Results matter. The Hamilton Firm has a proven track record of successful verdicts and settlements, and we are proud of the results we have obtained for our clients in past cases. However, every case is different. Recent settlements and verdicts listed below were dictated by the specific factual and legal circumstances of each case. The following is not intended to be an indication that the same results could be obtained for other clients in other cases.
Annette Palmer, age 45, died tragically in a wreck on I-81 in Sullivan County, Tennessee on January 18, 2013. It was after midnight and she was a back seat passenger in a Ford Focus driven by her adult daughter. It was cold and snowy and weather conditions were deteriorating as they traveled north. Suddenly the car spun out of control due to black ice on the road and came to a stop in the middle of the northbound traffic lanes.
However, a tractor trailer was bearing down on the car. It was traveling 63 mph in a 55 mph zone on cruise control in the snowy and icy conditions. The driver never saw the Ford Focus until it was too late. He never slowed down, smashed into the car and killed Mrs. Palmer.
Although the driver’s post-accident urine drug test showed a high level of marijuana metabolites, the driver denied smoking pot since he had left California several days before. The trucking company, and their toxicology expert, argued that the driver was not impaired, and that the urine test could not be used to prove impairment. They blamed the wreck on Mrs. Palmer’s daughter for losing control of her car which had bald tires that were unsafe for the road conditions. However, Mrs. Palmer knew nothing about the condition of the tires. She was just coming along to help her daughter move.
It was a challenging case with hotly disputed liability, as the truck driver and his employer tried to lay all the blame for the wreck on the daughter and her bald tires. With trial set for September 1, 2015, the parties recently a compromise resolution of the case of $595,000 for the wrongful death of Mrs. Palmer, who is survived by her husband of 13 years and the adult daughter. Carter Palmer, her husband, was represented by Hu Hamilton of the The Hamilton Firm, in association with Buck Rogers of Atlanta. Carter Palmer v. Starlight Logistic Services, Inc., Case No. 2:14-CV-15, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Tennessee.
The Plaintiff, a truck driver, picked up a load of parts in Tennessee and drove his tractor trailer to the manufacturing facility in Georgia where they would be unloaded. In preparation for backing up to the loading dock, he stopped and opened the rear doors to the trailer. As he did so, a large and heavy bundle of shrink wrapped boxes fell out on top of him. He caught the bundle, taking the weight onto his back, and pushed it aside and partially back up into the trailer, injuring his low back in the process.
Liability was hotly disputed. The Plaintiff, represented by Hu Hamilton, contended that it was a sealed load and that the shipper had improperly loaded the cargo and failed to secure it with load locks or straps. The shipper, Derby Industries, contended that it was not a sealed load and that it was the truck driver’s responsibility, under FMCSR § 392.9(b) to assure himself, before driving the truck, that the “cargo is properly distributed and adequately secured.” Those rules do not apply, however, “to the driver of a sealed commercial motor vehicle who has been ordered not to open it to inspect its cargo or to the driver of a commercial motor vehicle that has been loaded in a manner that makes inspection of its cargo impracticable,” FMCSR § 392.9(b)(4). Because the driver had closed the doors on the trailer and had the opportunity to observe the cargo at the rear of the trailer, Derby contended that the load was not sealed and therefore the § 392.9(b)(4) exception did not apply.
Suit was filed in Georgia and the case was settled after mediation, Stevens v. Derby Industries, 14SV273JTC, Henry State Court.
An experienced heavy equipment operator was using a backhoe to dump a dogwood tree in Chattanooga when the hydraulics failed, causing the machine to roll uncontrolled down a hill and into a light standard. The operator was ejected from the machine, and sustained serious injuries. Plaintiff filed suit against the rental company for failure to maintain the backhoe, which resulted in hydraulic failure. The rental company denied fault, and blamed the plaintiff as well as the manufacturer of the machine. Just prior to trial the case was settled for $300,000.00. Patrick A. Cruise served as lead counsel for the Plaintiff (No. 12-C-1415, Hamilton County Circuit Court).
Imagine checking into a Wingate Hotel in while travelling for business, taking a relaxing bath, and then when getting out, falling backwards into the tub when the grab bar you are using to pull yourself up breaks loose from the wall. The result was a serious back injury to the plaintiff. The lawsuit was filed in Cobb State Court, against the former owners of the Kennesaw, Georgia hotel and Wingate, Bright v. Sandstone Hospitality LLC. The case was settled with the insurance company for the former owners in August 2014, after mediation, for $250,000. Wingate as a franchisor had been dismissed from the lawsuit on summary judgment before mediation. Hu Hamilton served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs.
