Car Owner Found Liable for Crash Involving Her Car

(courtesy of the Georgia Trial Reporter)

Case Caption: Vernon Mitchell and Curtis Stuart v. Jacquelyn Sweet, Latoya Wilkerson and Allstate Insurance Company
Case Number: 06A57370
Court: DeKalb County State Court
Judge: Wayne M. Purdom
Verdict: $323,000 against Defendants Sweet and Allstate. Breakdown: $158,000 for Plaintiff Mitchell and $165 for Plaintiff Stuart.
Date of Verdict: 2/12/2009
Attorneys:
Plaintiff: Christopher J. Palazzola, Chamblee (Mitchell)
Matthew F. McGahren, Norcross (Stuart)
Defendant: Charis L. Johnson, Atlanta

Facts:
A rear-end auto crash allegedly resulted in injuries to two individuals. A DeKalb County jury awarded $158,000 to plaintiff driver and $165,000 to plaintiff passenger.

Plaintiff Vernon Mitchell was operating a vehicle with Plaintiff Curtis Stuart as a passenger. They were rear-ended by a vehicle driven by Defendant Latoya Wilkerson. At the time of the accident, Defendant Wilkerson was driving a vehicle owned by Defendant Jacquelyn Sweet and insured by Defendant Allstate Insurance Company. Defendant Sweet reported that her car had been stolen, but the report was not filed until 14 days after the accident. Defendant Wilkerson, who was unlicensed and uninsured, was dismissed from this case. The case proceeded against Defendants Sweet and Allstate only.

Plaintiffs alleged that Defendants Sweet and Wilkerson were at a party where everyone was drinking and that Sweet gave the keys to her car to Wilkerson so that Wilkerson could drive to the store for more food and alcohol. Plaintiffs alleged that Sweet negligently entrusted her vehicle to Wilkerson. Plaintiffs argued that Defendant Allstate told Sweet to report the car as stolen so that the carrier would not have to pay for the damages. As a result, plaintiffs alleged that defendants fraudulently claimed Sweet’s car was stolen so as to avoid liability. Plaintiffs sought economic and noneconomic damages arising from this incident.

Defendants maintained that the vehicle was stolen at the time of the accident and that Allstate had no responsibility to pay for damages. Defendant Allstate denied telling Sweet to report the vehicle as stolen. Defendants also disputed the nature and extent of plaintiff’s injuries, as well as causation.

Plaintiff Profile: Plaintiff Mitchell was a 35 year old male who was the owner of a restaurant. Plaintiff Stuart was a 39 year old male who was a manager at Mitchell’s restaurant.

Alleged Injury:
Mitchell sustained soft tissue cervical and lumbar injuries which required chiropractic treatment. He made a good recovery after a period of time, but claimed his restaurant went out of business because he was unable to work as much during his recovery. Mitchell also claimed continuing trouble lifting weights and driving long distances. He sought $7,000 in past medicals, as well as damages for pain and suffering. Stuart sustained a herniated lumbar disc for which surgery was recommended, but not yet done. He was assigned a permanent partial disability rating for his injury. Stuart claimed $15,000 in past medicals, plus future medicals for surgery and damages for permanent pain and suffering.

Insurance Carrier: Allstate ($100,000 policy limits)

Georgia Recent Trial Verdicts provided courtesy of the Georgia Trial Reporter www.georgiaverdicts.com.
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