Results matter. The Hamilton Firm has a proven track record of successful verdicts and settlements, and we are proud of the results we have obtained for our clients in past cases. However, every case is different. Recent settlements and verdicts listed below were dictated by the specific factual and legal circumstances of each case. The following is not intended to be an indication that the same results could be obtained for other clients in other cases.
$150,000 Settlement in Zipline Injury Case
On July 6, 2018, Dwayne, his wife and daughter were on vacation in East Tennessee and decided to go ziplining at Legacy Mountain Zip Line. Prior to zip lining, they were presented with a Release to read and sign, which they did. After a short “training” session, they began zip lining. On the second course of the zip line, Dwayne’s primary braking mechanism failed. He ended up colliding with a steel pole covered with a small pad at the end of the zip line. Dwayne suffered from serious injuries, including broken ribs, as a result of the impact. Patrick A. Cruise was associated by counsel in Newport, Tennessee as lead trial counsel. After extensive discovery and depositions, the matter was settled for $150,000.00 at mediation.
Product Liability Case Against Flex Seal Resolved
On April 15, 2019, Johnny Jones was outside of his house spraying a large flowerpot with Flex Seal. After a short period of time, there was a loud pop and a sudden flash of fire and flame, which burned his face, arms and hair. He was using the product in a well-ventilated area, with no source of flame or ignition nearby. The Hamilton Firm filed a product liability lawsuit on his behalf the manufacturer and distributor of Flex Seal on September 26, 2019, in the Eastern District of Tennessee, Jones v. Swift Response, LLC et al, Case No. 1:19-cv-00248-JPM-CHS. Originally the claim was brought against Swift Response and PLZ Aeroscience. Subsequently, it was revealed that Apollo Aerosol Industries was the actual manufacturer of the Flex Seal aerosol product, and that K-G Spray-Pak, Inc. was the creator of the formula. Both companies were subsidiaries of PLZ Aeroscience, and were added to the lawsuit. After discovery, the claim was resolved for a confidential amount, and a dismissal of the claim is expected in the near future.
Tennessee Tractor Trailer Wreck Settled for $978,488.93
On May 23, 2017, Lisa Steketee was driving her tractor trailer east on I-24 in Marion County, Tennessee. Defendant Sellers was also operating a tractor trailer, for Driving Force, traveling behind the Plaintiff’s vehicle, when he suddenly crashed into the back of Ms. Steketee’s tractor trailer. Patrick A. Cruise served as co-counsel for the Plaintiff, along with Brad Bradshaw of Missouri, Sketekee v. Floyd Sellers and Driving Force Logistics, 1:18-cv-00104-RLJ-CHS, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Ms. Steketee sustained injury to her neck, back, and shoulder, and underwent a neck discectomy with fusion, and a lumbar discectomy. On behalf of the Plaintiff, counsel demanded settlement in the amount of the defendant’s policy limits, which was refused. Nearly a year later, early in 2020, the Defendant agreed to pay their limits as the matter was being prepared for trial.
Georgia Workers Comp Case Settled for $1.4 Million
A young machine operator and material handler at a North Georgia manufacturing plant suffered a below the elbow amputation to his left arm in an industrial accident involving a press in 2013. The case was accepted as catastrophic. After projecting future medical needs, and obtaining CMS approval for a Medicare Set-Aside, which included prosthetic maintenance and replacement, the case settled for a present cash value total of $1,428,526.00. The settlement includes an annuity for future medical expense to fund the MSA account with a lifetime payout totaling $2,141,349.00. Hubert Hamilton served as counsel for the injured worker.
I-24 Crash Case in Georgia Against Hill-Rom Settled for Confidential Sum
During early morning hours of July 1, 2016, David Scott, a truck driver from Texas, was driving a tractor trailer westbound on I-24 in Dade County, Georgia, near the I-59 “split”. Scott was trailing a vehicle about 100 yards ahead, when suddenly another vehicle appeared from darkness, coming right at him, traveling on the wrong side of the road. It side swiped the vehicle ahead, and then crashed head-on into Scott’s tractor. Scott sustained serious injuries, including spinal injuries eventually requiring surgery.
The vehicle on the wrong side of I-24 was a commercial van belonging to Hill-Rom, the company that supplies hospital beds, and other medical equipment. It was being driven by a Hill-Rom employee, Devin Paschal. Investigation by the Georgia State Patrol determined that Paschal was under the influence of medication/drugs/alcohol, as well as driving on the wrong side or wrong way of the Interstate. They also found that he was driving with a revoked driver’s license, all the while being entrusted with a company vehicle by Hill-Rom.
Suit was filed on behalf of the truck driver, David Scott, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, by Peter Zavaletta of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Patrick A. Cruise of The Hamilton Firm, Scott v. Hill-Rom Company, et al, Civil Action 4:17-CV-00021-HLM.
Discovery revealed that despite his egregiously bad driving record, that Hill-Rom had promoted Paschal to Field Services Tech II in 2015. With this promotion, came a company van, which Hill-Rom allowed Paschal to drive and to take home. He did not have a personal motor vehicle. Seven days after Hill-Rom promoted Paschal, the State of Tennessee revoked his driver’s license. So, for nine months preceding this wreck, Hill-Rom allowed Paschal to continue operate a company vehicle with a revoked driver’s license. Company policy required that it remove Paschal as a field service employee, upon revocation of that license, but contrary to its own policies, Hill-Rom took no action.
The plaintiff contended that Hill-Rom’s conduct enabled Paschal to use their company vehicle, and was the direct cause of the crash, arguing that but for its promotion of Paschal and enhancement of his company vehicle driving privileges, and negligent entrustment, Paschal would not have had access to a motor vehicle, and should not have been operating any vehicle on date of crash. While blame for the crash fell squarely on Paschal, Hill-Rom tried to deny any responsibility, and their insurer filed a Declaratory Judgment asserting that there was no coverage for the negligence of Paschal. The Travelers Ind. Co. of Connecticut and Hill-Rom Co. Inc., v. Devin Paschal, et al. Civil Action 4:17-CV-66-HLM. The insurance company won their case on coverage as it pertained to Devin Paschal. However, the Plaintiff’s case proceeded against Hill-Rom for negligent entrustment and punitive damages, for which the insurer was responsible.
