Georgia Verdicts

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Illegal service of alcohol led to fatal car crash, per lawsuit

Amount:

$27,091,053.90

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Georgia

Venue:

Fulton County

Court:

Fulton County, State Court

Injury Type(s):

arm; head; neck-fracture (fracture, C5), neck (fracture, C5);
neck-fracture (fracture, C6), neck (fracture, C6);
neck-fusion, cervical;
neck-fracture (fracture, C5), vertebra (fracture, C5);
neck-fracture (fracture, C6), vertebra (fracture, C6);
other-death; other-fracture; other-swelling; other-laceration; other-physical therapy; abdomen; cardiac-heart; hand/finger-fracture, finger;
mental/psychological-emotional distress; gastrointestinal/digestive-colon

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Rollover, Speeding, Broadside, Passenger, Red Light; Hotel/Restaurant – Dram Shop; Motor Vehicle – Intersection, Multiple Vehicle; Wrongful Death – Survival Damages; Motor Vehicle – Alcohol Involvement; Worker/Workplace Negligence – Negligent Service of Alcohol

Case Name:

Tom Sitton, the Estate of Pamela Sitton, Deceased, Tom Sitton on Behalf of Christian Sitton, and Julie Pugh v. Ceeda Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Riley’s Show Bar, John Doe 1, John Doe 2, John Doe 3 and Corporations X, Y, Z,
No. 16EV004325

Date:

July 17, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Julie Pugh (Female, 70s), 

Tom Sitton , 

Christian Sitton (Male, 14 Years), 

Estate of Pamela Sitton (Female, 51 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

W. Winston Briggs;
W. Winston Briggs Law Firm;
Atlanta,
GA,
for
Julie Pugh ■ W. Pitts Carr;
Carr & Weatherby LLP;
Atlanta,
GA,
for
Tom Sitton, Christian Sitton, Estate of Pamela Sitton ■ Alex D. Weatherby;
Carr & Weatherby LLP;
Atlanta,
GA,
for
Tom Sitton, Christian Sitton, Estate of Pamela Sitton

Defendant(s):

Ceeda Enterprises Inc.

Defense Attorney(s):

James N. Cline;
James N. Cline, P.C.;
Roswell,
GA,
for
Ceeda Enterprises Inc.

Facts:

On March 28, 2016, plaintiffs’ decedent Pamela Sitton, 51, a homemaker, was driving westbound on Discovery Boulevard, in Cobb County. Her passengers included her mother, plaintiff Julie Pugh, a part-time accounting employee in her 70s, and Sitton’s son, plaintiff Christian Sitton, 14. Upon entering the intersection with Mableton Parkway, their vehicle was broadsided by another vehicle. The Sitton vehicle overturned at least twice and hit another vehicle that was stopped at a red light at the intersection. Pamela Sitton died at the scene. Christian Sitton claimed a finger injury. Pugh claimed severe injuries to her head and internal organs, including her colon. Tom Sitton, both individually and on behalf of his son Christian, Pugh and the estate of Pamela Sitton, sued Ceeda Enterprises, Inc. d/b/a Riley’s Show Bar, pursuant to the Georgia Dram Shop Act. According to the complaint, the other driver involved in the crash was a 20-year-old female who was speeding and ran a red light at the intersection. The other driver was later arrested and charged with homicide by vehicle, serious injury by vehicle, driving under the influence of alcohol and possession of cocaine. Her criminal case was still pending at the time of this civil trial. Earlier in the evening on the date of the crash, according to the plaintiffs, the 20-year-old driver had been at Riley’s Show Bar, a bar and adult entertainment club in Atlanta. The plaintiffs’ alleged that Riley’s failed to check the 20-year-old’s ID and allowed her to drink underage. The plaintiffs further pointed to a video the young woman posted on Facebook on the night of the accident that reportedly showed the female looking visibly intoxicated, yet continuing to receive drinks at Riley’s. The defense failed to file a response to the initial lawsuit within 30 days. Plaintiffs’ counsel thus filed a motion for default judgment. Defense counsel responded with a motion to open the default judgment, arguing that he had attempted to e-file his answer within the 30-day deadline, but unintentionally saved the response as a draft rather than submit it to the court website. He alleged he was unaware of this mistake until he received the motion for default judgment several weeks later. The motion to open the default judgment was denied and the plaintiffs’ motion for default judgment was granted on liability. The case proceeded to a damages-only trial.

Injury:

Pamela Sitton suffered broken bones, a severe head injury and a nearly severed arm. She died at the scene. She was survived by her husband and two children. Pamela Sitton’s estate sought damages for funeral expenses and Pamela Sitton’s pain and suffering prior to her death. Christian Sitton was placed in an ambulance and transported to Grady Memorial Hospital. He was diagnosed with a fractured pinky finger on his left hand. He was admitted to the hospital and had his finger taped. Christian Sitton had some follow-up treatment, but made a good recovery. However, he and his family said the trauma of seeing his mother die in front of him caused him severe emotional distress. Christian and the family said it was still hard for the teen to talk about what had happened. He also missed a few days of school following the collision. Tom Sitton sought damages for the value of Pamela Sitton’s life, along with damages for Christian’s physical and emotional injuries. Pugh was placed in an ambulance and transported to Grady Memorial Hospital. She suffered fractures to the C5 and C6 vertebrae in her neck. She also had severe trauma and major injuries to her head and internal organs, particularly her colon. Her heart also swelled due to the accumulation of fluid. Pugh remained hospitalized for six weeks after the crash. During that time, she underwent multiple surgeries. One procedure repaired a laceration to her head. Another removed and replaced the broken vertebrae and fused them together. Pugh also required multiple surgeries to cut out and re-attach parts of her colon. After leaving the hospital, Pugh was sent to an inpatient rehab center for several weeks before being discharged. She then required several more weeks of rehab in her home. During her treatment, she underwent physical therapy and had to re-learn how to walk and talk. Pugh recovered well from her injuries, but still has some intestinal issues as a result of the crash. She also said she had to quit her part-time job due to the accident. Pugh sought general damages for her injuries. The defense did not present any witnesses during the trial. Defense counsel just asked the jury to be fair with its damages award.

Result:

The jury awarded for $3,007,379.90 to Pamela Sitton’s estate, $14 million to Tom Sitton for the value of his wife’s life, $2 million to Christian Sitton and $8,083,674 to Pugh, for a total of $27,091,053.90.

Julie Pugh: $8,083,674 Personal Injury: total damages; Christian Sitton: $2,000,000 Personal Injury: total damages; Estate of Pamela Sitton: $3,007,380 Personal Injury: funeral expenses and pain and suffering of Pamela Sitton; Tom Sitton: $14,000,000 Personal Injury: value of the life of Pamela Sitton

Trial Information:

Judge:

Wesley B. Tailor

Trial Length:

2
 days

Trial Deliberations:

1.25
 hours

Jury Vote:

12-0

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by counsel for Tom Sitton and the estate of Pamela Sitton. Additional information was gleaned from court documents. Defense counsel for Ceeda Enterprises and counsel for Julie Pugh did not respond to the reporter’s phone calls.