Miss Brandi Trips Over Wire in her Yard – Recovery $385,000   Leave a comment

At 85 years old, Miss Brandi had been living independently in Florida, volunteering at her church and managing several rental properties.  She was still as sharp as a tack, but her daughters wanted her closer to home in case her ability to live independently started to change. After some initial resistance to the idea, Miss Brandi agreed and began to look for a home in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia.

After a good bit of research, Miss Brandi found a home in a neighborhood where the owners had to be older than 55.  This was going to be a nice, quiet place for her to make new friends in her age group while continuing to live independently.

The phone company activated service to Miss Brandi’s new home before construction was even complete.  In doing so, they left a temporary wire strewn across her side yard. This was their normal practice, but the installation technician forgot to place the order for the temporary wire to be buried.  The temporary wire was pencil-then and black; even younger eyes would not have been able to see it as it wound through the grass in Brandi’s new side yard.  And no one at the phone company ever bothered to warn Brandi or her daughters about it.  They just left it there for months. 

Brandi's Side Yard Where the Phone Company Left it's Wire

Miss Brandi’s new home sat on a nice lot with plenty of room for her gardens.  She was excited to do some fall planting.  She found a landscaping company that was going out of business and offering great deals.  Brandi surveyed her yard, trying to decide where to put her azaleas and hydrangeas.  As she walked down her side yard, she felt an odd sensation.  Something was tugging at her foot.  Before she knew it, she was headed for the ground, and there was nothing she could do about it.

She hit the ground face first and hard.  She wasn’t strong enough to brace herself with her arms; so her head and neck took the brunt of the impact.  She felt her neck pop and was in immediate pain.  She couldn’t get up. This was embarrassing. She called for help, but no one heard her.  Eventually, she was able to pull herself up on the air conditioning unit and get to her feet.

About an hour later, her daughter arrived. Miss Brandi was embarrassed about the fall and didn’t want to tell her daughter.  But her daughter saw the mud on Miss Brandi’s knees and asked her what had happened.  Brandi was still in a lot of pain from the fall and didn’t have the energy to argue with her daughter; so she confessed.

Initially, they thought that Miss Brandi was going to be OK; however, within a few days of the fall, Miss Brandi began experiencing arm pain that was so severe that she believed she was having a heart attack. They rushed her to the ER, but the doctor’s quickly determined that Brandi was, in fact, suffering from radicular pain originating from her cervical spine.  Within a month of Brandi’s fall, she was diagnosed with a right cervical radiculopathy. 

After a failed attempt to resolve these issues through conservative treatments such as physical therapy and cervical epidural steroid injections, Miss Brandi underwent a three-level cervical fusion (C4 through C7). The surgeon’s did great work, but Brandi had an extremely difficult time recovering from the anesthesia and had to be hospitalized for weeks.  At the end of the day, she had more than $180,000 in medical expenses.

Brandi's Surgery

Representing Elderly Clients.  In any injury case, the defendant will target the claimant’s medical history. They will dig and dig, hoping to find a visit to a doctor that predates their negligence where the claimant complains of the same symptoms. 

For elderly claimants with much longer medical histories, this process can be daunting.  The phone company’s lawyers pointed to several aspects of Miss Brandi’s medical history as evidence that her neck problems pre-dated her fall in the yard.  To combat this strategy, Mr. Freeman located these doctors from decades ago and arranged their video depositions. Each of the doctors testified favorably to Miss Brandi’s case, and eventually the phone company and its lawyers ran out of ammunition.

 

Georgia’s Comparative Negligence Rule.  Is Miss Brandi to blame for her fall?  Should she have just been “watching where she was going?”  That’s what the phone company said.

In this regard, Miss Brandi’s case is an excellent example of Georgia’s Comparative Negligence Rule.  Rule #1. In Georgia, the jury must compare the fault of Miss Brandi with the fault of the defendant.  If the jury were to decide that Miss Brandi was equally at fault for her injury (i.e., 50/50), the jury would be required under the doctrine of comparative negligence to return a verdict in favor of the defendant and award nothing to Miss Brandi.  Rule #2. However, if the jury were to decide that Miss Brandi was not as much to blame as the defendant phone company (for example, only 49% at fault), this doctrine would allow them to compensate her but would require them to reduce her compensation by the percentage of her fault – 49% in the example.  This second rule applies all the way down to 1%; in other words, if the jury were to decide that Miss Brandi was 1% at fault, they would be required to reduce her compensation by only 1%. 

In most other states, comparative negligence is not the rule.  Many states would allow Miss Brandi to recover even if her degree of fault was 99%, but the jury would be required to reduce her recovery by that percentage.  Thus, Rule #1 of Georgia’s Comparative Negligence Rule is nothing short of high-stakes poker.  If it’s a close call on which party bears the most fault, Miss Brandi faces the risk that the jury will not compensate her at all.

Your Choice of Trial Attorney makes all the Difference.  Overcoming Georgia’s comparative negligence rule presents a unique challenge to clients like Miss Brandi. How would the jury apply this doctrine to Miss Brandi’s case? 

Experts believe that juries don’t fully understand the verdicts that they return.  For that reason, Mr. Freeman regularly attends national conferences on both jury psychology and the art of persuasion.  From the moment he is retained as your trial attorney to the moment your trial begins, Mr. Freeman uses this training to devise a trial strategy that will overcome the legal and factual obstacles you face.  Comparative negligence is just one of many.

Happy Ending for Miss Brandi.  After investing hundreds of hours of legal work and over $20,000 in expenses, Mr. Freeman was able to successfully negotiate a settlement with the phone company for $385,000.   Miss Brandi was very pleased that her case did not have to go to a jury trial and even more excited that she could start getting her life back to normal.

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