The case was initially mediated unsuccessfully in December of 2017. A second mediation, ordered by the Court, resulted in a confidential settlement for Scott, who had incurred $284,368.10 in medical expenses, with more surgery and expenses expected in the future. His injuries are permanent with significant physical restrictions, and resulting disability. The total amount of the settlement is confidential.
Settlement Reached in Georgia Crash Caused by Tractor Trailer Hauling Live Chickens
On November 16, 2014, David Woodward was driving his 2003 Chevrolet Cavalier, southbound along Highway 151, in rural Walker County, Georgia. It was dark, wet, and rainy night around 8:30 p.m. The speed limit was 55 mph, but Woodward was driving about 12-15 miles per hour under the speed limit. He saw headlights in the distance approaching him from the opposite direction.
Unbeknownst to Woodward, a tractor trailer hauling live chickens had just entered the highway from a gravel driveway of a chicken farm, attempting to turn left and travel north on Highway 151. The truck driver pulled into the highway, blocking the roadway with the flat-bed trailer stacked full of chicken crates. But the oncoming headlights of the tractor facing directly at Woodward blinded him to the fact that the trailer blocked his entire lane of travel. He testified that “I remember there being a bright light coming from the left like I was passing something. And then suddenly there was this large object immediately in front of me, and I hit it before I had time to react. When I hit the object my car bounced back, and then I could see a chicken truck trailer.”
Woodward nearly died in the wreck. He was trapped in his car, and had to be extricated by the fire department, and transported Erlanger as a major trauma patient. His injuries were severe and life threatening. He underwent multiple surgical procedures, and after 2 ½ weeks at Erlanger he was transferred to rehab facilities for ongoing therapy, wound care and vent weaning. Weeks later he was discharged in a wheelchair. Although he has recovered sufficiently to walk again, many of his injuries are permanent and disabling, and will require future medical treatment.
The chicken truck was owned and operated by Koch Foods in Chattanooga. The investigating officer cited their truck driver for failure to yield, but Koch Foods denied liability. Koch tried to argue that Woodward was speeding even though the data download from the ECM on the car proved he was running below the speed limit. They even hired an accident reconstruction expert and tried to contend that Woodward was at fault for not being able to see the trailer, loaded with dirty gray chicken cages, at night at an angle across the road. They also contended he was distracted by using a cell phone, although it was hands free, and legal under Georgia law.
Critical to the plaintiff’s success in such a case would be the retention of experts in the field of “conspicuity”, or the quality of being conspicuous (which means obvious to the mind or eye). Although the trailer completely blocked the road ahead, it was not perceptible to Woodward, who could only see the headlights of the tractor coming at him, but in the opposite lane.
Suit was filed in Walker State Court, Woodward v. Koch Foods, LLC, et al, Civil Action No. 16STCV112, on Woodward’s behalf by The Hamilton Firm. The Complaint alleged that the truck driver was at fault for pulling out into the highway to make a left turn at night, knowing that it would take a long time for the trailer to clear the southbound lane, and thereby failing to yield the right of way to oncoming traffic, and that Koch Foods was responsible. It was also alleged that Koch Foods should have taken precautions to warn oncoming traffic if they were going to allow their trucks to turn left from that location at night, or in the alternative should have engaged in better route planning and required drivers to turn right and take a different route back to Chattanooga. It was also alleged that the driver was not properly trained, was incompetent, and should not have been driving a live haul tractor trailer on the public highways, as he was a convicted felon with a record of drug abuse. The Complaint sought damages for Woodward’s injuries, pain and suffering, medical expenses and loss of earning capacity.
After extensive discovery and numerous depositions, the case was mediated for the second time, a settlement was reached, and the case has been dismissed with prejudice. Patrick A. Cruise served as lead counsel for the Plaintiff.
$5,366,855.99 Products Liability Verdict in Georgia for Below the Elbow Amputation
On September 15, 2013, the plaintiff, a machine operator and material handler at Unique Fabricating South in LaFayette, Georgia, suffered an amputation of his dominant left hand and part of his forearm, while operating a Bruno FH150 Press. Unique Fabricating manufactures parts for the automotive industry. The Bruno press was used to create pieces of acoustical material and die cut foam rubber, and was configured to cut a number of small pieces each time the press operated, like a large repetitive cookie cutter. The plaintiff, while reaching past the swing gate to get parts off the belt as usual, slipped, slightly losing his footing on the stool was required to use, causing his left hand to get caught in the pinch point under the dye as it was coming down again. He had been operating the press exactly as he was trained to do, in a safe and customary manner, but the press did not have any type of guard at the discharge side of the press.
After the incident, Unique Fabricating created and installed a guard which would have prevented the injury had it been in place on September 15, 2013. After a thorough investigation, suit was filed against Bruno Machinery Corporation in Walker State Court in 2015, contending that the press was defectively and dangerously designed and manufactured, and that a proper guard on the discharge side would have eliminated or greatly minimized the risk of injury to the operator. It was contended that the press was not merchantable and not reasonably suited to the use intended, and that Bruno, as manufacturer of the press, was strictly liable to the plaintiff pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11, Potter v. Bruno Machinery Corp. Case 15 STCV 086. Unique Fabricating, as the plaintiff’s employer could not be sued for negligence, as workers compensation is the exclusive remedy against the employer under Georgia law. On September 6, 2018, a verdict totaling $5,366,855.99, on behalf of the plaintiff and his wife, was rendered and judgment has been entered accordingly against Bruno Machinery Corporation. Annette T. Kelley served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
Sanctions Order Entered Against Waffle House Defendants for Destruction of Videotape in Products Liability Case
In Parajuli v. Choo-Choo Waffles LLC, Case No. 16-C-05989-4, Gwinnett State Court, the Plaintiffs alleged that in 2015, the Defendants served their minor child hot chocolate in a Waffle House restaurant in Cleveland, Tennessee, and that as the child attempted to sip the drink, the lid came off and extremely hot liquid spilled down her chest, causing her to suffer severe burns. Although this products liability cause of action arose in Tennessee, it was filed in Georgia, where the Defendants were incorporated, with Hubert Hamilton serving as co-counsel.
