Georgia State Jury Reaches Defense Verdict In Favor Of Truck Driver, Employer, Georgia DOT In Negligence Suit Filed By Driver Who Lost Control Of Vehicle On On-Ramp, Drove Into Path Of Truck, And Was Injured In Collision
On May 9, 2012, Keith Williams was driving his Chevy Blazer in rainy conditions and entered from Georgia Highway 166 West onto an on-ramp to Interstate 285 North. Williams claimed the on-ramp and its storm drains were poorly maintained and water had pooled on the ramp. Williams asserted his vehicle slipped on the standing water on the ramp, causing him to hydroplane and lose control of his vehicle. Williams spun across several lanes of traffic and into the path of a tractor-trailer driven by Bryan Jon Marchant and owned by his employer CRST Dedicated Services, Inc. (CRST). Marchant hit his brake and steered left but was unable to avoid colliding with Williams' vehicle. Williams sustained severe injuries and his passenger was killed.
On April 30, 2014, Williams filed a negligence suit against Marchant, CRST, CRST Expedited, Inc. , CRST International, Inc., CRST's insurance carrier National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA, and the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) in the Georgia State Court of Fulton County. Williams claimed Marchant negligently operated his vehicle by speeding, driving while he was tired, and driving in a lane prohibited for vehicles with more than six wheels. Williams also argued Marchant's actions violated multiple Georgia statutes and Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, and CRST was liable for Williams' negligence under the doctrine of respondeat superior. As for the claims against GDOT, Williams claimed GDOT negligently maintained the subject ramp which caused or contributed to Williams' loss of control. Williams sought compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys' fees, costs, and interest.
CRST Expedited and CRST International were dropped as parties after filing.
Marchant and CRST denied any negligence and asserted Williams' loss of control was the sole cause of the collision. Marchant and CRST asserted Williams' loss of control was caused by improper steering, speeding, and poorly maintained tires. Marchant and CRST argued Williams' claims were barred by the doctrines of comparative negligence and assumption of the risk. Marchant and CRST also admitted Marchant was driving above the posted speed limit but denied Marchant was driving in a prohibited lane.
In January 2017, Marchant and CRST made a confidential settlement offer under Georgia's offer of judgment statute. The offer was rejected.
A six-day trial was presided over by Judge John R. Mather in February 2017. Three days into the trial, Marchant suffered a health-related issue that required him to return to Florida for treatment. As a result, Williams' counsel introduced Marchant's deposition testimony into evidence. During his closing, Williams' counsel asked for $ 3,500,000 in damages. On Feb. 21, 2017, the jury found in favor of Marchant, CRST, and GDOT and assigned 100% fault for the incident to Williams.
Defendants were represented by Brannon Arnold. Anna Idelevich, and Gary Toman of Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial in Atlanta, GA; as well as Kristin Hayter and Roy Boyter of the Georgia Attorney General Office in Atlanta, GA. Plaintiff was represented by Mathew Harman and Eric Fredrickson of Harman Law, LLC in Atlanta, GA.
Lexis Advance subscribers may view the complete summary here: Keith Williams v. Bryan Jon Marchant; CRST Expedited, Inc.; CRST International, Inc.; CRST Dedicated Services, Inc.; National Union Fire Insurance Company of Pittsburgh, PA.: Georgia Department of Transportation; 2017 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 524
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