Up to $40M Sought For Georgia Lawyer's Injuries, as Trial Opens Over Rear-End Car Crash

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jun 7, 2023 4:35:32 PM


Stock image. 

Canton, GA— Attorneys Tuesday debated whether the injuries a Georgia lawyer suffered in a 2016 rear-end crash were worth more than $40 million in compensation, as a damages trial opened against the driver who struck him. Watson v. Blackburn, 18SC-0380-MH.$4

“He looks the same, but he’s not the same. He’s a shadow of himself. And that's sad.” Nick Rowley, of Trial Lawyers for Justice, told jurors, after suggesting they ultimately award between $20.8 million and $40.8 million for the injuries he said have robbed James Matthew Watson of the active life he enjoyed before his car was rear-ended. 

Watson, then 35, was stopped at a traffic light on Bells Ferry Road in Cherokee County, Georgia when his Ford Mustang was struck from behind by a Dodge Ram pickup driven by Todd Blackburn. Watson, an attorney located in the Kennesaw, Georgia area, says the collision has left him with back, hip, and other injuries and suffering from chronic pain that has upended his daily life.  


With the defense admitting negligence in the case, trial focuses on the severity of Watson’s injuries and whether they’re related to the wreck. During Tuesday’s openings, Rowley walked jurors through Watson’s medical care, including more than 40 procedures, ranging from surgeries and nerve ablations to pain injections. Rowley added Watson would continue to require further treatment and pain management throughout his life. 

Rowley said Watson’s ongoing pain and physical limitations prevent him from the outdoor and family activities he loved before the crash, and have taken a heavy emotional toll. 

“Matthew will tell you: he’ll say ‘When I look in the mirror, I don’t see the same person [I was]. I don’t see the man I was growing up to be,” Rowley told jurors, adding that medical evidence would establish Watson's injuries stemmed directly from the wreck.

But the defense argues the crash was relatively minor and claims Watson’s injuries are unrelated to the collision. 

During Tuesday’s openings, Downey & Cleveland’s Russell Davis told jurors that neither of the vehicles’ airbags were deployed in the crash and that Watson, who was diagnosed with neck and muscle strains in the emergency room immediately after the wreck, was able to follow through with a planned vacation to Florida soon afterward. 

“Keep in mind that burden of proof before they grab that money,” Davis said. “It’s right here for them to show what this accident caused.”

Davis then highlighted medical evidence, including imaging and expert testimony, which he said would show that the injuries Watson complained of largely stemmed from long-term tissue degeneration rather than from the collision. 

“That’s all this accident caused: temporary muscle strain in the neck and low back. Everything else he’s been through is unrelated,” Davis said. “They cannot prove otherwise.”

Trial in the case is ongoing before Judge Michelle Helhoski, in Cherokee County State Court. CVN is streaming the trial live and on demand and will provide news updates. 

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Related information

Attorneys for the plaintiff include Nicholas Rowley and Joseph Wilson of Trial Lawyers for Justice and Wilson Rowley.

Attorneys for the defense include Russell Davis and Joshua Ruplin of Downey & Cleveland. 

Watch the trial. 

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Topics: Georgia, Transportation, Watson v. Blackburn