Through discovery, it was determined that a videotape of a server making hot chocolate was taken one to two months after the incident. However, the Defendants did not produce the videotape. After a hearing in 2018, the court concluded that the videotape had been destroyed despite the Defendants’ knowledge of potential litigation and the plaintiff’s request that such evidence be preserved. In the court determined that such conduct on the part of the Defendants warranted imposition of sanctions for spoliation, citing Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC v. Campbell, 258 Ga. App. 767, 574 S.E.2d 923 (2002) and Chapman v. Auto Owners Inc. Co., 220 Ga. App. 539, 469 S.E.2d 783, (1996), and decided that the Defendants would be precluded from disputing certain facts and the jury would be instructed as to the finding of certain facts and the spoliation of evidence, including the following:
- That the videotape had been destroyed by the Defendants, and that the destroyed videotape would have provided material and significant evidence;
- That the spoliation of the videotape created a rebuttable presumption that the video would have been harmful to the Defendants;
- That the water used to make the hot chocolate served to the child was 195 degrees Fahrenheit, and at that temperature the chocolate was scalding hot and dangerously unfit for consumption; and
- That the scalding hot chocolate was the cause of third-degree burns, permanent scarring, and injuries suffered by the child.
In its June 2018 order the court also awarded $5000 in fees and costs to Plaintiffs’ attorneys.
$550,000 Settlement for Father and Son Injured in Georgia Wreck
A father and his young son were injured in a wreck in Walker County, Georgia in 2017, when another vehicle pulled out in front of them, causing serious injury to the child. The family was represented by Patrick Cruise, and recently settled for a total of $550,000.
$300,000 Settlement For Man Knocked Down and Dragged by Tow Truck Pulling SUV
On January 22, 2014, in the evening, the plaintiff was at New Calhoun Auto Auction in Calhoun, Georgia to look at cars offered for sale. While inspecting a Tahoe that was parked but hooked up to a tow truck, he was seriously injured. Just as he was opening the driver’s side door, the vehicle suddenly moved forwards, knocking him down and dragging him along the ground. Unbeknownst to plaintiff, an employee of the Auto Auction was in the tow truck and had started off with the vehicle in tow, just as plaintiff was trying to get a look at it. Plaintiff suffered knee and spinal injuries as a result of the incident.
Suit was filed in Gordon Superior Court, and after extensive litigation, including a dispute over insurance coverage, the case settled at mediation in December 2017 for $300,000. Annette T. Kelley served as co-counsel for the plaintiff for The Hamilton Firm, Elbert Goforth v. New Calhoun Auto Auction, Inc. & One Stop Recovery, LLC, 14-CV-63541.
Settlement of $925,000 Reached in Disputed Georgia Wrongful Death Case
On January 12, 2015, Candy Charping crashed into the rear of a work truck driven by Michael Morgan, on I-16 in Chatham County, Georgia. The truck overturned and Morgan was ejected and killed. His job, which he had just started, involved pumping out septic tanks and portable toilets. Suit was filed suit in Bryan County, Georgia on behalf of Morgan’s widow and their young son, Darlene Morgan v. Candace Nanette Charping, 16-SV-055, Bryan State Court.
Even though Charping ran into the rear of the work truck, liability for the wreck was vigorously disputed. Her lawyers contended that Morgan was not wearing a seat belt, which is a violation of FMCSR 392.16, that the taillights on the rear of the truck were not visible, and that portable toilets being hauled on the rear of the truck were full and sloshing around, thereby causing the truck to overturn.
At mediation, a compromise settlement agreement was reached for $925,000, after taking all available insurance coverage into account, with a structured settlement for the benefit of the minor child and the case was brought to a final conclusion in August 2017. Hubert E. Hamilton served as lead counsel for the plaintiff.
Collision With Goodwill Industries Tractor Trailer In Nashville Injures Musician
On August 24, 2015, plaintiff, a self-employed musician, was driving her 2003 Toyota Camry traveling west on Berry Road in Nashville, Tennessee. Suddenly, a tractor trailer pulled out in front of her from a driveway at the Goodwill Store, attempting to make a right turn onto Berry Road. The plaintiff crashed into the tractor trailer, causing her to sustain multiple trauma injuries, including a right arm laceration, skin avulsion to her head, headaches, left 8th rib fracture, pain in her right wrist, right index finger and thumb, neck and back pain, and knee pain. Plaintiff was unable to play music while recovering, and her singing was adversely impacted. She incurred over $40,000 in medical expenses.
Suit was filed in Davidson Circuit Court against Goodwill Industries, with Annette T. Kelley serving as lead counsel for the plaintiff. The Goodwill truck driver claimed that a sign which was installed at a neighboring store, ReCreations Furniture, blocked his view of the traffic approaching on Berry Road, so Goodwill denied all responsibility for the wreck and tried to claim that the plaintiff “must have been speeding.” Plaintiff amended and brought in ReCreations Furniture as a defendant. They denied liability based on the fact that they had never received any complaints prior to this wreck, and that numerous cars and trucks went in and out of that area on a daily basis without any problem. Plaintiff contended that the Goodwill driver was clearly required to yield the right-of-way, and that he should not have pulled out into the roadway if his view was obstructed. After depositions were taken, the case was settled for an undisclosed amount at mediation in August 2017, with both sets of defendants contributing, Orender v. Goodwill Industries & Recreations Furniture, 16C360.
Confidential Wrongful Death Settlement Reached in Tragic Tennessee Truck Wreck
Ricky Lee McCurry, a truck driver, from North Carolina, was killed in a tragic wreck in Cocke County, Tennessee September 16, 2014. A local towing company had a big load of pallets from a previous wreck that needed to be transported to Knoxville. Early in the morning, in the dark before sunrise, two Hartford Towing employees were using a tow truck to pull a low boy trailer loaded with blue pallets. They could not get the wiring harness on the trailer to connect with the socket on the tow truck, and therefore the tail lights on the trailer would not work, but they headed out in the dark anyway, in violation of FMCSR and state law. However, they did attach a battery powered wireless Tow Mate light bar, about 22” wide, to a stack of pallets at the rear of the trailer using bungee cords:
They got on I-40 westbound just west of the North Carolina state line. They had only been on the road few minutes when something hit the rear of the trailer. Andrew Scott, driving a Madza 3, on his way to a business meeting in Oklahoma, had run into the rear of the low boy trailer, and hit it so hard the ball on the trailer hitch was sheared off. An unknown number of pallets were then knocked off the trailer and strewn across the traffic lanes of I-40.
