The following are summaries of cases handled by our firm which were newsworthy enough to have made it to a newspaper. They are obviously not typical cases: if they were typical they would not have been reported in a newspaper. But, they are some evidence of what we can do, with the right facts, once and a while. In fairness, we have included summaries of all known newspaper articles about our firm, good or bad (which is easy, since there are no bad ones).
Richmond County jury assesses $27.5 million fine for drunk driving. The other guy drove across the center line, head on into this wonderful husband and wife team. A blood sample taken roughly two hours after the accident showed that the defendant had a blood-alcohol level of 0.17. He pled guilty to driving while impaired, but even though the District Court found three aggravating factors (his blood-alcohol level being more than twice the legal limit of 0.08, the personal injuries caused by his driving, and the fact that he had at least one prior DWI conviction) the system doled out minimal punishment. He did not serve a day.
But the couple in the other car were hospitalized for weeks, and confined to home for months. The couple, in their late 50s, were both incredibly resilient and tough, and eventually ended up back at work, but had incurred $600,000 in medical expenses and lost wages, and were left with a long list of physical limitations, aches, and pains.
So, we asked a Richmond County jury what they thought about it. They said $5 million for the husband and $2.5 million for the wife for their personal injuries, but also $10 million for each of them in punitive damages: $27.5 million total.
Obviously, the jury realized that the husband and wife would not collect all of this money, but the jury responded to our request to be the conscience of the community and to send a strong message. We suggested that nothing might get this defendant’s attention, but maybe a significant verdict would get the attention of other, sensible people. The next time they leave a bar or party, and they’re debating whether to spend $20 on a taxi, maybe they’ll remember this and call a taxi.
The presiding Judge was the Honorable Gary Trawick. Defense counsel was from Fayetteville. Date concluded: October 30, 2008. Richmond County Superior Court. Reported North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, November 17, 2008, January 26, 2009; Richmond County Daily Journal, December 26, 2008.
Wrongful death of wife and mother due to malpractice of hospital settled one week before trial was to commence for $1.29 Million. Her colon was perforated during laparoscopic surgery to remove an ovary with a benign cyst. She died due to delays in diagnosing and treating the perforation, leading to sepsis and multiple system organ failure. Defense counsel were from Raleigh. Date concluded: October, 1998. Union County Superior Court. Reported North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, February 8th, 1999.
Wrongful death of 43-year-old wife and mother settled in trial for policy limits of $1 million. Truck driver failed to stop at a light which had turned red, broadsiding her van and killing her instantly. The matter came on for trial in Union County before the Honorable Catherine Eagles and was settled after opening statements. Defense counsel were from Charlotte. Date concluded: October 26, 1998. Union County Superior Court. Reported North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, January 18, 1999.
$1 million verdict for 57 year old man who suffered broken ribs, a fractured vertebra, and a broken leg when his car was struck after other driver ran a stop sign. Medical bills were $225,265 and future lost wages to age 65 were estimated to be $260,496 (not reduced to present value). Trial was in Richmond County before the Honorable Michael E. Beale. Defense counsel were from Charlotte. Date concluded: Sept. 2, 1998. Richmond County Superior Court. Reported North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, January 18, 1999.
Shareholders hit with judgment for receiving blood money dividends. The shareholders who received life insurance proceeds collected by their corporation following the murder by the corporate president of two individuals, a businessman and his mother, see the following entry, are ordered to repay the life insurance. Trial was conducted in Richmond County before the Honorable Donald R. Huffman. Defense counsel were from Charlotte. Date concluded: October 23, 1996. Richmond County Superior Court. Reported Richmond County Daily Journal.
Wrongful death award of $31.5 million ($11.5 million in actual damages, $20 million in punitive damages) for the estates of two individuals, a businessman and his mother, who were murdered by shotgun blasts to their chests and faces so the businessman’s former corporation could collect on his life insurance. The corporation received the benefits and disbursed them to its shareholders as dividends. Trial was transferred from Richmond County to Stanly County because the victims were popular local figures and their murder was heavily publicized, and proceeded before the Honorable Howard R. Greeson Jr. Defense counsel were from Charlotte and Rockingham. Date concluded: February 21, 1996. Richmond County Superior Court. Reported North Carolina Lawyers Weekly, September 23, 1996, August 18, 1997; Richmond County Daily Journal.
Husband truck driver falls asleep and passenger wife is badly hurt. The trucking company and Husband (who shortly after the wreck abandoned Wife) retained separate attorneys to defend the suit. Wife riding in the truck violated company rules and insurance policy requirements, but the rule was widely ignored within the company. The case was settled for policy limits of $1.0 million. Defense counsel were from Raleigh. Date concluded: February 25, 1994. Moore County Superior Court. Reported North Carolina Lawyers Weekly.
We have also tried some cases which did not make the newspapers: criminal trials before judges and also before juries, for charges ranging from exceeding a safe speed to capital murder; civil trials involving car wrecks, defective construction, defective products, alienation of affections, criminal conversation, breach of contract, unfair and deceptive trade practices, child custody, alimony, equitable distribution, an action to determine which of two husbands was the legitimate heir, caveats (actions to determine whether a Last Will and Testament is valid), and I am sure some other things that I do not presently recall, should have made a list.
Of course, if the other side knows you can try a case, it helps you to settle a case as well. And we have settled a lot of cases. And by the way, we don’t ever settle a case without our client’s approval.