Dalton, GA— A Georgia jury slapped a trucking company and its driver with nearly all of a $21.6 million verdict Friday for the role it found they played in a crash that left a Georgia man with lifelong injuries. Monroe v. Lane's Equipment Rental, et al., 16-CI-00833.
The Whitfield County Superior Court jury needed less than two hours to find Lane’s Equipment Rental, Inc., and its driver, Daniel McGuffee, 99.99% at fault for the February 2016 wreck that forced Donald Monroe to undergo a below-the-knee amputation of his left leg, and left him with an array of other leg and hip injuries.
Friday’s verdict includes $20 million to Monroe and $1.6 million to his wife, Rhonda.
Monroe, 49 at the time, was struck by a pickup truck driven by Greefus Patterson, as Patterson swerved to avoid McGuffee's tractor-trailer, which had pulled out onto South Dixie Highway in Dalton.
Jurors apportioned .01% of fault to Patterson. They also rejected plaintiff’s claims for attorney fees and punitive damages.
Moments before the accident, Monroe, who worked at a Dalton-area scrap metal company at the time, had loaded the Lane’s truck. Monroe claims McGuffee pulled out onto the roadway improperly, failing to yield to traffic and causing the wreck.
The parties differed dramatically in their versions of events surrounding the crash. And the four-day trial focused largely on whether Patterson or Lane’s and McGuffee should bear the lion’s share of the blame.
McGuffee maintained that he pulled onto the highway properly, with Monroe’s assistance as a spotter in the highway. And during Friday’s closings, The James Firm’s Stuart James argued that the tractor-trailer was readily visible, but that Patterson was driving with vision problems, including a cataract in his left eye that James said led to the crash.
“I would propose to you that Mr. Patterson did see this tractor-trailer,” James said. “When he saw it, he saw...some image on his left, and he overreacted, when he could have stopped.”
But Patterson’s attorney, Carlock Copeland’s Angela Kopet, countered that the most recent exam Patterson underwent before the crash showed his vision met legal minimums to drive. “There’s no testimony that he couldn’t see, or he had a problem seeing on the day of this accident,” Kopet told jurors Friday. “Mr. James wants to shift as much [responsibility] as he can to my client. But what I’m asking you to do is listen to the facts.”
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For his part, Monroe contended McGuffee pulled the tractor-trailer onto the roadway without waiting for him to act as a spotter, and that he had been standing well off the road before the accident occurred. On Friday, Monroe’s attorney, Law & Moran’s Michael Moran, argued McGuffee had changed his story of the accident several times, at one point claiming that he blocked both lanes of traffic before ultimately recanting that account.
“I understand the predicament that he was in, and probably the pressure that he was under in thinking about losing his job. That’s one thing,” Moran said. “But here in a court of law, when you’re here to decide the truth… and weighing credibility, that’s a huge issue as to whether you should lend credence to [McGuffee’s] version of trying to blame Mr. Monroe and trying to put the full blame on Mr. Patterson.”
This is a breaking story. CVN will update this article as events warrant.
Email Arlin Crisco at email@example.com.
Donald and Rhonda Monroe are represented by Law & Moran’s Pete Law, E. Michael Moran, and Patrick Wheale.
Stuart James, of The James Firm, and David Ward of Michel & Ward, both based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, represent McGuffee and Lane’s.
Carlock Copeland’s Brian Spitler and Angela Kopet represent Greefus Patterson.
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