The tow truck dragged the trailer with its safety chains they could pull it off into the emergency lane to the right, at top of a hill. Just about that time, Ricky McCurry, driving a tractor trailer, was coming up the hill at 67-68 mph in the right lane.
He suddenly came upon those pallets and debris strewn across the roadway, and elected to steer right into the emergency lane, to avoid hitting them. Unbeknownst to McCurry, however, the tow truck and unlit low boy trailer were parked in the same emergency lane at the top of the hill. McCurry probably never saw the trailer loaded with blue pallets until he hit it. He was killed instantly.
McCurry, age 51, was survived by his wife, Sheila, an adult son, Dillon and a granddaughter.
Suit was filed by the Hamilton Firm in Cocke County Circuit Court against the tow truck company and Scott’s employer, World Information Systems, Sheila McCurry vs. World Information Systems, LLC, et al. Case File No.: 33-519-III. After extensive discovery and mediation, the case was settled for a confidential sum. Hubert Hamilton served as lead counsel for the Plaintiff, Sheila McCurry.
Motorist Escaping Wreck on Foot in Chattanooga Hit by Tractor Trailer
On November 25, 2013 at night, Devontay Thomas was traveling through Chattanooga, eastbound on I-24, when his Honda Civic was suddenly struck in the rear by an unknown vehicle that then fled the scene of the crash. The Civic spun out of control and hit another passenger vehicle, then eventually came to a stop in the middle lane of the interstate.
Thomas exited his vehicle and ran to the median (or jersey wall) dividing the eastbound and westbound traffic lanes, which was the closest point of safety. About that time two tractor trailers, one from VSS Carriers, and another from Conway Truckload, were approaching, also eastbound. The VSS truck drove into the left lane, forcing the Conway truck into the emergency lane next to the median, where Mr. Thomas was trying stay out of the way. He tried to jump over the jersey wall, but got hit by the Conway truck, sustaining a right femoral shaft fracture. That fracture required open reduction and internal fixation by means of an intramedullary rod into the femur.
The City of Chattanooga has an ordinance prohibiting big trucks from driving in the left lane of I-24, and it was dark and rainy, which calls for reduced speed and braking well in advance of potential dangers. The plaintiff contended that both tractor trailers were travelling too fast for conditions, that the drivers failed to see the emergency ahead, and that they failed to slow down. Both trucking companies contributed to a substantial settlement with the plaintiff. Devontay Thomas v. Con-Way Truckload, Inc., Steven Parker, VSS Carriers, Inc. and Oscar Carria, 14-C-1349, Hamilton Circuit Court, had been set for trial in June 2016, and was settled at mediation, with Annette T. Kelley serving as lead counsel for Thomas.
Confidential Settlement Reached for Bobtailing Master Driver Trainer Hit By Another Tractor Trailer in Georgia
On August 27, 2013, the plaintiff, a “master driver trainer” for a Chattanooga trucking company, was bobtailing in Dalton, Georgia, with a co-worker in the passenger seat, northbound on Yeager Drive, approaching the intersection with GA Connector 3. The intersection was controlled by a traffic light. As the light changed to green, the plaintiff pulled out, intending to turn left. Just as he entered the intersection, however, another tractor trailer approached, eastbound on Connector 3, at a high rate of speed. The oncoming tractor trailer failed to stop for the red light and smashed into the left side rear axles of the plaintiff’s tractor, causing it to spin a full 180 degrees, and resulting in serious injury to the plaintiff.
The oncoming tractor trailer skidded 79’ prior to impact, and then travelled 206’ further after impact, across four lanes of traffic, and through a guard rail before finally coming to rest in a creek on the other side of the highway. So, the physical evidence established that the tractor trailer was traveling at a high rate of speed. But, the Atlanta truck driver claimed he was not speeding and that he had a green light. Fortunately, however, the co-worker riding with the plaintiff could confirm that the plaintiff driver had the green light.
After filing suit in DeKalb State Court, discovery revealed that the Atlanta truck driver’s CDL had been suspended at one time for “five or six years” due to unpaid traffic citations. It turns out that he also had a lengthy criminal background, including convictions for theft, concealed weapon, robbery, possession of marijuana, giving false information to police, armed robbery, aggravated assault, and a weapons offense. But, when asked on his employment application whether he had ever been convicted of a felony, he wrote down, “No.”
Normally, the data download from the “black box” or EDR on both trucks would provide objective evidence as to the speed of each truck and whether either driver had applied his brakes, or otherwise slowed or stopped, just prior to impact. The data from the tractor driven by the plaintiff was downloaded and preserved. But the Atlanta trucking company claimed there was no data on their truck. This was a very suspicious claim, suggesting that the evidence was either deleted or not preserved. Such “spoliation” of electronic data could create a presumption at trial that the data would not have supported the defendant’s claim that he was not speeding.
This case illustrated the importance of examining a defendant’s driver qualification file (DQF). The DQF maintained by the Atlanta trucking company, and obtained through discovery, demonstrated that they were guilty of multiple violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR). For example, the Atlanta trucking company did nothing to verify the information submitted by their driver before they hired him. They did not obtain and review his driving record and they never certified that he completed the Driver’s Road Test. It appeared that the application was completed for the purpose of giving the appearance of compliance, without actually doing anything to comply with the regulations.
Plaintiff’s injuries included his elbow, thumb, knee, shoulder, and lower back. Shoulder surgery was required including arthroscopic subacromial decompression, arthroscopic distal clavicle excision, mini open rotator cuff repair and debridement of the labrum. After that, plaintiff had to undergo a lumbar laminectomy for decompression of the L3, L4, and L5 nerve roots in his spine.
Fortunately the plaintiff managed to return to work after his back surgery and made a good recovery, although he is left with permanent injuries and impairment. Medical expenses totaled $98,204.82, and his lost wages were estimated at about $52,000.
With the case set for trial in November 2015, the parties reached a confidential settlement agreement at mediation in July, G.H. v. J.J. Patrick Cruise served at lead counsel for the plaintiff.
