Verdicts & Settlements
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.”
Jones v. CSX
After three long years, Richard and Elizabeth Jones, parents of camera assistant Sarah Elizabeth Jones, have come to the end of a long, painful road of both investigation and litigation. Harris Lowry Manton LLP secured an $11.2 million jury verdict in the case of Jones v CSX, a resounding jury confirmation that the 2014 death of the vibrant and talented 27-year-old was the result of the negligence of multiple parties, including CSX Transportation. Sarah was fatally struck by a train while working on the film Midnight Rider.
In this complicated case, which began with multiple defendants -- all of whom either settled out of court with the plaintiffs or were dismissed by HLM -- defendant CSX attempted to blame the victim for the tragedy, asserting the film crew should not have been on the tracks in the first place. The company also claimed the train operator could not see people on the tracks, and once he was upon the crew, could not slow down or stop as it would cause the train to derail.
After hearing the facts presented by HLM's legal team, the jury sided with the plaintiffs, speaking clearly through their unanimous verdict of $11.2 million, of which CSX is responsible for 35%.
HLM Partner Jeff Harris explained, “Richard and Elizabeth Jones’ objectives in filing this lawsuit have been clear and unwavering: To find out what happened on the day of their daughter’s death, determine who was responsible, hold those who made reckless and careless decisions accountable and, finally, ensure this kind of tragedy never happens again on another film set. With this verdict, the last step in our journey together, we have achieved those objectives."
When asked their reaction to the verdict, Richard Jones, on behalf of the family said, "We are at peace."
Green v. Moon
On November 17, 2011, a Gwinnett County State Court Jury awarded $9.85 Million to surviving parents Kemi Green and Gbolohan Bankolemoh of Abiola Bankolemoh. The judgment included $9.8 Million in damages for the wrongful death of their almost two-year-old son and another $50,000 in pain and suffering.
During the four-day civil trial, over which Judge John Doran presided, plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey R. Harris of Harris Lowry Manton, along with R. Alan Cleveland of Kenny, Solomon & Medina, detailed the tragic events that led up to the death of Abiola.
Co-defendants Tanya and Shawn Moon were running an unlicensed, unregulated and illegal daycare facility out of the Buford property owned by the third defendant, Terry Moon, Shawn Moon’s father.
Believing a home-based daycare environment would be better for her two young sons, Green, a pediatric nurse, interviewed Tanya and Shawn Moon who claimed their operation was state-approved and regulated. In fact, it was not.
On March 19, 2009, while under Tanya’s care, Abiola was left unattended for a period of time. He exited the back of the house, fell into the unsecured pool on the property and drowned.
“This tragic case shines a bright light on two major issues: unlicensed daycare in Georgia as well as pool safety,” said Harris. “Parents should check with state agencies for licensing information before enrolling their children in any program, especially home-based ones. And, if a daycare owner has a pool, it must meet all county codes for safety and security. It is their responsibility to keep all children under their care safe. In this case, the daycare operators and property owner failed to do so on multiple levels.”
Wyckstandt v. Gwinnett Hospital System
On November 21, 2000, Richard and Wendy Wyckstandt had their second son, Austin, at Gwinnett Medical Center. Unrelated to this case, Austin was born with a congenital heart defect and later died.
Wendy was released from the hospital two days after giving birth, but was readmitted on November 25. She was diagnosed with toxemia/preeclampsia. When her mother came to visit Wendy on the morning of November 28, she found her daughter drowned in the shower. Wendy was revived, transferred to ICU, but died about 24 hours later.
Evidence at trial showed that the hospital failed to follow its own policies and should have assisted Wendy whenever she was out of bed. Jeff Harris served as lead counsel for the Wyckstandt family with the assistance of Jed Manton, then an associate at HLM. Harris noted, “When we first got involved in the Wyckstandt case many did not feel that a patient would be able to win against a hospital in Gwinnett County. We always believed in this case and were very pleased that the jury was able to see that Wendy’s death was entirely preventable if she had received proper medical care.” Since the verdict, there have been several other large verdicts in Gwinnett County involving poor medical care.
