We like to believe that the courtroom represents a level playing field, where all parties can expect equal treatment. But, can ordinary people like you win accident and injury cases against expensive, high-powered attorneys and insurance companies? Fortunately, you can because the law does not take wealth into account.
In the cases below, we can see that common folks do come up against corporate giants and win. Just because an insurance company has lots of money to pay a team of expensive lawyers to appeal a case all the way to the Supreme Court, doesn’t give big insurance companies the winning edge. The truth wins out in a court of law, and that’s the edge we depend on.
Big Corporations Choose Profits Over People
When it comes to huge corporations, decisions about the recall of faulty products are made by weighing the cost of product recalls against the cost of defending themselves in wrongful death or injury cases. Time and again, across the entire country, we see this play out. Companies do, indeed, decide that it’s cheaper to take chances with your life than suffer certain financial losses. However, this tactic doesn’t usually work out as planned, thanks to the level playing field of the law.
Here are several cases handled by Georgia law firms1 where big corporate budgets did not mean victory in a court of law.
Corporate Influence Leads to the Death of a Small Child
Not many years ago, Georgia’s Supreme Court considered Chrysler Group, LLC v. Walden, a case in which a 4-year-old child suffered the worst of all possible deaths.
The toddler was trapped in the backseat of a burning vehicle and could not escape. Witnesses heard him screaming for at least a full minute before the flames finally silenced him. Worse of all, this tragedy could have been avoided if the company chose to act in the best interest of consumers.
Design Flaw Found to Be Unacceptably Dangerous
According to the lawyers for the child’s estate, the fire was caused because this particular vehicle, a 1999 Jeep made by Chrysler, had a rear-mounted fuel tank. The tank was attached behind the rear axle, a practice well-known to be very dangerous.
Chrysler CEO Obtains Recall Reprieve
Prior to this tragedy, a federal investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had already resulted in a recommendation to recall several Jeep models, including the one in question here. However, following a meeting between the CEO of the Chrysler Corporation and two political appointees at the head of the Federal Department of Transportation, this Jeep model was excluded from the recall.
During the trial, a Chrysler representative was questioned about the annual salary of the CEO of Chrysler. With all benefits and stock options included, the CEO at the time was bringing home $68 million a year. The corporate lawyers objected as to the relevancy of this line of questioning but did not claim that the testimony would create bias.
In closing arguments, however, the plaintiff’s counsel told the jury that the amount of money requested in the complaint was less than the CEO’s salary for two years. The jury found for the plaintiffs in the amount of $120 million and an additional $30 million for pain and suffering.
Now, it should be said, while the jury found that Chrysler acted with reckless disregard for human life, the trial court did reduce the award amounts to $30 million and also $10 million each. Of course, the carmaker appealed.
The case then made its way to the Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Supreme Court. The corporate attorneys claimed that the evidence of the CEO’s salary should not have been made known to the jury because it swayed them unfairly.
We wonder, what is fair about a tiny child burning in untold agony as he dies.
Despite the mega dollars spent by Chrysler to defend their company’s obvious manipulation of safety standards, Georgia’s courts found in favor of the family of the child, removing the heavy thumb of money upon the scales of justice.
This case goes to show that no matter how prominent and wealthy your opponent is, you can still obtain justice. We are proud to see this result by one of our Georgia colleagues of the Bar.
Trucking Company Hiring Practices Lead to Consequences
In the eyes of the law, we each have certain responsibilities to other members of our society. This is also true for companies and corporations. For example, when a trucking company hires someone to drive a massive and heavy 18-wheeler, they have a responsibility to other drivers to exercise great diligence. If they fail to meet this obvious obligation, then the law can and will make them pay for their errors.
Truck Collides with Car Causing Permanent Back Injuries
When a truck weighing in at approximately 80,000 pounds plowed into the vehicle of a middle-aged woman while she was lawfully waiting at a red light, she turned to the courts for help.
The accident resulted in severe back injuries for the plaintiff, which required surgical fusion to stabilize lumbar vertebrae. This was a painful procedure with a long recovery time — and, unfortunately, a full recovery is not always guaranteed.
Because of the tough and painful recovery ahead, the victim asked the court to grant her punitive damages as well as compensation for her pain.