Collision with School Bus on Wrong Side of Road Results in $250,000 Settlement
On January 29, 2013, the plaintiff rounded a sharp curve on a narrow road in Hamilton County, and encountered a large yellow school bus encroaching into her lane as it entered the curve from the opposite direction. She slammed on her brakes and slid into the bus, injuring both knees, including a comminuted left patellar fracture, as well as her neck and back. The bus was carrying a number of children home from school, but fortunately none of them were injured. The investigation by the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department placed blamed for the wreck on the plaintiff, based solely on a gouge mark found in the roadway on the buses’ side of the center line. The plaintiff, however, insisted the bus was on her side of the road.
The Hamilton Firm accepted the case, obtained video from inside the bus, and hired an accident reconstruction expert. His investigation, which included detailed analysis of the video, confirmed that the bus was over the center line just before impact. The large bus probably should not have been traveling on that narrow and twisting road at all, as it was very difficult for it to safely navigate that curve without encroaching into the other lane.
School bus service in much of Hamilton County is provided by a private limited partnership, Durham School Services. The school bus driver was an employee of that private company, and so a lawsuit was brought against the driver, and Durham School Services, and its parent company, National Express Corp, in Hamilton Circuit Court. Durham School Services is based in Warrenville, Illinois, has more than 10,000 vehicles and 10,000 drivers nationwide. Their buses have been involved in several other wrecks in Tennessee. They operate school buses and transport children in Shelby County, as well as Hamilton County, and for other Tennessee school systems.
The Hamilton Firm contended that the school bus driver was operating the bus too fast for the conditions along a narrow winding road, crossed over the center line, and caused the wreck. After extensive discovery, including the depositions of both drivers, the case was settled at mediation in December 2015 for $250,000, with Annette Kelley serving as lead counsel for the plaintiff.
Although none of the children in the school bus were injured in this accident, they could have been, as neither state law nor federal regulations require seat belts in school buses. Parents are required by law to use child safety seats and to buckle up their children when transporting them in their own vehicles, but Tennessee schools and their private contractors have no such legal obligation, and most buses are not equipped with seat belts.
Sealed Settlement Reached in Tennessee Wrongful Death Case, Where Canadian Truck Driver Had Stopped to Urinate on the Side of the Interstate Causing Tragic Rear End Collision
On July 17, 2014, Matt Marcone, age 49 and father of three, was killed in a tragic crash on I-75 in McMinn County Tennessee. Self-employed, he was returning home to Florida from Ohio in his Honda Odyssey, when he ran into the rear of a tractor trailer, collapsing the rear underride or “ICC” bar, and killing him instantly. Witness accounts were conflicting, but the investigating officer assumed Marcone was distracted and hit the trailer at a high rate of speed. The Canadian truck driver claimed he was running above the minimum speed and had done nothing wrong, and the official accident report found Mr. Marcone to have been at fault.
Believing the circumstances demanded further investigation, however, Patrick Cruise and The Hamilton Firm accepted representation on behalf of Marcone’s three children, and filed suit against Contrans Group, Laidlaw Carriers and their driver. Discovery revealed that the trucking company did not download any data from the event data recorder (EDR/ECM) or “black box” after the wreck, but GPS tracking data and other internal documents obtained from the trucking company showed that the driver had pulled off on the shoulder of the highway just minutes before the wreck to urinate. He had just pulled back into the right hand traffic lane of I-75 when Marcone crashed into the rear of the trailer. Analysis by an accident reconstruction expert suggested that the tractor trailer was actually running at a very slow speed, contrary to what the truck driver claimed.
Discovery also revealed that Laidlaw company policy prohibited truck drivers from stopping on the side of the road except in case of an emergency. The GPS data also established that the spot where the driver had stopped to urinate was within sight of the entrance ramp to Exit 56 where there is a truck stop with restrooms.
Facing those facts, Contrans/Laidlaw suggested mediation and the case was settled in November 2015. The terms and amount of the settlement for Matt Marcone’s minor children are under seal, Eileen Marcone v. Laidlaw v. Contrans Group, Inc. f/k/a Contrans Income Fund, Laidlaw Carriers Van LP and Gheorghe Vaduva, Civil Action No. 1:15-CV-0067, United States District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee.
Confidential Settlement Against One Beacon
In McDonald v. OneBeacon America Insurance Company (No. 4:14cv118)(N.D. Ga.), Mrs. McDonald’s husband died while driving his tractor trailer. Mrs. McDonald made a claim against OneBeacon for occupational death benefits under a policy of insurance obtained by her husband prior to his death. One Beacon denied the claim, citing to a number of policy provisions and exclusions. At the conclusion of discovery, One Beacon filed for summary judgment, requesting that the Judge dismiss the claim. The Court denied One Beacon’s motion for summary judgment concerning the breach of contract claims, finding that some of the provisions in the policy were vague and ambiguous. The case settled one week before trial. As part of the settlement, One Beacon requested that the amount of the settlement be kept confidential. Patrick A. Cruise served as lead counsel for Mrs. McDonald.
California Trucking Company Pays $595,000 to Settle Tennessee Wrongful Death Case
Annette Palmer, age 45, died tragically in a wreck on I-81 in Sullivan County, Tennessee on January 18, 2013. It was after midnight and she was a back seat passenger in a Ford Focus driven by her adult daughter. It was cold and snowy and weather conditions were deteriorating as they traveled north. Suddenly the car spun out of control due to black ice on the road and came to a stop in the middle of the northbound traffic lanes.
However, a tractor trailer was bearing down on the car. It was traveling 63 mph in a 55 mph zone on cruise control in the snowy and icy conditions. The driver never saw the Ford Focus until it was too late. He never slowed down, smashed into the car and killed Mrs. Palmer.
Although the driver’s post-accident urine drug test showed a high level of marijuana metabolites, the driver denied smoking pot since he had left California several days before. The trucking company, and their toxicology expert, argued that the driver was not impaired, and that the urine test could not be used to prove impairment. They blamed the wreck on Mrs. Palmer’s daughter for losing control of her car which had bald tires that were unsafe for the road conditions. However, Mrs. Palmer knew nothing about the condition of the tires. She was just coming along to help her daughter move.
