Gwinnett Jury Awards $3.5 Million to Woman Attacked by Janitor   Leave a comment

On October 26, 2008, Render C. Freeman won a $3.5 million verdict from a Gwinnett County jury against HTH Building Services, Inc., a commercial cleaning company. Mr. Freeman was assisted in the six-day trial by associate M.J. Blakely.

The case arose out of the November 16, 2005 attempted murder of Jane Doe. Ms. Doe was working late in her Buckhead high-rise office when she was attacked by a member of the HTH cleaning crew. The janitor robbed Ms. Doe of her jewelry, choked her until she was unconscious, and, as she lay disabled on the floor of her office, he stomped on her face, attempting to crush her skull and thereby eliminate the only witness who could testify against him.

Fortunately, the janitor’s attempted murder was unsuccessful and Ms. Doe awoke 30 minutes after the attack. She immediately called security. When security arrived with the Atlanta Police Department, Ms. Doe identified her attacker as the HTH janitor.

During the attack, Ms. Doe sustained multiple jaw fractures, a fractured shoulder, an asymptomatic subdural hematoma and an asymptomatic subarachnoid hemorrhage. After several months of medical treatment, Ms. Doe fully recovered physically but continues to deal with the obvious emotional impact of her attack.

Shortly after the attack, Ms. Doe came to Render C. Freeman of Andersen, Tate & Carr and requested that he and his legal team investigate the matter. After nine months of investigation, the team concluded that Ms. Doe had viable claims against the cleaning company that had hired this janitor and thereby entrusted him with the building keys. Among other things, the team learned that, at the time that this janitor had been hired, there were three outstanding warrants for his arrest in California. One of these warrants was for knifing someone over a parking space. Another was for badly beating a woman in the streets of San Diego. The team also learned that the janitor had been jailed in California for these and other crimes from September of 2001 to May of 2002 and then moved to Georgia in late 2003.

HTH Building Services, Inc. hired this janitor six months prior to the attack. At trial, the company’s representatives testified that company policy required them to collect a ten-year job history, carefully interview, screen and reference-check this janitor and subject him to a “security check.” HTH did not collect this ten-year job history, did not interview, screen or reference-check this janitor, and, as for the “security check,” HTH ran a Georgia-only criminal background search with the Chamblee Police Department at a cost of $5.00.

Chief Marc Johnson of the Chamblee Police Department testified at trial in support of the Plaintiff’s case. Chief Johnson explained that his agency’s $5 criminal background search would not reveal any criminal arrests or convictions from other states and could only reveal some warrants issued by other states. According to Chief Johnson, if a company wants a national criminal history on a job applicant, it must learn where the applicant is from and contact the law enforcement authorities in that part of the country. For this reason, the Chamblee Police Department is frequently contacted by employers in other states who are investigating job applicants who once lived in Georgia.

After a six day trial, including more than 20 witnesses and 150 exhibits, the jury only needed two hours to deliberate. Their verdict included over $70,000 in lost wages and medical expenses, $1 million in past pain and suffering, $1 million for future pain and suffering, and $1.4 million in attorney’s fees.

Mr. Freeman and his team specialize in representing individuals who are seriously injured as a result of negligent hiring, negligent security, premises liability, medical malpractice, as well as motor-vehicle and trucking negligence.

For additional information, you may contact Mr. Freeman at 770-236-9751 and RFreeman@ATCLawFirm.com or Mr. Blakely at 770-339-0475 and MJBlakely@ATCLawFirm.com.

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