Georgia Jury Awards Largest Ever Trucking Judgment
Collisions with tractor trailers occur with a sad and shocking regularity. Although the overall number of fatalities as a result of collisions with large trucks has declined over the last decade, the number has begun to rise again in recent years, according to The National Law Review.
Juries deliver judgments to accident victims hurt by large trucks every day. The size of these judgments has risen dramatically, including a $105 million verdict in Texas in 2013 and a $40.2 million decision in Georgia in 2011, as plaintiffs counsel have attempted to call attention to trucking companies’ frequent disregard for safety policies and procedures.
None, though, has been as monumental as a verdict reached in August 2019 in Georgia by a Muskogee County State Court jury, a judgment of over $280 million in the civil suit brought by the family of Judy Madere. The judgment is thought to be the largest verdict against a trucking company in legal history.
The Madere’s Tragic Story and the Lawsuit that Followed
On the morning of July 18, 2016, three generations of family members were on their way home from a family visit. Judy Madere, 58, was seated between her grandchildren — Trinity Jones, 7, and Jaxon Jones, 4. They were in the backseat of the Nissan Rogue owned and driven by her daughter, Carrie Madere Jones, 32, accompanied by Trudy Herbert, Judy Madere’s twin, also 58.
When they reached the East Alabama Motor Speedway on Alabama Highway 80 in Russell County, a tractor trailer carrying scrap metal and driven by Kenneth Cathey crossed into oncoming traffic and struck Jones’s vehicle head-on, launching it 250 feet from the site of the impact and tragically killing all five family members.
In 2017, Judy Madere’s husband, Larry, and their daughter, Anjanette Madere Thomas, filed a lawsuit in Columbus, GA. Columbus is where Schinitzer Southeast, LLC is located, and the lawsuit was filed against the truck driver, Kenneth Cathey; his carrier, Schinitzer Southeast, LLC; and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc., the parent company.
Kenneth Cathey’s Negligence
The lawsuit alleged that Cathey’s negligence caused the collision and further, that the companies were also negligent because they knew Cathey, who had been involved in another accident near Auburn in 2016, was “inattentive, unsafe, and a danger to the health and safety of the motoring public,” according to the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer.
Testimony from accident reconstruction expert, Bryant Buchner, about the moments leading up to the accident and the collision itself convinced jurors that the accident was caused by sleep deprivation. Buchner testified that Cathey, who had slept no more than four hours the night before, fell asleep and crossed into oncoming traffic, colliding with Jones’s SUV without performing any evasive maneuvers to avoid the collision.
After a weeklong trial, jurors needed only 45 minutes to deliberate before reaching their verdict and delivering their decision to award plaintiffs $150M for the wrongful death of Judy Madere, $30M in restitution for her pain and suffering, $100M in punitive damages, and $65,000 in attorney fees.
Cases brought on behalf of Judy Madere’s daughter, Carrie Jones and her two children were each settled out of court for unspecified amounts. Another civil case brought on behalf of Trudy Herbert (Madere’s twin) is pending, as is the trial of Cathey for five counts of criminally negligent homicide.
How Marks Law Can Help
Thankfully, there is restitution and a path forward for accident victims like the Madere family, even in the face of unfathomable loss. At Marks Law Group, LLC we understand that life can take a dramatic turn in the split second it takes for a truck to swerve into your lane.
We also understand how uncertain many accident victims and their families can feel after a crash involving a truck that was not their fault. At Marks Law Group, we can help you begin to pick up the pieces after a serious crash. We will carefully investigate and build your case meticulously. Call us today at 404-800-1625.