It was a challenging case with hotly disputed liability, as the truck driver and his employer tried to lay all the blame for the wreck on the daughter and her bald tires. With trial set for September 1, 2015, the parties recently a compromise resolution of the case of $595,000 for the wrongful death of Mrs. Palmer, who is survived by her husband of 13 years and the adult daughter. Carter Palmer, her husband, was represented by Hu Hamilton of the The Hamilton Firm, in association with Buck Rogers of Atlanta. Carter Palmer v. Starlight Logistic Services, Inc., Case No. 2:14-CV-15, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee.
Cargo Falling From Rear of Tractor Trailer Case Settled for $350,000.00
The Plaintiff, a truck driver, picked up a load of parts in Tennessee and drove his tractor trailer to the manufacturing facility in Georgia where they would be unloaded. In preparation for backing up to the loading dock, he stopped and opened the rear doors to the trailer. As he did so, a large and heavy bundle of shrink wrapped boxes fell out on top of him. He caught the bundle, taking the weight onto his back, and pushed it aside and partially back up into the trailer, injuring his low back in the process.
Liability was hotly disputed. The Plaintiff, represented by Hu Hamilton, contended that it was a sealed load and that the shipper had improperly loaded the cargo and failed to secure it with load locks or straps. The shipper, Derby Industries, contended that it was not a sealed load and that it was the truck driver’s responsibility, under FMCSR § 392.9(b) to assure himself, before driving the truck, that the “cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured.” Those rules do not apply, however, “to the driver of a sealed commercial motor vehicle who has been ordered not to open it to inspect its cargo or to the driver of a commercial motor vehicle that has been loaded in a manner that makes inspection of its cargo impracticable,” FMCSR § 392.9(b)(4). Because the driver had closed the doors on the trailer and had the opportunity to observe the cargo at the rear of the trailer, Derby contended that the load was not sealed and therefore the § 392.9(b)(4) exception did not apply.
Suit was filed in Georgia and the case was settled after mediation, Stevens v. Derby Industries, 14SV273JTC, Henry State Court.
Tennessee Backhoe Case Settled for $300,000
An experienced heavy equipment operator was using a backhoe to dump a dogwood tree in Chattanooga when the hydraulics failed, causing the machine to roll uncontrolled down a hill and into a light standard. The operator was ejected from the machine, and sustained serious injuries. Plaintiff filed suit against the rental company for failure to maintain the backhoe, which resulted in hydraulic failure. The rental company denied fault, and blamed the plaintiff as well as the manufacturer of the machine. Just prior to trial the case was settled for $300,000.00. Patrick A. Cruise served as lead counsel for the Plaintiff (No. 12-C-1415, Hamilton County Circuit Court).
Georgia Premises Liability Case Settled for $250,000
Imagine checking into a Wingate Hotel in while travelling for business, taking a relaxing bath, and then when getting out, falling backwards into the tub when the grab bar you are using to pull yourself up breaks loose from the wall. The result was a serious back injury to the plaintiff. The lawsuit was filed in Cobb State Court, against the former owners of the Kennesaw, Georgia hotel and Wingate, Bright v. Sandstone Hospitality LLC. The case was settled with the insurance company for the former owners in August 2014, after mediation, for $250,000. Wingate as a franchisor had been dismissed from the lawsuit on summary judgment before mediation. Hu Hamilton served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
$300,000.00 Settlement for Severe Ankle Injury
The Plaintiff, a retired school teacher, was driving home on a residential road in Hamilton County, Tennessee, when another driver inexplicably turned left in front of her. As a result of the crash, the plaintiff sustained a closed ankle fracture dislocation, which necessitated open reduction internal fixation surgery. The case was settled prior to trial for $300,000.00. Patrick A. Cruise represented the Plaintiff.
Arch Chemical Fire Case Settled for Confidential Sums
On June 12, 2011, a fire broke out in the chlorine rework process area of the HTH building at the Arch Chemical plant in Charleston, Tennessee. Arch Chemicals manufactures chlorine products for swimming pools, working in close association with Olin Corporation, which is located on the same property. Very quickly heat, chlorine gas and smoke filled the building and were soon boiling out of the roof vents several floor above. Four ironworkers employed by BIS Frucon Industrial Services, who were building a scaffold on the roof of that building, were trapped on the roof above the fire. The men immediately donned their respirators and tried to escape, but the heat, gas and smoke was intense and visibility was very limited. Escape routes were engulfed in heat, gas and smoke. Eventually all of the men were able to escape the roof and get to safety, but three had sustained very serious injuries, including burns, lung damage, and orthopedic injuries due to falling while trying to escape.
The fire had spontaneously ignited in HTH chlorine products that were being stored by Arch Chemicals in plastic rework totes. Rapid decomposition caused spontaneous ignition and the fire broke out. Plaintiffs alleged that Arch Chemicals had stored an excessive number of plastic totes in the area which caused the fire and that there was no fire suppression system in place or that it failed to function properly.
Arch Chemical and Olin Corporation were supposed to cooperate and coordinate responses in the event of an emergency situation through their Emergency Response Teams, but neither of them sounded an evacuation alarm until it was too late for the Plaintiffs. And to make matter worse, first responders from Bradley County were held up at the gate upon arrival at the plant.
Plaintiffs filed suit in Bradly County Circuit Court but the defendants removed the case to Federal Court in Chattanooga, Robert Dan Green, et al v. Arch Chemicals, Inc., Olin Corporation, et al, 1:12-CV-00220, U.S. District Court (E.D. Tenn.).
The case presented complex issues concerning the liability of the various defendants, which included both Arch and Olin and Olin’s security contractor, Securitas, as well as exclusive remedy under Tennessee law. It was settled after mediation in January 2014, under a confidentiality agreement that prohibits disclosure of the amount paid to each of the Plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were represented by Annette T. Kelley and Hubert Hamilton.
Delivery Driver Struck by Babb Lumber Yard Truck – Georgia Case Settled for $500,000
Mediation on October 16, 2013 resulted in a $500,000 settlement in Thomas L. Cates & Erika R. Cates v. Babb Lumber Company, Inc. et al, Superior Court of Catoosa County, Civil Action No. 2012-SU-CV-1692. On October 12, 2010 the Plaintiff, Tommy Cates, a fuel truck driver for Parman Energy made a routine delivery to Babb Lumber in Ringgold. After making his deliveries to their storage tanks, some gas was left over and Babb Lumber wanted the remaining gas pumped into an old 1972 Ford F600 truck they used around the yard to haul shavings from one location to another. The truck was not operated outside the yard, and had no license tag. Plaintiff was outside his truck tending to some levers and valves on the side of the fuel truck, when he was suddenly struck in the back and pushed into the side of the fuel truck. He had been hit by the old Ford truck Babb’s driver was bringing down to be topped off. Fortunately, due to the angle of impact, Cates was not crushed, but he was knocked up against his own truck and then thrown to the side.