Truck Driver’s History Reveals Previous Rear-End Collisions
During the lawsuit, it was discovered that the trucking company hired the truck driver even though he had been involved in two rear-end collisions previously. And, in both accidents, he was cited for following too closely, resulting in a 60-day license suspension. But his carelessness continued; just two months before the accident that left the plaintiff severely injured, he was cited for speeding in his tractor-trailer.
The plaintiff argued that by conducting a simple background check, the employer could have prevented this tragic accident from happening. At first, the defendant trucking company’s owner admitted that no pre-employment background investigation had been completed, but later testified at trial that he was fully aware of the employee’s driving record at the time of hiring.
Incriminating Employment Records Destroyed
Interestingly, documents associated with that hiring process were destroyed before the matter came to trial. This destruction of material evidence prompted the trial judge to instruct the jury that this was a way to remove facts that would have shown the defendant trucking company in a negligent light.
The State Court Jury awarded the injured woman $566,000 in compensation and an additional $15,000 for punitive damages, a total award of $581,000.
Drunk Driver Devastates Family
When a 78-year-old Cobb County woman was thrown from her vehicle and killed due to the reckless negligence of a drunk driver, her widowed husband filed a wrongful death suit.
The elderly husband also claimed that the accident resulted in his own injuries, including multiple rib fractures, respiratory failure, a fractured pelvis, cracked thoracic spine, pulmonary contusions, subdural hematoma and continuing mental confusion.
The crash occurred when the defendant’s vehicle slammed into the passenger side of the plaintiff as they made a left-hand turn from Canton Highway into a restaurant parking lot. The defendant was traveling at about 66 miles per hour. His blood alcohol content was found to be .25 at the time of the accident, well over the legal limit.
Intoxicated Driver Was Over-Served at Drinking Establishment
In this case, the lawsuit was not only filed against the drunk driver but also the establishment where the defendant had allegedly been drinking alcohol for three hours prior to the accident. The plaintiffs claimed that the establishment had served the defendant alcohol even though he was visibly intoxicated, which according to Georgia’s Dram Shop Liability Law means it could also be held responsible for the accident.
At trial, the defending drinking establishment contended that the at-fault driver was not a patron and claimed that because he was a severe alcoholic that he did not appear to be intoxicated. They also alleged that the plaintiff’s husband negligently contributed to the accident by turning in front of the drunk driver’s vehicle.
Following testimony from several expert witnesses, including accident reconstruction experts and medical professionals, the jury spoke clearly about their level of tolerance for drinking and driving. After a short four-hour deliberation, they returned a verdict in favor of the widowed plaintiff.
Money Cannot Compensate for the Loss of Life
An aged man is now alone, and his three grown children are deprived of their beloved mother because of the irresponsible and despicable actions of a drunken driver and a greedy purveyor of alcoholic beverages. What is such a life worth?
Georgia law provides the best way it can for the innocent people whose lives are altered by a terrible tragedy. While no amount of money can make up for the loss of a wife and a mother, the at-fault person or company can be forced to think twice before making the same deadly mistakes again.
An Experienced Attorney Can Help Hold the Negligent Accountable
When you or a loved one is injured because of someone else’s negligence, it might feel as if you are at the mercy of big corporations and that you stand no chance of being made whole again. Competent legal representation can level the playing field and give innocent victims of negligence a fighting chance.
Schedule a Free Case Evaluation
If you have suffered the loss of a loved one or if the quality of your life has been diminished because of someone else’s negligent actions, it is possible to hold the responsible parties responsible — even when their budgets far exceed your own.
Every claim is different, but the first step in any litigation is to have a qualified personal injury attorney evaluate your case.
The legal experts at The Millar Law Firm offer a Free Consultation to help you understand what your case may entail and what compensation you may be able to obtain. While we recognize that legal action might not make you whole again, it can help lead to safer Georgia roadways.
1 The cases chosen for this article were not handled by The Millar Law Firm. We selected these cases handled by other Georgia lawyers as excellent examples of how Georgia’s citizens have beaten large insurance companies. The Millar Law Firm handles similar cases. Please review some of our other articles and case studies as well as our case results and client testimonials for many examples of our work. In motor vehicle accident cases, The Millar Law Firm has received settlements and verdicts from the tens-of-thousands to over twenty-five million dollars.