Verdicts & Settlements
Sasser v. Ford Motor Company
On June 15, 2000, Kelsey Sasser, age 6, was riding in the rear center seat of her mother’s 2000 Lincoln LS sedan. The rear seats were equipped with special latches permitting them to fold down to provide extra cargo space and access to the trunk.
The car was involved in a frontal collision and Kelsey Sasser’s seat collapsed on her, causing spinal injuries. Kelsey is now paralyzed from the chest down and will require assisted care for the remainder of her life.
Harris Lowry Manton LLP worked with Kelsey’s mother to sue the manufacturer of the car, on Kelsey’s behalf, alleging that the seat collapsed as a result of a defective seat back latch. Jeff Harris explained, “Representing children who are catastrophically injured is a great responsibility. We were fighting to make sure that Kelsey would always have access to the highest level of medical care available. Had Ford done what a reasonable manufacturer would have done, this tragedy would never have occurred.”
The plaintiffs also sought punitive damages, asserting that Ford knew about design problems with the latch as early as 1993. The company changed the design on its 2001 LS models but failed to recall the 2000 sedan.
In this case, HLM secured combined compensatory and punitive damages against Ford totaling $47.7 million.
Terhune v. Forum Group Corp et al.
Loretta Terhune was awarded $8.5 million in actual damages and $35 million in punitive damages as a result of the poor care her father received during the eight months he was a resident at Moran Lake Road Nursing Home in Rome, Ga.
Terhune sued Forum Medical, the company that owned and operated Moran Lake. Her father, Morris Ellison, was malnourished, dehydrated, denied medical care for a broken hip and ultimately died after what was supposed to be a temporary stay as he received post-operative rehabilitative care. He was otherwise in good health.
Steve Lowry, lead counsel, explained, “The care provided by this nursing home was horrific. The owner was using health insurance payments to fund his lavish lifestyle while depriving the nurse home residents of basic care. The large punitive damages award should serve as a wakeup call that the citizens of Georgia will not tolerate those who abuse the elderly.”
With the help of Harris Lowry Manton, Ms. Terhune’s case brought the largest judgment against a nursing home facility in the history of the State of Georgia.
Mundy v. Ford Motor Company
On November 1, 2005, Jessica pulled her Ford Explorer into a parking space in front of the post office located in McDonough, Georgia. She intended to drop off a package in an outside drop box when she put her vehicle in park and conversed with a friend on her cell phone for several minutes.
She then opened the driver’s side door, exited the vehicle and walked toward the drop box. As she approached the sidewalk, the vehicle suddenly, and without warning, shifted into reverse from the park position and began to roll backward.
Jessica immediately returned to the vehicle and attempted to reach the shifter lever to place the vehicle back in park. As she tried to get back in the vehicle she was struck by the driver’s side door on the moving vehicle and knocked down. The vehicle ran over her, causing a fracture of her spine. As a result she was rendered a paraplegic.
In 2009, Harris Lowry Manton sued Ford Motor Company on behalf of Jessica Mundy and her husband, Butts County Sheriff Ken Mundy, and secured a $40 million verdict.
HLM was able to show that Ford Motor Company had known for decades that their transmissions suffered from a defect known as false park. In addition to obtaining the verdict on behalf of the Mundy family, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened an investigation to examine the transmissions defects. According to Jeff Harris, “Obtaining justice for Jessica and Ken was extremely rewarding and knowing that the work HLM did on this case led to a federal investigation of Ford was a great accomplishment for consumers nationwide.”
HLM’s trial team consisted of Jeff Harris, Steve Lowry and Jed Manton. Steve Lowry noted, “When an individual sues a company such as Ford, claiming that hundreds of thousands of its vehicles are defective, rest assured that Ford will put its unlimited resources behind its defense. At HLM, we are very proud of our track record of going toe to toe against the largest companies in the world and being able to prove where their decisions have harmed their consumers. The Mundy verdict is a great example of what can be accomplished with hard work and determination.”
Chhetri v. Michelin
After a seven-day trial, the jury returned a verdict for the Plaintiff, represented by Harris Lowry Manton, and awarded $16,520,000 in damages in Chhetri vs. Michelin, a product liability and wrongful death case. HLM’s Jeff Harris served as lead counsel.
On March 22, 2011, 50 year-old Mr. Kharka Chhetri, beloved husband and father, died after the failure of a defective tire on a 15-passenger van in which he was a passenger. The tread completely separated from the tire, causing the van to go out of control, hit a guardrail, and roll over.