Babb’s driver claimed that as he approached the fuel truck and tried to bring it to a stop, “the brake went to the floor,” and afterwards, they claimed that the master cylinder was “very low” on brake fluid. They could not say, however, when the brakes had last been serviced, and he did not keep any service records on that truck. It was admitted that they did not run the truck “out on the street because it was dangerous.”
The impact injured Plaintiff’s low back and eventually he underwent surgery after months of conservative treatment. He was not able to return to work as a fuel truck driver.
Hubert “Hu” Hamilton served as lead counsel for the Plaintiffs.
Premises Liability Case Settled For Confidential Sum
Sarah Pierce vs. Lookout Property Management, Inc. and Battlewood Apartments, Ltd. Superior Court of Catoosa County; Civil Action No. 2012-SU-CV-1044, was settled in August 2013 under a confidentiality agreement prohibiting disclosure of the amount paid.
On Sunday morning, April 10, 2011, the plaintiff drove over to the Battlewood Apartment complex in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA to deliver yard sale items that one of the residents had purchased from her the preceding day. She delivered the items to the apartment, and while descending a long metal and concrete ramp to return to the parking lot, she fell. Something caught her foot, and her right ankle turned under her. She then fell off the concrete portion of the ramp and onto the nearby sidewalk, breaking the distal portion of her right fibula, sustaining a right malleolar fracture in the ankle joint, along with a fracture at base of her fifth metatarsal and a lateral cuboid fracture. The severe fracture required open reduction internal fixation, using a metal plate and seven screws to reattach and stabilize the fractured fibula. Months of rehab, with limited weight bearing followed.
Investigation revealed a steep slope on the right side of the concrete portion of the ramp which caused the plaintiff’s right ankle to turn under her and shatter. Her surgeon testified that the ankle supinated or was rolled under, placing stress on the ligaments and bones on the lateral side (outside) of the ankle. The force pulled the distal end of the fibula off as the ankle rolled underneath. The injury was exactly the type of injury the doctor would have expected if the ankle was turned under as the foot went off onto a steep slope to the right.
Plaintiff’s architectural expert testified that ramp violated numerous provisions of both the International Building Code (IBC) and the Georgia Accessibility Code, and Plaintiff contended that what happened was exactly what the various Code requirements and standards were designed to prevent – a fall. The case was settled at mediation after being placed on the pre-trial calendar for the September term of court in Catoosa County, with Hu Hamilton as lead counsel for the Plaintiff.
$240,000 Settlement for Worker with Valley Fever
In 2011, the employee spent months working in California, and was exposed to coccidioides, also known as Valley Fever. Around Thanksgiving, he became very sick. It took months for the medical professionals to determine the diagnosis, and when they finally did, the workers’ compensation insurance company refused to acknowledge that the condition was related to the employee’s work in California. Patrick Cruise filed a lawsuit on behalf of the injured worker, and hired a specialist from Vanderbilt to determine causation and impairment. Although the employee suffered from permanent lung damage, and permanent impairment, he was able to return to work. Just prior to trial, the Court ordered the parties to mediation. The mediation resulted in a settlement of $240,000.00.
$3.5 Million Verdict in Texting While Driving Case
On September 7, 2012, in Hamilton County Circuit Court (Tennessee), a jury returned a verdict of $3,500,000 for Marcus Black, who sustained a severe head injury when his motorcycle struck the rear of the vehicle ahead of him on one of the bridges in Chattanooga. The chain reaction was triggered by a texting driver in the traffic ahead ahead of Mr. Black. The texting driver drove off, so her identity was unknown and she was never located. Suit was filed against Mr. Black’s uninsured motorist insurer. Eyewitnesses testified concerning the actions of the unidentified Jane Doe driver, and the jury found Jane Doe 75% at fault for the wreck, while allocating 25% fault to Mr. Black. Damages were reduced to $2,625,000 under Tennessee’s comparative fault rules and judgment was entered accordingly.
Mr. Black was represented by Patrick Cruise, who achieved an outstanding result for Mr. Black, while increasing public awareness of the dangers posed by texting while driving.
Occupational Disability Claim Resolved for confidential sum
Holder v. Great American Ins. Co., No. 1:11-cv-00276 (U.S. Dist. Court, Eastern District of Tenn.): The Plaintiff became disabled as the result of a serious occupational injury in 2005. He was paid benefits for two years, at which time, his benefits stopped. The Occupational Disability Policy required the plaintiff to remain disabled after two years, and be approved for Social Security Disability. The Plaintiff was not approved for Social Security until about five years after his injury, and when he was approved, it was for SSI instead of SSDI. The defendant contended that there was insufficient proof of disability and that receipt of SSI disability benefits did not meet the requirements of the disability policy. The Plaintiff retained Patrick A. Cruise of The Hamilton Firm in 2011, after which suit was filed. The case was settled October 2012 at mediation in Nashville, TN. The terms and conditions of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement.
