in punitive damages. The jury found the plaintiff Ulysses Anderson 10% at fault, resulting in a reduction in the final judgment.
14. James Price v. Raju Thapa et al. (Clayton County State Court; 2010 CV 06741)
Date: March 24 – 31, 2015
Plaintiff James Price was severely injured when a truck driven by Vijay Shah ran a stop sign and collided with his vehicle. Shah died in the accident. Shah and his friend, Raju Thapa, whose car was closely following Shah’s truck, were on their way to a nearby convenience store.
Notes: The jury found against the estate of Vijay Shah but found in favor of defendants Raju Thapa and his business, Thapa and Brothers, Inc.
15. Margaret Jones and Associates and Margaret Hylton Jones v. Perry Homes Redevelopment, LLC, et al. (Fulton County Superior Court; 2003CV79479)
Date: February 23 – March 3, 2015
Plaintiff Margaret Jones was a political consultant who assisted the team that submitted the winning proposal for the $400 million Perry Homes Redevelopment Project. Jones never received any compensation for her efforts and brought suit against the remaining members of the team.
Notes: The jury award consisted of $182,274 that had been interpled into the court prior to the trial by defendant Columbia Residential, LLC; $300,000 in compensatory damages and $262,000 in attorney fees against defendants Rick White and Alesias Holding Company; $1,000 in compensatory damages and $88,000 in attorney fees against defendant Columbia Residential; and $65,000 in compensatory damages and $88,000 in attorney fees against defendant Brock Built Homes, LLC. The jury found in favor of the individual defendants Noel Khalil and Steve Brock.
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