Harris Lowry Manton helped the Wyckstandt family secure a $5 million verdict against the hospital system for its negligence. According to Jed Manton, “Successes at trial often turn on finding the piece of evidence that the defense is overlooking. The Wyckstandt trial is a prime example, where we were able to show through the hospitals internal polices, as well as their surveillance tapes, that the defense they put up to the jury was not an accurate account of what led to Wendy’s death.”
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.
Bernecker v. AMC et al.
On July 12, 2017, 33-year-old stunt actor John Bernecker was fatally injured following a scripted high fall from a balcony on the set of “The Walking Dead” season 8 in Senoia, Ga. Harris Lowry Manton LLP partner Jeff Harris served as the lead trial attorney representing Susan Bernecker, the mother of John Bernecker, in Bernecker v. AMC et al.
On December 19, 2019, a jury in the State Court of Gwinnett County in Atlanta returned an $8.6 million verdict against Stalwart Films, LLC; TWD Productions VIII, LLC and other defendants, following a six-day trial. The trial team included Jeff Harris, Rebecca Franklin Harris and Yvonne S. Godfrey.
Throughout the trial, Harris argued that John Bernecker’s death was preventable, explaining that The Walking Dead’s production companies and representatives failed to follow AMC’s safety policies and procedures regarding the stunt Bernecker filmed for Episode 807 of the popular TV show. Harris demonstrated a failure to provide a dedicated on-set production safety representative, as outlined in AMC’s Injury and Illness Prevention Program safety manual, as well as a number of other safety-related issues that ultimately contributed to Bernecker’s death.
“John was a remarkably talented stunt professional who had an incredibly bright future in the film industry,” Harris said following the verdict. “My sincere hope is this verdict sends a clear message regarding the need to both elevate and strictly adhere to industry safety standards every day, on every shoot, on every film set. John’s tragic and preventable death happened as a result of a series of safety-related failures. Learning from these failures will go a long way in making sure that similar tragedies do not happen to another performer or another family.”
Born in New Orleans, La., in 1984, Bernecker was an accomplished stunt performer with nearly 100 film credits over the course of his career. He was honored at the 2018 Television Emmy Awards and nominated in both television and film performances at the 2018 SAG Awards. Bernecker was known for his stunt work on major productions like Ninja Turtles 1 & 2 (2014-2016), 22 Jump Street (2014), Logan (2017) and Fantastic Four (2015).
Wrongful death settlement involving a young man
Allen v. Consolidated OB-Gyn, Dekalb Surgical Associates
Kathleen Allen’s daughter, Tanyka Brydson, was admitted to DeKalb Medical Center to give birth to her twins via cesarean section. Tanyka’s incision area became infected and required immediate, aggressive treatment as well as timely surgical intervention. Instead, it was delayed.
Ultimately, Tanyka underwent multiple surgical debridements as her condition continued to worsen during her hospitalization at DeKalb Medical Center. Her mother had her transferred to another hospital where she ultimately died due to multi-system organ failure secondary to necrotizing fasciitis. DeKalb Medical Center failed to properly diagnose, treat and care for Tanyka.
Jeff Harris and Steve Lowry served as lead trial counsel, along with Jed Manton, in what defense counsel called the most complex medical malpractice case they had ever been involved in. Jeff Harris, however, explained, “While the underlying medicine was complex, HLM prides itself in being able to take the most complex issues and figure out a way to explain these concepts in a manner that the jury can relate to and understand. At the end of the day, this case was about the failures of the treatment team to recognize text book examples of a spreading infection. Tragically, Tanyka did not receive proper medical care and died as a result.”
Steve Lowry noted, “Tanyka suffered greatly because her post-surgical infection was not properly treated. We were able to use the defendants’ notations in her medical records to prove that timely intervention would have prevented this tragic result.” With the help of the HLM team, Ms. Allen sued the physicians responsible for the negligent care of her daughter and won a $4.3 million verdict.