Industrial Premises Tort Case Settled for Confidential Sum
Barrow v. Velsicol Chemical, LLC, 2:10-CV-02540, United States District Court (W.D. Tenn.): The plaintiff sustained a back injury while attempting to load his tanker with hydrochloric acid (HCL) at the defendant’s facility in Memphis, Tennessee. On July 15, 2009, as the plaintiff was standing on the HCL loading ramp, the metal grating on the ramp platform suddenly gave way, causing injury to the plaintiff’s lower back. The plaintiff’s injuries required extensive medical treatment and spinal surgery. The injuries were such that the plaintiff was unable to return to work. Plaintiff brought suit alleging that the defendant was responsible for maintaining the loading platform and had created the dangerous condition by previously improperly repairing the area where the Plaintiff was injured. The defendant denied liability and fault. The case was settled in May of 2012. All matters relating to the terms and conditions of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement. The Plaintiff was represented by Patrick Cruise of The Hamilton Firm and David Bateman of The Bateman Law Firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Brain Injury due to Boiler Explosion case settled
Marc Beck v. FM Global, et al, Case No. 11VS184780C, Fulton State Court, Atlanta, Georgia, was settled in December 2011 for a confidential amount. A boiler service technician sustained severe head, brain and facial injuries in a boiler explosion at a poultry plant in Gainesville, Georgia on January 14, 2008, The plaintiff was an employee of a boiler service company who was sent to switch fuel supply for the boiler from gas over to fuel oil. The boiler supplied steam for the plant, and they wanted to maintain pressure while the change over to oil took place. Investigation of the explosion by the Georgia Department of Labor determined that the oil supply and return lines had been reversed, causing an excessive accumulation of fuel in the hot boiler as Mr. Beck attempted to fire the burner on oil. The burner had not been fired on oil since a new boiler was installed two years before. Plaintiff contended that the lines had been reversed when the new boiler was installed by another boiler service company, and that the manufacturer of the burner had supplied a defective manifold making it possible to inadvertently reverse the lines at the point of attachment to the burner. The boiler inspection company which had last inspected the boiler prior to the explosion was also named as a defendant. Mr. Beck was represented by Hubert Hamilton.
Tennessee Jury finds Nationwide Insurance guilty of bad faith for refusing to pay Christmas fire loss, awards damages of $784,767.65
Jury Verdict of $784,676.65 was returned in a fire loss case against Nationwide Insurance Company in the Circuit Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee in a six day trial concluded on November 9, 2011, O’Neal v. Nationwide. The fire originated in a Christmas tree that Mrs. O’Neal had just put up the night before the fire in December 2009. Nationwide refused to pay, contending that a family member had intentionally set the house on fire. The jury concluded otherwise as Plaintiff’s expert had found a melted plug blade in an electrical receptacle adjacent to the tree that Nationwide’s expert had missed. The evidence suggested an electrical origin due to a short or arcing at the receptacle. The verdict included a bad faith penalty of 18%. Hubert Hamilton and Patrick Cruise served as trial counsel for Mrs. O’Neal.
Georgia Jury Awards $792,500 for Motorcycle Driver with Severely Fractured Ankle
A Walker County jury awarded damages totaling $792,500, on March 11, 2010, for a 39 year-old self-employed roofer/sheet metal fabricator injured in a bad wreck two years before. On a Sunday afternoon the plaintiff had taken his Harley motorcycle out for a ride over to his mother’s house. As he cruised along a rural roadway near Chickamauga, Georgia at a safe speed, a Buick Skylark, driven by an 88 year-old man, suddenly turned left directly in front of him. The impact shattered the plaintiff’s left ankle. The orthopedic trauma surgeon was able to use steel plates and screws to put the bimalleolar ankle fracture dislocation back together, but the plaintiff was left with a painful arthritic ankle with limited mobility. The jury awarded $50,000 for medical expenses, $37,500 for lost earnings to date, $379,000 for future lost earnings, $20,000 for pain and suffering to date, plus $306,000 for future pain and suffering. The biggest challenge faced was overcoming sympathy for the defendant, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, after defense counsel made a big show of the fact that the defendant was ill. The trial judge prohibited further appeals to sympathy and the jury took seriously our admonitions not to let “outside reasons” influence their determination of the proper amounts of money required to balance out the harms and losses the plaintiff suffered, and justice was served. Hubert Hamilton and Patrick Cruise served as trial counsel for Mr. Currie, Currie v. Farmer, Case 08 CV 7097, Walker State Court, LaFayette, Georgia.
$1.1 Million Settlement Reached in Traumatic Brain Injury Case Against RSB Logistics After Georgia Crash
Michael Nordone v. RSB Logistics, No: 4:08-cv-2-HLM, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia. Battling against strong headwinds, including an unfavorable report and opinions from the investigating state trooper, a client who could not remember what happened, and very inconsistent statements from the only eyewitness, a favorable settlement of $1,100,000 was reached after mediation in June 2009.
The Plaintiff was self-employed, performing high-end woodworking and remodeling when this wreck occurred on January 31, 2006. He was returning home from a job site in Dalton, GA, accompanied by an employee, in a modified 2003 F350 work truck when they were rear-ended by the RSB tractor-trailer, driven by a 70 years old driver, as they were northbound on I-75. The truck driver claimed that the plaintiff cut in front of him, moving suddenly from the right lane to the middle lane, and then slowed down so he could not avoid the wreck. The only eye-witness, the employee riding in plaintiff’s vehicle, had given different versions of what happened, so his value as a witness had been seriously compromised. However, the plaintiff’s case was aided by inconsistent data downloaded from the electronic control module (ECM) in the RSB truck. In addition, no data was found on the restraint control module (RCM) in the plaintiff’s truck when RSB’s expert attempted to download the data shortly after the wreck. This raised suspicion of improper downloading or even spoiliation.
By the time of mediation, the plaintiff had recovered much of his functional abilities, but he will not be able to return to full-time work.
$1,050,000 Settlement in Alabama for Cable TV Lineman
A cable TV lineman was severely injured when the utility pole he was working on fell while he was strapped on working about 25 feet above the ground. The pole was owned and supposedly maintained by the local electric utility cooperative:
“Well when I got to the pole, I did a visual inspection to see what path I was going to take up the pole and looked around real good to see what path I was going to take up the pole, and then I took my bell wrench out and beat on it, you know around the bottom of it and up high as I could reach to see – make sure it sounded good… It sounded solid.”
Finding no abnormalities by the visual or sound test, he climbed up the pole.
“Then… switched around on the pole, moved around to the side to kind of get comfortable with what I’m doing because I’ve got to take the bolt-the nut off, the clamp off and just throw the cable to the ground. But I switched around and when I switched around on the pole and leaned back in my safety, it started falling real slow, it seemed like… and when it started falling I started trying to get around to the side that was on top of it so I wouldn’t fall right on me. And it just fell.”
He suffered multiple fractures, including a right “tib-fib” fracture, a comminuted right knee fracture, a left tibial fracture, an open left metatarsal fracture, pelvic fractures and a left mid-shaft radial fracture.
Suit was filed in Franklin County, Alabama against the electric cooperative and others, and a settlement of $1,050,000 was reached just as the jury was about to be selected. Melton v. Franklin Electric Cooperative.