During closings of trial against a trucking company blamed for a crash that injured a Georgia motorcyclist, Michael Goldberg and Eric Rogers teamed for a powerful argument on pain and loss that delivered an $8 million verdict on about $171,000 in claimed economic damages.
Ronnie Stevens injured his wrist and ankle in a 2015 crash on I-75 in Georgia. He claimed a dump truck driven by J.R.K. Trucking’s Donald Parks caused the wreck by striking an orange construction barrel, sending it into Stevens’s path.
Stevens had claimed about $171,000 in past medical bills and raised no specific number for future economic damages. The defense reminded jurors of this, in suggesting a $513,000 award if they found J.R.K. responsible.
But Rogers, of Atlanta’s Fried Rogers Goldberg, walked jurors through what he contended Stevens’s injuries would cost him throughout his life. Noting Stevens was an active, athletic 37-year-old before the wreck, Rogers said he could no longer take part in sports and other activities he loved, and required daily pain medication for his ankle. “Every day he’s taking something,” Rogers said. “Every day, depending on how bad it is.”
Rogers said Stevens was forced to retire from the military seven years early because of the accident. And he called Stevens’s pain and physical limitations an “invisible injury” that would impact him the rest of his life. “When you look at Ronnie sitting there, he looks like a healthy young man,” Rogers said. “People that meet Ronnie don’t understand why he can’t do the things that he wants to do,” he added, arguing jurors should award Stevens $30 for every hour of that life-long loss.
And on rebuttal, Goldberg said the $513,000 award was an “insult,” and a tactic meant to nudge a jury compromise that would undercut the $10 million that Goldberg contended was appropriate. “It’s… a pretty good strategy. [The defense sits] back there and say[s], ‘Wait a minute: $10 million, $513,000, I give them a really low number, they add them together, divide by two, and I just saved half the money,’” Goldberg said. “Don’t fall for that trick.”
Goldberg, who had introduced the $10 million claim in openings, then turned to his and Stevens’s shared love of sports to highlight the magnitude of Stevens’s pain. “Ronnie actually reminds me of some football players,” Goldberg said, ticking off NFL greats Calvin Johnson, Barry Sanders, Rob Gronkowski, and Andrew Luck on his fingers. “You know what those four people have in common?” Goldberg asked. “They were paid $20-30 million a year to play the sport that they loved, and they all quit at 29 or 30 years old. They all quit because they couldn’t take the pain of playing.”
Stevens, Goldberg said, would give back the opportunity for “$10 million, $20 million, $30 million, if you just gave him back his ankle, gave him back his life,” Goldberg said.
“And that’s how we know that $10 million is the right number for this case.”
The jury deliberated less than 4 hours before handing down their $8 million verdict. The parties ultimately settled the case on a confidential high-low agreement reached as the jury deliberated, according to reports.
Email Arlin Crisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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