The Plaintiff, a retired school teacher, was driving home on a residential road in Hamilton County, Tennessee, when another driver inexplicably turned left in front of her. As a result of the crash, the plaintiff sustained a closed ankle fracture dislocation, which necessitated open reduction internal fixation surgery. The case was settled prior to trial for $300,000.00. Patrick A. Cruise represented the Plaintiff.
On June 12, 2011, a fire broke out in the chlorine rework process area of the HTH building at the Arch Chemical plant in Charleston, Tennessee. Arch Chemicals manufactures chlorine products for swimming pools, working in close association with Olin Corporation, which is located on the same property. Very quickly heat, chlorine gas and smoke filled the building and were soon boiling out of the roof vents several floor above. Four ironworkers employed by BIS Frucon Industrial Services, who were building a scaffold on the roof of that building, were trapped on the roof above the fire. The men immediately donned their respirators and tried to escape, but the heat, gas and smoke was intense and visibility was very limited. Escape routes were engulfed in heat, gas and smoke. Eventually all of the men were able to escape the roof and get to safety, but three had sustained very serious injuries, including burns, lung damage, and orthopedic injuries due to falling while trying to escape.
The fire had spontaneously ignited in HTH chlorine products that were being stored by Arch Chemicals in plastic rework totes. Rapid decomposition caused spontaneous ignition and the fire broke out. Plaintiffs alleged that Arch Chemicals had stored an excessive number of plastic totes in the area which caused the fire and that there was no fire suppression system in place or that it failed to function properly.
Arch Chemical and Olin Corporation were supposed to cooperate and coordinate responses in the event of an emergency situation through their Emergency Response Teams, but neither of them sounded an evacuation alarm until it was too late for the Plaintiffs. And to make matter worse, first responders from Bradley County were held up at the gate upon arrival at the plant.
Plaintiffs filed suit in Bradly County Circuit Court but the defendants removed the case to Federal Court in Chattanooga, Robert Dan Green, et al v. Arch Chemicals, Inc., Olin Corporation, et al, 1:12-CV-00220, U.S. District Court (E.D. Tenn.).
The case presented complex issues concerning the liability of the various defendants, which included both Arch and Olin and Olin’s security contractor, Securitas, as well as exclusive remedy under Tennessee law. It was settled after mediation in January 2014, under a confidentiality agreement that prohibits disclosure of the amount paid to each of the Plaintiffs. The plaintiffs were represented by Annette T. Kelley and Hubert Hamilton.
Mediation on October 16, 2013 resulted in a $500,000 settlement in Thomas L. Cates & Erika R. Cates v. Babb Lumber Company, Inc. et al, Superior Court of Catoosa County, Civil Action No. 2012-SU-CV-1692. On October 12, 2010 the Plaintiff, Tommy Cates, a fuel truck driver for Parman Energy made a routine delivery to Babb Lumber in Ringgold. After making his deliveries to their storage tanks, some gas was left over and Babb Lumber wanted the remaining gas pumped into an old 1972 Ford F600 truck they used around the yard to haul shavings from one location to another. The truck was not operated outside the yard, and had no license tag. Plaintiff was outside his truck tending to some levers and valves on the side of the fuel truck, when he was suddenly struck in the back and pushed into the side of the fuel truck. He had been hit by the old Ford truck Babb’s driver was bringing down to be topped off. Fortunately, due to the angle of impact, Cates was not crushed, but he was knocked up against his own truck and then thrown to the side.
Babb’s driver claimed that as he approached the fuel truck and tried to bring it to a stop, “the brake went to the floor,” and afterwards, they claimed that the master cylinder was “very low” on brake fluid. They could not say, however, when the brakes had last been serviced, and he did not keep any service records on that truck. It was admitted that they did not run the truck “out on the street because it was dangerous.”
The impact injured Plaintiff’s low back and eventually he underwent surgery after months of conservative treatment. He was not able to return to work as a fuel truck driver.
Hubert “Hu” Hamilton served as lead counsel for the Plaintiffs.
Sarah Pierce vs. Lookout Property Management, Inc. and Battlewood Apartments, Ltd. Superior Court of Catoosa County; Civil Action No. 2012-SU-CV-1044, was settled in August 2013 under a confidentiality agreement prohibiting disclosure of the amount paid.
