Archive for the ‘Defendant’ Tag

Trinity Hundredmark Appears as Legal Analyst Discussing “Banning the Box”

HundredmarkTrinity Hundredmark recently appeared as a legal analyst on Cavuto on the Fox Business Network.   Trinity discussed an administrative order issued by  Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn “banning the box” on applications for state government jobs. Pursuant to the order, state government job applicants with criminal histories will no longer have to check a box disclosing that they have been convicted of, or pled guilty to, a crime.  Trinity explained that by removing the box, every individual gets a fair opportunity to make a first impression and stand on their job qualifications, at least initially.

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Qualifying a Georgia Jury – What can you ask them on the topic of Insurance?   Leave a comment

In car wreck cases in Georgia, the jury is not allowed to know whether or how much insurance the defendant has available to satisfy a verdict and judgment against him or her.  However, jurors must be qualified as to whether they are shareholders, officers, directors or employees of the defendant’s insurance carrier, and, when it’s a mutual insurance company such as State Farm, jurors must also be qualified as to whether they or their family members are policy holders of the defendant’s insurance company.

Defendants get testy about this because they believe that the qualification of the jury as to the insurance carrier is a gaping loophole in the law that allows the jury to essentially be told that the defendant has insurance.  In Park v Nichols, 2011 Ga. App. LEXIS 95, (Feb. 15, 2011), the defendant’s Insurer, Nationwide Mutual Fire Insurance Company was mentioned by name four times.  First, the Trial Court pre-qualified the jury as to officers, directors, shareholders, and employers of Nationwide. Next, the Court asked if any members of the panel were policy holders of Nationwide. Then, the Court asked if any jurors were related by blood or marriage to a director, agent, shareholder, or employee of Nationwide.  The defense team moved for a mistrial but the trial court refused.  On appeal, the Georgia Court of Appeals agreed, holding that repeating the name of the insurer is appropriate in questioning the prospective jurors about their potential financial interest in the outcome of the case. 

These rules essentially choose between the lesser of two evils. The alternative would be to allow a senior executive of Nationwide to sit on a jury in which one of his customers was being blamed for a wreck. Of course not.

Many defense teams also complain when the plaintiff asks about the employment background of the prospective jurors and specifically asks whether they or their family members work in the insurance industry.  Georgia law permits these questions as well and for good reason.  For example, if a prospective juror has been a Nationwide personal injury adjuster for forty years, the Plaintiff is entitled to know that information and to factor it in to her preemptive strikes.  See Norfolk vs. Perkins, 24 Ga App 552 (1997) (holding that prospective juror’s insurance background was a legitimate rationale for plaintiff’s preemptory strike as non-race based rationale).

Court of Appeals Strikes Down Comparative Negligence Pattern Charge   Leave a comment

The Georgia Court of Appeals has struck down the pattern jury charge on comparative negligence that has been in use for decades. 

In Clark v. Rush, Case No. A11A1418 (Ga. Ct. App., Nov. 1, 2011), a Georgia Plaintiff was allegedly injured in a car wreck when Defendant pulled out in front of her. The Defendant argued the Plaintiff was speeding and was thus partly at fault for the wreck.

The trial judge gave the pattern jury instruction on comparative negligence. This charge instructs the jury that if it finds the plaintiff was at fault, but less at fault than the defendant, the jury is to reduce its award “in proportion to” the plaintiff’s negligence. But the jury was not given a special verdict form allowing it to specify the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff. Defendant’s attorney timely objected to the charge and the verdict form. The jury awarded Rush $20,000, and Defendant appealed.

The Court of Appeals agreed that the pattern jury instruction is now erroneous after passage of the Tort Reform Act of 2005. O.C.G.A. § 15-12-33(a) now requires the jury to assign a specific percentage of fault to the plaintiff, and, according to the Court of Appeals, requires a special verdict form whereby the jury allocates a specific percentage of negligence, so that the judge can reduce the award accordingly.  The case was sent back for retrial.

$295,000 for Teenage Pedestrian   1 comment

On December 2, 2008, Jane Doe (a 12 year-old minor) exited her school bus and was walking home when the Defendant pulled into the neighborhood in an SUV and negligently ran her over, fracturing her leg in two places.  Miss Doe’s medical expenses were over $25,000 and her plastic surgeon estimated that an additional surgery would be necessary and will cost approximately $10,000.  But this case was not about $25,000 in medical expenses; it was not even about $35,000 in medical expenses.  The fractures were bad and painful and the experience was horrifying for Miss Doe, but she recovered well and did not appear to be facing any permanent orthopaedic problems.  So, the case wasn’t even about permanent physical disability. 

The most upsetting aspect of this case was that the Defendant’s tire badly mangled the skin and tissue of Miss Doe’s ankle.  This was almost a de-gloving injury.  Consequently, Miss Doe has permanent burn-like scarring on her leg.  This might have been a different case if the Defendant had permanently scarred a little boy.  At least a little boy could make the best of a bad situation by making up crazy stories about the scar. As that boy grew into manhood, the scar would likely be obscured by leg hair, but, even if it remained conspicuous, he could still deal with it more readily than a woman by joking and making up funny stories about it. His scar might even be perceived by some as cool.

Miss Doe, on the other hand, does not (and will never) have this option.  Instead, she will always be somewhat self conscious about this scar.  The scar is not easily concealed, and, in fact, affects a part of Miss Doe’s anatomy that is strongly associated with her femininity and attractiveness. Miss Doe has a strong family, and they will help her to come to peace with her scar, but, throughout her life, people will notice it, perhaps treat her a little differently because of it, and maybe even be so bold as to ask her what happened.  Years from now, when the Defendant has long forgotten about this incident, Miss Doe will still be dealing with it on a daily basis.

The insurance adjuster assigned to handle Miss Doe’s claim had previously worked with attorney Render Freeman and knew of Mr. Freeman’s ability to succeed in front of a jury.  Following Mr. Freeman’s investigation and aggressive pre-suit negotiations, the insurance carrier agreed to pay $295,000 to settle the claim.  This money will enable Miss Doe to undergo any necessary scar-revision surgeries and will pay for her college education.  Mr. Freeman was very proud to represent this nice young lady and gratified by the quick result.

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