Federal Jury Awards $762K in Truck vs. Auto Case

Case Caption:  Preston Lewis v. D. Hays Trucking, Inc., Floyd Dexter Hays, Hercules, Inc., et al., Civil Action Case No.: 1:2008cv01904
Court:  United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia
Judge:  Hon. J. Owen Forrester
Plaintiff’s Attorneys:  Lloyd N. Bell; J. Darren Summerville, The Summerville Firm LLC
Defendant’s Attorneys: Robert M. Darroch, Goodman, McGuffey, Lindsey & Johnson
Alleged Damages: Wrongful death
Verdict: $1.27 million, to be reduced to $762,000 because Jury found Plaintiff’s decedent 40% negligent
Date of Verdict: 9/30/11

Summary:  
Plaintiff’s decedent, an elementary school teacher on her way home to Brunswick after dinner with friends, was killed after a tractor-trailer loaded with pine slammed into the back of her vehicle.  Plaintiff argued that the defendant driver was traveling in excess of 81 mph and that he was driving despite having failed his physical for uncontrolled diabetes.

Rather than call an expert to counter that testimony, the defense relied on a Georgia State Patrol Trooper who elected to investigate the crash himself without the assistance of the State Patrol’s Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team.  The Trooper testified that Plaintiff’s decedent had stopped in the middle of the road, at night, without her headlights illuminated.  Specifically, he testified that when he located the gas tank of Plaintiff’s vehicle, it was dry, and that his examination of the bulbs indicated that her lights were off at the time of the crash.

The defense strategy of blaming the victim was somewhat successful, as the jury determined that Plaintiff’s decedent was 40% to blame.  Nevertheless, they attributed 60% of the blame to the Defendant truck driver.  Plaintiff’s experts contradicted the trooper’s testimony regarding the headlights, noting that the trooper had carried the bulb around in a plastic bag in his trunk for almost a year before securing them in an evidence locker.

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