Defendant Truck Driver Injured When He was Rear-Ended: Then Hit with $5.6 Million Verdict

Case CaptionJohnson v. T & T Trucking, Inc. and Carl Anthony Thomas, Civ. Action No. 06A56191
Court:  State Court of DeKalb County
Judge:  Honorable Janis Gordon
Plaintiffs’ Attorney: Ben C. Brodhead, III, Brodhead Law              
Defendants’ Attorneys: Brian J. Duva, Mozley, Finlayson, & Loggins
James S. Strawinski, Strawinski & Stout
Alleged Damages: Wrongful Death
Verdict: Plaintiffs awarded $5.6 Million
Date of Verdict: February 24, 2011

:  Plaintiffs’ decedent, Johnny Johnson, at close to midnight, was driving a tractor-trailer on I-20 when he slammed into the back of a log trailer.  Johnson later died from his injuries, and the log truck driver and his passenger were injured.  No traffic citations were issued, but the log truck driver and his passenger received a $250,000 settlement from Johnson’s employer.

Johnson's grown sons, one of whom was serving time on a murder conviction, sued the log truck driver, owner, and insurer, alleging that the log truck was traveling well below the posted speed limit.  Plaintiffs relied heavily on expert testimony and data from Johnson’s truck’s electronic control module which indicated that his cruise control was set on 67 mph.  Specifically, Plaintiffs theorized that the substantial damage to both trucks had to have been the result of a huge speed differential and that the Defendants’ driver had to have been traveling well below the 55 mph claimed by the log truck driver.

The jury agreed, despite considerable evidence that the log truck was traveling between 50 and 55 mph, with its lights and strobe lights on and working.  The jury initially awarded $4.1 Million in compensatory damages and $1.5 Million in punitive damages, which was reduced by Judge Gordon pursuant to Georgia’s $250,000 cap on punitive damages.  Defense counsel has made no secret of their belief that the verdict was contrary to the overwhelming evidence in the case and has promised to avail themselves of all post-judgment remedies. 
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