Defense Verdict for Driver Cited in Accident

(courtesy of the Georgia Trial Reporter)

Case Caption: Wallace Spain v. Leon Booker
Verdict: Defense verdict
Court: DeKalb County, State Court
Judge: Janis C. Gordon
Date of Verdict: 8/19/2008
Plaintiff: Fred S. Gates, Dunwoody
Defendant: J. Natalie Wilkes, Atlanta

A State Court jury in DeKalb County returned a defense verdict in a case involving injuries sustained by a trucker in an interstate accident. The defendant had denied liability for the crash and also disputed causation.

Plaintiff Wallace Spain drove semi tractor-trailers as a contract driver for a facility based in Tennessee. He was driving a semi on I-20 eastbound at the posted speed limit in Atlanta in 2002. Defendant Leon Booker merged onto the same stretch of roadway via I-285 in an automobile. The two vehicles collided. Defendant’s vehicle had front-end damage, as well as damage to both sides of his vehicle. Defendant was cited for improper lane usage, which was later reduced to an ordinance violation of creating a public hazard. Both parties were taken away from the scene in the same ambulance.

Plaintiff alleged that defendant sped up in an effort to enter the highway between a row of tractor-trailers and pulled onto the highway in front of plaintiff when there was not room to do so. In his deposition testimony, plaintiff stated that defendant driver lost control of his vehicle and struck the median in a faulty attempt to merge with the flow of traffic. Plaintiff said he slammed on his brakes in an effort to avoid an accident, but he was struck from behind by another truck. Plaintiff in turn collided with defendant’s car. Plaintiff claimed he sustained a herniated cervical disc and was unable to return to work. Plaintiff died of unrelated causes prior to trial, but his widow testified to his loss of lifestyle due to pain.

Defendant denied liability for the accident. Defendant contended that, while he and plaintiff rode to the hospital together in the ambulance, plaintiff said he would have missed hitting defendant had it not been for the truck behind him. As a result, defendant asserted that the non-party truck driver was at fault for this accident. Defendant also denied proximate cause because plaintiff had preexisting conditions from a prior serious automobile wreck a few years earlier, following which his injuries necessitated a lumbar fusion.

Plaintiff Profile: Plaintiff was a married white male in his 80’s who was employed as an interstate truck driver.

Alleged Injury: Cervical herniation resulting in an inability to continue working. There was no surgical intervention. Plaintiff’s widow testified to his pain and loss of lifestyle. Plaintiff also sustained soft tissue damage to his cervical and lumbar regions.

Jury Deliberations: 30 minutes

Insurance Carrier: State Farm

Plaintiff: Keith Nord, M.D.
Orthopedist – Jackson, TN
Donald R. Shaver
Accident Reconstruction – Decatur, GA
Defendant: N/A Nord, Keith, M.D.
Shaver, Donald R.

Case Number: 06A43674-S7

Editor’s Notes: Per plaintiff’s counsel, the outcome was impacted because the investigation was “slipshod” and likely difficult for the jury to follow during the 1.5 days it took to try the case. Counsel stated that the facts of the accident were complicated regarding the impact and injury and the fact that plaintiff died and was unable to speak for himself had a bearing on the case. Plaintiff’s counsel further reported that the DeKalb County police officer who investigated the accident was no longer on the job and had relocated out of the state; plaintiff’s eyewitnesses disappeared; and plaintiff eventually succumbed from cancer in his 80’s in December 2007.

Georgia Recent Trial Verdicts provided courtesy of the Georgia Trial Reporter

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