On Sunday morning, April 10, 2011, the plaintiff drove over to the Battlewood Apartment complex in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA to deliver yard sale items that one of the residents had purchased from her the preceding day. She delivered the items to the apartment, and while descending a long metal and concrete ramp to return to the parking lot, she fell. Something caught her foot, and her right ankle turned under her. She then fell off the concrete portion of the ramp and onto the nearby sidewalk, breaking the distal portion of her right fibula, sustaining a right malleolar fracture in the ankle joint, along with a fracture at base of her fifth metatarsal and a lateral cuboid fracture. The severe fracture required open reduction internal fixation, using a metal plate and seven screws to reattach and stabilize the fractured fibula. Months of rehab, with limited weight bearing followed.
Investigation revealed a steep slope on the right side of the concrete portion of the ramp which caused the plaintiff’s right ankle to turn under her and shatter. Her surgeon testified that the ankle supinated or was rolled under, placing stress on the ligaments and bones on the lateral side (outside) of the ankle. The force pulled the distal end of the fibula off as the ankle rolled underneath. The injury was exactly the type of injury the doctor would have expected if the ankle was turned under as the foot went off onto a steep slope to the right.
Plaintiff’s architectural expert testified that ramp violated numerous provisions of both the International Building Code (IBC) and the Georgia Accessibility Code, and Plaintiff contended that what happened was exactly what the various Code requirements and standards were designed to prevent – a fall. The case was settled at mediation after being placed on the pre-trial calendar for the September term of court in Catoosa County, with Hu Hamilton as lead counsel for the Plaintiff.
In 2011, the employee spent months working in California, and was exposed to coccidioides, also known as Valley Fever. Around Thanksgiving, he became very sick. It took months for the medical professionals to determine the diagnosis, and when they finally did, the workers’ compensation insurance company refused to acknowledge that the condition was related to the employee’s work in California. Patrick Cruise filed a lawsuit on behalf of the injured worker, and hired a specialist from Vanderbilt to determine causation and impairment. Although the employee suffered from permanent lung damage, and permanent impairment, he was able to return to work. Just prior to trial, the Court ordered the parties to mediation. The mediation resulted in a settlement of $240,000.00.
On September 7, 2012, in Hamilton County Circuit Court (Tennessee), a jury returned a verdict of $3,500,000 for Marcus Black, who sustained a severe head injury when his motorcycle struck the rear of the vehicle ahead of him on one of the bridges in Chattanooga. The chain reaction was triggered by a texting driver in the traffic ahead ahead of Mr. Black. The texting driver drove off, so her identity was unknown and she was never located. Suit was filed against Mr. Black’s uninsured motorist insurer. Eyewitnesses testified concerning the actions of the unidentified Jane Doe driver, and the jury found Jane Doe 75% at fault for the wreck, while allocating 25% fault to Mr. Black. Damages were reduced to $2,625,000 under Tennessee’s comparative fault rules and judgment was entered accordingly.
Mr. Black was represented by Patrick Cruise, who achieved an outstanding result for Mr. Black, while increasing public awareness of the dangers posed by texting while driving.
Holder v. Great American Ins. Co., No. 1:11-cv-00276 (U.S. Dist. Court, Eastern District of Tenn.): The Plaintiff became disabled as the result of a serious occupational injury in 2005. He was paid benefits for two years, at which time, his benefits stopped. The Occupational Disability Policy required the plaintiff to remain disabled after two years, and be approved for Social Security Disability. The Plaintiff was not approved for Social Security until about five years after his injury, and when he was approved, it was for SSI instead of SSDI. The defendant contended that there was insufficient proof of disability and that receipt of SSI disability benefits did not meet the requirements of the disability policy. The Plaintiff retained Patrick A. Cruise of The Hamilton Firm in 2011, after which suit was filed. The case was settled October 2012 at mediation in Nashville, TN. The terms and conditions of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement.
