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Georgia Verdicts

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Car rental agency negligence led to accident, per pedestrian

Amount:

$47,000,000

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Georgia

Venue:

Gwinnett County

Court:

Gwinnett County, State Court

Injury Type(s):

leg-fracture, leg; other-hardware implanted; amputation-leg (leg (above the knee)); surgeries/treatment-open reduction; surgeries/treatment-internal fixation

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle - Pedestrian, Single Vehicle; Worker/Workplace Negligence - Negligent Hiring, Negligent Security

Case Name:

Adrienne Danielle Smith v. Avis Rent a Car System, LLC, Avis Budget Group, Inc., PV Holding Corp., CSYG, Inc., Yonas G. Gebremichael, Peter Duca and Byron Devon Perry, No. 14C-00798-4

Date:

February 3, 2017

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Adrienne Danielle Smith (Female, 20s)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Michael L. Neff; Law Offices of Michael Lawson Neff, P.C.; Atlanta, GA, for Adrienne Danielle Smith ■ Michael B. Terry; Bondurant, Mixson & Elmore, L.L.P.; Atlanta, GA, for Adrienne Danielle Smith

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Jeffrey Gross; Security/Premises Liability; Powder Springs, GA called by: Michael L. Neff, Michael B. Terry

Defendant(s):

CSYG Inc., 

Peter Duca, 

PV Holding Corp., 

Byron Devon Perry, 

Yonas G. Gebremichael, 

Avis Budget Group, Inc., 

Avis Rent a Car System LLC

Defense Attorney(s):

Michael D. St. Amand; Gray, Rust, St. Amand, Moffett & Brieske LLP; Atlanta, GA, for Byron Devon Perry ■ G. Lee Welborn; Downey & Cleveland, LLP; Marietta, GA, for CSYG Inc., Yonas G. Gebremichael ■ None reported; None reported; for PV Holding Corp. ■ Brantley C. Rowlen; Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP; Atlanta, GA, for Peter Duca, Avis Budget Group, Inc., Avis Rent a Car System LLC

Facts:

On Aug. 23, 2013, plaintiff Adrienne Danielle Smith, a woman in her 20s, was seated on a brick wall with her friend near 824 Peeples Street in Atlanta. At this time, a Ford Edge stolen from a car rental agency by an employee of the rental agency was traveling approximately 74 mph in a 25-mph zone. The driver of the Edge, Byron Perry, lost control of the vehicle and veered off the road. The Edge struck Smith and her friend. Smith claimed severe leg injuries. Smith sued Avis Rent a Car System, LLC and Avis Budget Group, Inc. as the vehicle owner, as well as Byron Perry, Perry's employer and independent agency operator CSYG, Inc., CSYG principal Yonas G. Gebremichael, and Avis security head Peter Duca. PV Holding Corp. was initially named as a defendant in the suit, but was dismissed prior to trial. The case proceeded against the remaining defendants. Smith's friend was also injured and filed a separate lawsuit. The two cases were consolidated for pre- and post-trial actions, but were tried separately. Smith alleged that Avis and CSYG had been negligent in hiring Perry, as he had a criminal history with multiple car theft convictions. She further alleged Avis and CSYG's inadequate key protection policy enabled Perry to steal the Ford Edge. Smith maintained that the defendants' failure to perform a criminal background check or properly secure rental vehicle keys enabled the collision. Avis and CSYG disputed liability, arguing that Perry's theft of the vehicle and subsequent collision were unforeseeable events that could not have been prevented. They maintained that the vehicle keys had been adequately secured under company policy. At trial, Perry admitted fault for the theft and collision.

Injury:

Smith was taken by ambulance to the emergency room of Grady Memorial Hospital, where she was hospitalized for several weeks. Smith suffered a partially severed right leg, which required an above-the-knee amputation. She also suffered multiple fractures to her left leg, which required open reduction and internal fixation with hardware. Smith complained of chronic leg pain and difficulty walking. The defendants' arguments on damages were unavailable for publication.

Result:

The jury found the defendants liable for the collision and Smith's injuries. The jury attributed 50 percent liability to Avis, 15 percent liability to CSYG, 1 percent liability to Gebremichael, 1 percent liability to Duca and 33 percent liability to Perry. The jury determined that Smith's damages totaled $47 million and that she was also entitled to punitive damages against Perry. Pursuant to the jury's finding with regard to punitives, the parties stipulated to $1 in punitive damages. Also, the jury expressly found, by special verdict, that CSYG is an "employee" of Avis and, thus, Avis is vicariously liable for CSYG. Per the judgment, Avis is jointly and severally liable with CSYG, as well as being jointly and severally liable with Gebremichael, a CSYG employee, and Duca, an Avis employee, meaning that Avis was directly liable or jointly and severally liable for 67 percent of the award. The plaintiff was also entitled to offer of judgment (prejudgment) interest of $140,066.14 against CSYG, plus costs and post-judgment interest against all defendants.

Actual Award:

$47,140,067.14

Trial Information:

Judge:

Joseph C. Iannazzone

Trial Length:

2  weeks

Trial Deliberations:

3  hours

Post Trial:

The defense was expected to appeal the verdict.

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's and defense counsel.