Craig Terrett Obtains Favorable Verdict – Plaintiff Requests $6 Million; Jury Awards $150,000

Craig Terrett of Cruser, Mitchell, Novitz, Sanchez, Gaston & Zimet, LLP obtained a favorable verdict from a Banks County jury in an alleged traumatic brain injury case in which the Plaintiffs asked the jury for $4,067,000.00 in compensatory damages and $618,000.00 in attorneys’ fees and expenses pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11. The jury ultimately returned a verdict of $150,000.00 in compensatory damages and awarded no attorneys’ fees.

The Plaintiffs alleged that their 88-year-old mother, Mildred Collins, was knocked down by an employee of a Ryan’s Steakhouse that they had visited for Thanksgiving in November of 2017.  Plaintiffs argued that Mrs. Collins struck her head when she fell, in addition to injuring her ankle and hip and fracturing her wrist. The Plaintiffs’ primary claim was that the alleged head injury worsened Mrs. Collins’ pre-existing dementia and Alzheimer’s to the point where she was no longer able to perform activities of daily living and that ultimately required her to be admitted into hospice care. Ryan’s admitted at trial that its employee was at fault for knocking Mrs. Collins down but disputed the nature and extent of her alleged injuries.

Mr. Terrett took over the case from other counsel less than four months prior to trial. Prior to his involvement, the Court had granted the Plaintiffs’ Motion for Spoliation of a handwritten incident report that the on-duty Ryan’s manager said she prepared. As a sanction, the Court entered an Order that the jury was to be instructed to make certain presumptions, including that Mrs. Collins hit her head on the floor when she was knocked down, was not moving immediately after being knocked down, was initially unresponsive, had a bump on her forehead and had a bruise on her forehead. These defense was successful at rebutting these presumptions by showing the lack of any evidence in Mrs. Collins’ medical records to indicate that she had suffered a head injury. Plaintiffs’ expert, Dr. Said Elshihabi, a neurosurgeon, opined that Mrs. Collins suffered a head injury in the Ryan’s incident based upon his review of medical records and deposition testimony. His opinions were rebutted, however, by Dr. Steve Shindell, a neuropsychologist, and by Plaintiffs’ own treating physician.

A month and a half before trial, the defense made an Offer of Judgment pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68 in the amount of $300,000.00, which was rejected. Plaintiffs also rejected a $500,000.00 settlement offer just before closing arguments.

The trial lasted six days and it took the jury approximately two hours to reach a verdict. Following the trial, the defense team spoke with some of the jurors and they indicated that they did not believe Mrs. Collins suffered a traumatic brain injury in the fall and the compensatory damages award was for the orthopedic injuries that the defense admitted she suffered as a result of the incident.

Mr. Terrett has filed a Motion for Attorney’s fees pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-68 in the amount of $76,883.67. The Plaintiffs have filed a Motion for Additur or, in the Alternative, for a New Trial on Damages. Both of these motions are pending.