Barrow v. Velsicol Chemical, LLC, 2:10-CV-02540, United States District Court (W.D. Tenn.): The plaintiff sustained a back injury while attempting to load his tanker with hydrochloric acid (HCL) at the defendant’s facility in Memphis, Tennessee. On July 15, 2009, as the plaintiff was standing on the HCL loading ramp, the metal grating on the ramp platform suddenly gave way, causing injury to the plaintiff’s lower back. The plaintiff’s injuries required extensive medical treatment and spinal surgery. The injuries were such that the plaintiff was unable to return to work. Plaintiff brought suit alleging that the defendant was responsible for maintaining the loading platform and had created the dangerous condition by previously improperly repairing the area where the Plaintiff was injured. The defendant denied liability and fault. The case was settled in May of 2012. All matters relating to the terms and conditions of the settlement are subject to a confidentiality agreement. The Plaintiff was represented by Patrick Cruise of The Hamilton Firm and David Bateman of The Bateman Law Firm in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
Marc Beck v. FM Global, et al, Case No. 11VS184780C, Fulton State Court, Atlanta, Georgia, was settled in December 2011 for a confidential amount. A boiler service technician sustained severe head, brain and facial injuries in a boiler explosion at a poultry plant in Gainesville, Georgia on January 14, 2008, The plaintiff was an employee of a boiler service company who was sent to switch fuel supply for the boiler from gas over to fuel oil. The boiler supplied steam for the plant, and they wanted to maintain pressure while the change over to oil took place. Investigation of the explosion by the Georgia Department of Labor determined that the oil supply and return lines had been reversed, causing an excessive accumulation of fuel in the hot boiler as Mr. Beck attempted to fire the burner on oil. The burner had not been fired on oil since a new boiler was installed two years before. Plaintiff contended that the lines had been reversed when the new boiler was installed by another boiler service company, and that the manufacturer of the burner had supplied a defective manifold making it possible to inadvertently reverse the lines at the point of attachment to the burner. The boiler inspection company which had last inspected the boiler prior to the explosion was also named as a defendant. Mr. Beck was represented by Hubert Hamilton.
Jury Verdict of $784,676.65 in Fire Loss case against Nationwide Insurance Company in the Circuit Court of Hamilton County, Tennessee in a six day trial that was successfully concluded on November 9, 2011, O’Neal v. Nationwide. The fire originated in a Christmas tree that Mrs. O’Neal had just put up the night before the fire in December 2009. Nationwide refused to pay, contending that a family member had intentionally set the house on fire. The jury concluded otherwise as Plaintiff’s expert had found a melted plug blade in an electrical receptacle adjacent to the tree that Nationwide’s expert had missed. The evidence suggested an electrical origin due to a short or arcing at the receptacle. The verdict included a bad faith penalty of 18%. Hubert Hamilton and Patrick Cruise served as trial counsel for Mrs. O’Neal.
Currie v. Farmer, Case 08 CV 7097, Walker State Court, LaFayette, Georgia: Jury verdict totaling $792,500, on March 11, 2010, for a 39 year-old self-employed roofer/sheet metal fabricator injured in a bad wreck two years previously. On a Sunday afternoon the plaintiff had taken his Harley motorcycle out for a ride over to his mother’s house. As he cruised along a rural roadway near Chickamauga, Georgia at a safe speed, a Buick Skylark, driven by an 88 year-old man, suddenly turned left directly in front of him. The impact shattered the plaintiff’s left ankle. The orthopedic trauma surgeon was able to use steel plates and screws to put the bimalleolar ankle fracture dislocation back together, but the plaintiff was left with a painful arthritic ankle with limited mobility. The jury awarded $50,000 for medical expenses, $37,500 for lost earnings to date, $379,000 for future lost earnings, $20,000 for pain and suffering to date, plus $306,000 for future pain and suffering. The biggest challenge faced was overcoming sympathy for the defendant, who appeared in court in a wheelchair, after defense counsel made a big show of the fact that the defendant was ill. The trial judge prohibited further appeals to sympathy and the jury took seriously our admonitions not to let “outside reasons” influence their determination of the proper amounts of money required to balance out the harms and losses the plaintiff suffered, and justice was served. Hubert Hamilton and Patrick Cruise served as trial counsel for Mr. Currie.
Michael Nordone v. RSB Logistics, No: 4:08-cv-2-HLM, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia. Battling against strong headwinds, including an unfavorable report and opinions from the investigating state trooper, a client who could not remember what happened, and very inconsistent statements from the only eyewitness, a favorable settlement of $1,100,000 was reached after mediation in June 2009.
The Plaintiff was self-employed, performing high-end woodworking and remodeling when this wreck occurred on January 31, 2006. He was returning home from a job site in Dalton, GA, accompanied by an employee, in a modified 2003 F350 work truck when they were rear-ended by the RSB tractor-trailer, driven by a 70 years old driver, as they were northbound on I-75. The truck driver claimed that the plaintiff cut in front of him, moving suddenly from the right lane to the middle lane, and then slowed down so he could not avoid the wreck. The only eye-witness, the employee riding in plaintiff’s vehicle, had given different versions of what happened, so his value as a witness had been seriously compromised. However, the plaintiff’s case was aided by inconsistent data downloaded from the electronic control module (ECM) in the RSB truck. In addition, no data was found on the restraint control module (RCM) in the plaintiff’s truck when RSB’s expert attempted to download the data shortly after the wreck. This raised suspicion of improper downloading or even spoiliation.
By the time of mediation, the plaintiff had recovered much of his functional abilities, but he will not be able to return to full-time work.