Georgia Verdicts

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Suit: Tractor driver crossed center line, caused deadly crash

Amount:

$2,000,000

Type:

Settlement

State:

Georgia

Venue:

Fulton County

Court:

Fulton County, State Court

Injury Type(s):

back-fracture, vertebra;
head; neck-fracture, vertebra;
brain-subdural hematoma; other-death; wrist-fracture;
epidermis-contusion

Case Type:

Motor Vehicle – Truck, Center Line; Wrongful Death – Survival Damages

Case Name:

Jim David Gibbs, as executor of estate of J.D. Gibbs Sr., Patricia Naron, Linda Drawdy, Doris Ethridge and Judy Drawdie, as surviving children of J.D. Gibbs Sr. v. Penn Millers Insurance Co.,
No. 14EV001439H

Date:

October 5, 2015

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Judy Drawdie (Female), 

Linda Drawdie (Female), 

Doris Ethridge (Female), 

Patricia Naron (Female), 

Estate of J. D. Gibbs, Sr. (Male, 91 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Brandon L. Peak;
Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak LLP;
Columbus,
GA,
for
Judy Drawdie, Linda Drawdie, Doris Ethridge, Patricia Naron, Estate of J. D. Gibbs, Sr. ■ John C. "Buddy" Morrison III;
Butler Wooten Cheeley & Peak LLP;
Atlanta,
GA,
for
Judy Drawdie, Linda Drawdie, Doris Ethridge, Patricia Naron, Estate of J. D. Gibbs, Sr. ■ Matthew Hennesy;
Farrar, Hennesy & Tanner;
Douglas,
GA,
for
Judy Drawdie, Linda Drawdie, Doris Ethridge, Patricia Naron, Estate of J. D. Gibbs, Sr.

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Jeffrey Kidd; Accident Reconstruction; Gainesville,
GA called by:
Brandon L. Peak, John C. "Buddy" Morrison III, Matthew Hennesy

Defendant(s):

Penn Millers Insurance Co.

Defense Attorney(s):

Steven J. Kyle;
Bovis Kyle Burch & Medlin;
Atlanta,
GA,
for
Penn Millers Insurance Co.

Defendant Expert(s):

James Sloan;
Accident Reconstruction;
Brunswick,
GA called by:
Steven J. Kyle

Facts:

On Nov. 16, 2013, plaintiffs’ decedent J.D. Gibbs Sr., 91, a retired farmer, was driving a Ford F-150 pickup truck on Sledge Road near his home in rural Worth County. Jimmy Lee Pitts was traveling in the opposite direction in a truck tractor, without a trailer. The vehicles collided. Gibbs died two days later from his injuries. Pitts and his employer, Ty Ty Farms, were insured by Penn Millers Insurance Co. Gibbs, a widower, was living independently at the time of the accident, but was under hospice care for congestive heart failure. He was survived by his four adult daughters, plaintiffs Patricia Naron, Linda Drawdie, Doris Etheridge and Judy Drawdie. His grandson was the executor of his estate. Gibbs’ estate and daughters sued Penn Millers for negligence on the part of Pitts and Ty Ty Farms. The plaintiffs alleged that Pitts was speeding and negligently crossed the center line. He also alleged that Ty Ty had negligently retained him. A neighbor who was a friend of Gibbs’ told state police that he saw the tractor speed around a curve, lose control and hit Gibbs’ pickup. He also said Gibbs was driving slowly and close to the right shoulder as he usually did. The neighbor’s brother also told police that he saw the wreck from his own tractor, and that the driver who hit Gibbs was speeding and at fault. The speed limit was 55 mph. Each side had an accident reconstruction expert. The plaintiffs’ expert concluded that Gibbs was in his lane and that the oncoming tractor was speeding and crossed the center line. The plaintiffs claimed that Pitts had exceeded the company’s limit of three moving violations in three years. Plaintiffs’ counsel said Pitts had nine violations, including three for speeding more than 20 mph over the limit. The defense accident reconstructionist opined that Pitts perceived some sort of emergency and "locked up" his brakes before the accident. Pitts was charged with vehicular homicide. He asserted his right under the Fifth Amendment not to testify. However, he told his supervisor that Gibbs came into his lane.

Injury:

Gibbs was airlifted to a hospital and admitted to intensive care, where he died two days later. His injuries included a spinal fracture without cord injury, a fractured wrist, a subdural hematoma and contusions. Plaintiffs’ counsel said that Gibbs was conscious and aware of his suffering. The past medical bills were about $90,000. Gibbs had been an Army medic in World War II.

Result:

The case settled for $2 million, which was the policy limit. Penn Millers’ registered agent was located in Fulton County. At the time of the settlement, the case was in the process of being transferred to Worth County.

Trial Information:

Judge:

Wesley Taylor

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiffs’ and defense counsel.