Jury Awards $1.2M for Injuries GA Lawyer Suffered in Rear-End Wreck

Posted by Arlin Crisco on Jun 14, 2023 1:41:31 PM


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Canton, GA— Jurors awarded $1.2 million last week for the injuries a Georgia lawyer suffered in a 2016 rear-end collision. Watson v. Blackburn, 18SC-0380-MH-S4. 

The Cherokee County (Georgia) State Court jury deliberated for roughly five hours last Friday before handing down the verdict for the back, hip, and other injuries James Matthew Watson, an attorney based in the Kennesaw, Georgia area, says he suffered when a pickup truck driven by Todd Blackburn struck Watson’s car from behind as he sat at an intersection. 

The verdict, which includes $800,000 for Watson’s medical expenses and $400,000 for his pain and suffering, is less than the $20 million to $40 million-range Watson’s attorneys suggested at trial, but higher than the roughly $60,000 to $100,000 total award Blackburn’s attorney, Downey & Cleveland’s Russell Davis suggested. 

Watson’s attorney, Nick Rowley, of Trial Lawyers for Justice and Wilson Rowley, told CVN he understands the verdict is the second-largest jury award in Cherokee County history.

Details of pre-trial settlement negotiations, including what amounts were offered in an attempt to resolve the case before trial, are disputed by the parties' attorneys, according to post-verdict comments they made to CVN.


With Blackburn conceding negligence, the trial itself, which CVN streamed gavel-to-gavel from voir dire onward, focused on the extent of Watson’s injuries and whether they were related to the crash. 

During Friday’s closings, one of Watson’s attorneys, Joseph Wilson, of Wilson Rowley, reminded jurors of medical evidence that he said linked the wreck and its aftermath to Watson's ongoing injuries. Wilson said evidence showed Watson was a healthy, active outdoorsman and involved father before the crash, but that the wreck caused a cascade of injuries, pain, and other complications that have severely limited his daily life and will require ongoing treatment. 

“Before this crash, you don’t see all these doctor visits,” Wilson said, showing jurors the timeline of Watson's post-wreck care, which ranged from surgeries to nerve ablations and regular pain injections. “It’s not normal for a 35-year old to do all that, and it starts after the crash.”

But the defense contends most of Watson’s injuries are unrelated to the wreck. During his closing Friday, Davis told jurors emergency room personnel diagnosed Watson with low back and neck strains in the immediate aftermath of the crash, which Davis noted was not severe enough to deploy the vehicles’ airbags. By contrast, Davis said expert testimony showed that congenital issues and long-term tissue degeneration actually caused the lion’s share of Watson’s injuries. 

“It is awful for this man to be going through it. But they have not carried the burden to prove that this wreck caused it,” Davis said. “Mr. Blackburn may have caused the wreck but not these [injuries].”

In an interview with CVN after the verdict, Davis said he believed the volume of evidence delivered from both sides of the courtroom, combined with the trial’s location, helped drive the jury’s ultimate award calculation. 

“There was a lot of medical evidence in the case, and I think with a conservative jury like we had, in a conservative county, they were less likely, with that much question out there, to give a significant award,” Davis said. 

In an emailed statement after the verdict, Wilson told CVN he believed the award was low, given the nature of Watson’s injuries. “We thought, based on the evidence presented, that it could have been higher. But we were very proud to represent Matthew, a fellow personal injury attorney, after seven long years of going through this entire ordeal.”

Rowley agreed with Wilson. “I believe chronic pain, soft tissue injury cases have great value because no surgery is going to fix the problem. I've lived with that pain and would not trade $1 million per year for what Matthew is living with,” Rowley wrote in an email. “I am not a lay person or juror in Cherokee County, though.”

But Rowley said he believed the award was dampened by a juror who had not been forthcoming in voir dire and improperly shared information regarding other cases during deliberations. Rowley added he and Wilson would file a motion for additur and seek a new trial on the non-economic damage claim. 

Davis said he was unaware of all the details underlying any potential claims of juror impropriety during deliberations. But he said he appreciated the high level of the trial work in the courtroom.

“I enjoyed the proceeding from a trial lawyer’s standpoint, going up against lawyers as skilled as Nick and Joseph,” Davis said. “Once we were in the battle of the trial, it was quite a contest. And from an intellectual and a lawyer’s standpoint, I enjoyed it thoroughly.”

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Topics: Georgia, Transportation, Watson v. Blackburn