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Harris Lowry Manton LLP Secures $27M Verdict in Truck Accident Case

Harris Lowry Manton LLP Secures $27M Verdict in Truck Accident Case

Harris Lowry Manton LLP recently secured a $27 million verdict from a federal jury against Latium USA Trading LLC (“Latium”) and its driver, Michael Turner. Our client was awarded more than $4.5 million in compensatory damages and another $20 million in punitive damages, along with attorneys’ fees of $1.8 million.

Partner Jed Manton served as lead attorney for the plaintiff, 81-year-old Judith Fielder of Eatonton, Georgia. Mrs. Fielder suffered multiple catastrophic injuries. She had multiple surgeries during her 45 days in various hospitals.

Mr. Manton issued the following statement after the jury verdict was returned:

It is an honor to represent Judy and her husband, Bill. This verdict sends a clear and undeniable message that truck drivers and their employers must take safety seriously.  In this day and age, it is unacceptable to operate a fleet of heavy trucks and trailers and provide no safety training, have zero safety policies for your drivers, and provide no training or instruction on the federal law applicable to truckers.

Partners Jeff Harris and Molly McNeeley were on the Fielders’ trial team; Steven McNeel, partner at Buzzell, Welsh and Hill, LLP, served as co-counsel.

Ms. McNeeley added:

Judy Fielder is a wonderful woman who led a very active life before this wreck happened.  She loved swimming with her grandchildren and performing volunteer work, and she was deeply involved in her church and community. These injuries have permanently affected every aspect of her life. We are deeply gratified that, with this award, she will be able to receive the care and assistance she needs, and she and Bill will be able to make the modifications that will let them stay in their home for as long as possible.

About the case

HLM attorneys discuss why Georgia’s laws regarding damage caps hurt people.

In November of 2020, Mrs. Fielder was traveling north on GA-44 in Putnam County. Michael Turner, who was employed by Latium USA Trading LLC, was driving a Freightliner box truck southbound on the same road. GA-44 is a two-lane highway separated by a double yellow line, which means no passing is allowed. In this particular stretch of roadway, visibility is low because the road curves.

On that day, someone was driving a farm tractor southbound on GA-44, a few vehicles ahead of Mr. Turner. Mr. Turner attempted to pass that tractor (and the vehicles in between them) by crossing over that yellow line – despite the limited visibility – and driving into oncoming traffic. Furthermore, at the location where Mr. Turner entered the northbound lane, there was a drop-off and no shoulder to the east of the northbound lane.

The car traveling in front of Mrs. Fielder slowed and moved over to the right in an attempt to avoid a collision. Mrs. Fielder did, too, but she hit the car in front of her. As a result, she ended up crossing the southbound lane and crashing down the embankment, colliding with trees.

All of this is tragic enough – but Mr. Turner didn’t even stop. After negligently and recklessly crossing a double line and driving his Freightliner box truck into oncoming traffic on GA-44, all while wearing headphones, Mr. Turner then continued traveling for another 14 miles before he was finally stopped by law enforcement in Gray, Georgia.

While the driver’s actions were shocking, during discovery we learned of a far more troubling pattern of corporate negligence and disregard of safety by his employer. Latium did not verify its driver’s references or employment history, it required its drivers to complete dangerously lengthy routes each day, and it did not provide any training on driving safety, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations, or federal hours-of-service limits. Even the drivers’ supervisor received almost no training on federal safety requirements. After the wreck, Latium’s transportation manager gathered documents related to Mr. Turner’s trip and his hours-of-service records at the request of upper management, but upper management then failed to preserve these records, in direct violation of federal law. Evidence at trial showed Mr. Turner’s electronic logs were deleted while those of another Latium driver, who was not involved in a wreck, could still be accessed years later.

For over two years, Latium and its driver failed to accept any responsibility for causing the wreck and placed all the blame on Judy Fielder and others. Two days before trial started, Latium and its driver finally acknowledged some fault for the collision. The jury, as shown by its verdict, did not buy into this eleventh-hour half-hearted attempt to acknowledge their egregious conduct that led to horrific injuries.

About Mrs. Fielder’s injuries

Mrs. Fielder sustained injuries that would have been devastating to a survivor of any age – but as an 81-year-old, she was at even greater risk. Her injuries included several broken ribs, a fractured sternum, and a broken arm that all required fixation surgeries, a spinal compression fracture that also required surgery, a cracked kneecap, a humeral head fracture, and a pulmonary embolism. As a result of Mr. Turner’s and Latium’s negligence, she lives every day in pain and with reduced mobility.

We have included some exhibits here to show the extent of those injuries:


How the jury reached its decision

The trial began on February 27, 2023, and ended on March 3, 2023. The jury’s decision was rendered in two phases.

Phase I deliberations returned a verdict in favor of our client:

[The] jury awarded damages to Plaintiff Judith Fielder in the amount of $4,765,000.00 for her past and future medical expenses and non-economic damages and to William Fielder in the amount of $250,000.00 for loss of consortium. The jury allocated fault as follows: 10% to Plaintiff Judith Fielder, 30% to Defendant Michael Turner, and 60% to Defendant Latium USA Trading LLC. The jury further found that Defendant Michael Turner acted in bad faith and found by clear and convincing evidence that the Plaintiffs were entitled to punitive damages.

Phase II of deliberations awarded our clients additional compensation for attorneys’ fees, as well as $20 million in punitive damages.

Harris Lowry Manton LLP will always fight for justice on behalf of injury victims in Georgia. We are the only Georgia law firm to secure #1 verdicts in seven different areas of civil liability and injury law.

Lead trial attorney and Harris Lowry Manton LLP partner Jed Manton is available for media interviews about the Fielder verdict. Please contact him at 404-961-7650 or to schedule an interview.

To schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation with an injury attorney from Harris Lowry Manton LLP, please call us in Atlanta or Savannah, or fill out our contact form. Proudly serving clients throughout all of Georgia.

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