Newnan, GA—A pedestrian who was knocked out of his shoes as a result of being struck by a motorist in an accident that neither party could remember at trial was awarded $7,500 by a Coweta County Superior Court jury. James Booth v. Joel Edge and Lisa Edge (2014-SU-V-13-JK)
According to testimony at the trial and other records, the accident occurred on July 27, 2012, on Tommy Lee Cook Road in rural Coweta County. James Booth, who lived in nearby Palmetto, was jogging down the road that afternoon when he was struck from behind by a pickup truck driven by Joel Edge. Booth sustained various injuries in the accident and later received both stitches and staples for his cuts at the Atlanta Medical Center emergency room. As a result of the incident, Edge was arrested and later pled guilty to a DUI, after blood tests revealed several narcotic drugs in his system.
At trial, Booth requested reimbursement of some $23,000 in medical bills incurred plus recovery for permanent facial scarring resulting from the accident, as well as punitive damages and pain and suffering. In addition to seeking damages from Joel Edge, Booth named Lisa Edge as a defendant in the lawsuit as well, alleging that she had prevented him from getting medical treatment after the accident. At trial, the defense admitted Joel Edge’s liability for the accident but disputed Lisa Edge’s liability, the amount of damages, and whether punitive damages were warranted.
At trial, the only witness who actually remembered the accident was a passing motorist, David Arrington. He testified that he saw Edge’s truck swerve but did not actually see it strike Booth. He saw Booth sitting up at the side of the road and called 911, and later saw Lisa Edge arrive in another vehicle. Before police arrived at the scene, Arrington left, and other evidence indicated Lisa Edge drove both Booth and her husband to their house, leaving Joel Edge’s truck behind.
Bradley Boatner, the former Coweta County Sheriff’s officer who investigated the accident, testified by video deposition. He responded to Arrington’s 911 call and saw Edge’s truck (which had a sign for Edge’s painting business with his phone number) at the side of the road. He saw skid marks on the road and in the grass near the truck. Boatner then called Edge’s phone number and got directions to Edge’s home, which was only a few minutes drive away.
Once at the Edge house, Boatner testified that he saw Booth, who had considerable blood on his clothes and a gash on his head. Boatner called an ambulance that took Booth to the hospital. Boatner added that Joel Edge appeared intoxicated and admitted to taking various pain medications that day. Boatner administered a field sobriety test to Edge and then arrested him for DUI. Boatner did not, however, charge Edge with leaving the scene of the accident, in part, because of statements Booth made. In addition to Boatner’s testimony, Booth’s attorneys also introduced into evidence the video recording from the dash cam Boatner was wearing at the Edge house.
Booth, who was 25 at the time of the accident, testified that he was jogging on the grass at the side of the highway at the time of the accident and did not remember the impact when Edge’s truck hit him from behind. The next thing he knew he was sitting in the grass with the Edges talking to him, asking if he was all right. He had difficulty standing and was no longer wearing his shoes. He asked for an ambulance but neither of the Edges called one. Instead, he agreed to go with them to their home where he remained until police arrived. Booth said his memory of the events of the day was not clear, so he wasn’t sure how much time had passed. He said the only care or assistance that he remembered Lisa Edge providing was a glass of water.
Joel Edge testified and attributed the accident to a one-time reaction to the various medications he was taking as a result of a 30-foot-fall off a ladder several years earlier that resulted in severe injuries. He stated that, at the time of the accident, he was taking two Oxycontin and two Percocet each morning for pain, and that shortly before the accident he took two Valtrex for shingles and a Soma as a muscle relaxant. He then got into his truck to go visit a friend and blacked out while leaving the driveway. Edge stated that he did not remember the actual accident. However, he did remember his wife taking him and Booth home, and denied that she forced Booth into her vehicle. He also denied calling his wife from the accident site. Edge acknowledged that he later pled guilty to DUI as a result of the incident and served a 30-day-sentence on weekends.
Lisa Edge testified that she had been out shopping and was returning home on Tommy Lee Cook Road when she saw the accident scene and stopped. She said she asked Booth whether he wanted her to call an ambulance and that Booth declined. She then offered to take Booth to the hospital and he agreed. She said she stopped by her house first to drop off her dog and that shortly after she arrived, the police and ambulance did. Lisa Edge added that her house was on the way to the closest hospital, not in the other direction as Booth claimed.
In his closing statement, Booth’s attorney, Kevin Adamson told the jury that the Edges’ actions “reeked of cover-up.” He continued: “The basic facts [are] Joel Edge, while inebriated on drugs, drove his vehicle off the road and struck Mr. Booth. … Mr. Edge called his wife to the scene or she just happened to drive by about 4:45 and the officer gets to the Edge house around 8:45.” Adamson said the time lost in getting treatment prevented Booth’s facial scars from healing as well as they otherwise would have.
Adamson also reminded the jury of the reason why he felt the trial took place, “They want to blame me for making them come to trial in the first place, they want to blame Booth for his own injuries, and they want to blame 911 for not showing up, for not getting someone there in a timely fashion, all of which wouldn’t have been necessary if [Edge] hadn’t have been driving that day, and taken those drugs, like he does every day, getting behind the wheel and running somebody down. The only reason that we’re here is … those very facts.” In Adamson’s view, the Edges’ actions easily justified an award of punitive damages in the case.
The Edges’ attorney, Sam Murray, in his closing statement, asked the jury to base the verdict on the facts in the case. “Don’t let any animosity you may have for … Mr. Edge or his actions in this case bleed into a verdict… This case is not about that. … You should just lay that aside, compartmentalize it… Let’s think about it in terms of if he wasn’t intoxicated, he was just driving along, got distracted, hit the plaintiff, here we are. Because that’s what you’re dealing with here.” Murray said that Booth’s attorneys kept bringing up the issue of the various medications Edge was taking to disguise the fact that Booth had in fact been minimally injured and had healed soon after the accident, to the extent that he again resumed strenuous activities like rock climbing
Murray denied that the Edges held Booth for hours at their home, calling the claim “complete hogwash.” Murray argued that Adamson’s version of the facts would mean that the 911 dispatcher waited for hours before calling the sheriff’s office about the accident. As far as Booth’s medical expenses were concerned, he pointed out that Booth’s attorneys never called any doctors to testify regarding his condition or injuries and that the invoices themselves indicated that Booth was required to pay only a lesser amount, approximately $2,200, rather than what Murray called the “retail rate.”
The jury issued a verdict against Joel Edge for $7,500 in compensatory damages but found in favor of Lisa Edge. In addition, the jury did not award punitive damages in the case. After the trial, Sam Murray congratulated opposing counsel for doing a good job at the trial and added that observers and attorneys never know what a jury will do in a particular case. Representatives for James Booth were unavailable for comment.
Steve Silver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attorneys involved in the case include Kevin Adamson of Atlanta's Adamson & Cleveland and Clifford Turner of Palmetto's Turner & Bowerman for James Booth and Samuel Murray of Griffin's Beck, Owen & Murray of for the defense.
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