Mr. Chhetri, his wife, Ganga, and his three children, refugees from Bhutan, immigrated to the United States in 2009 through a United Nations resettlement program. Mr. Chhetri was traveling on I-75 south near Forsyth, Georgia, along with 14 other passengers, all of whom were on their way to work in Perry, Georgia, when the tire caused the van to crash.
Mr. Chhetri’s case was the first to go to trial of the 14 cases that Harris Lowry Manton has filed on behalf of the van passengers. As pointed out by attorney Jeff Harris, the Chhetri case “essentially was a bellwether trial for this accident.”
On behalf of Mr. Chhetri’s widow, Ganga, HLM demonstrated to the jury that Defendant Michelin North America, Inc. negligently designed and manufactured the defective tire that failed, a LT245/75R16 120Q Uniroyal Laredo Tire. HLM also demonstrated that Michelin knew, or should have known, that the tire was defective and dangerous, but it failed to warn the public of this danger, showing a conscious indifference to the consequences and warranting punitive damages.
Michelin argued that its tire was not defectively designed or manufactured, but the jury rejected this inaccurate defense. The jury also elected to award punitive damages in the amount of $11,500,000 against Michelin, in addition to the $5,020,000 awarded for the value of Mr. Chhetri’s life, his conscious pain and suffering, and funeral expenses.
After obtaining the verdict, which is one of the largest defective tire verdicts in Georgia history, HLM was able to settle the remaining cases for amounts that are confidential at the defendants’ request. Jeff Harris noted, “This refugee community was devastated by the loss of two of its members and catastrophic injuries to numerous others as a result of the defective tire. It was an honor to obtain justice on behalf of these hard-working families.”
Zakrocki v. Ford Motor Company
Rebekah Zakrocki was traveling at highway speeds between 65 to 70 mph along the Garden State Parkway in New Jersey at around 9:45 a.m. on November 10, 2000 when she lost control of her vehicle after the throttle stuck. She had to stomp on the gas pedal to release it, which, in turn, resulted in the car lunging forward. Ms. Zakrocki made a sharp turn to the left to avoid hitting a car in front of her, followed by a sharp turn to the right, her SUV eventually rolled over.
Ms. Zakrocki’s Explorer failed Ford’s internal objective for passenger vehicles in that it rolled over by virtue of steering inputs alone – an on-road friction rollover. Ms. Zakrocki sustained serious, long-term injuries as a result of the vehicle malfunction.
Steve Lowry of Harris Lowry Manton LLP was brought on to try the case because of his extensive background in product liability cases. Steve noted, “It's always an honor when another law firm asks you to try a case with them. Getting to try this case with Barry Eichen of New Jersey was a wonderful experience. We were able to show that Rebekah’s Explorer suffered from a defect which Ford knew about for years and obtain the compensation that she deserved.”
Harris Lowry Manton LLP secured an $10.6 million verdict against Ford for its negligence.
Automobile defect resulting in
spinal cord injury
Hamby v. Chrysler
On July 27, 2002, Plaintiff Lori Hamby was hanging clothes on a clothesline in the yard of her grandmother’s house in Forsyth County. Her boyfriend was cleaning the family van parked nearby and watching their two-year-old daughter, Madison.
All of the doors to the van were open to allow access for vacuuming the van’s interior. Madison was standing in the van assisting with the cleaning. Her dad turned and walked a short distance away to get a bottle of cleaner when he heard the van begin to move behind him. He turned and saw the vehicle roll down the driveway with Madison still inside.
He chased after the van and fell down trying to stop it from rolling. Lori Hamby heard him scream for help and also began to chase the van. Both were unable to stop it from rolling down the driveway where it struck a small tree.
Madison fell out and was pinned under the right front tire. The toddler was pronounced dead at the scene due to the injuries she sustained when the van rolled over and crushed her. The van rolled down the driveway because it was not equipped with a brake shift interlock device, allowing Madison to shift the vehicle out of park and into gear.
Experts on the issue of brake shift interlock, HLM partners successfully sued Chrysler for wrongful death and negligence, securing a $4.5 million verdict for Lori Hamby. Jeff Harris, lead counsel, explained, “The auto manufactures have known for years that children often mimic their parents and try to shift vehicles out of park. Chrysler made the decision to not utilize the safety features which would have prevented this horrific accident.”
The Hamby verdict was the first case to hold Chrysler responsible for failing to use this basic technology and since this verdict, HLM has obtained numerous settlements against automobile manufactures for their failure to timely implement brake shift interlock technology in their vehicles.