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SMF Partner Co-Counsel in Record $11.5 Million Award in Personal Injury Lawsuit

Published Wednesday, June 7, 2017
by Mark Alexander

GAINESVILLE, Ga. (June 7, 2017) – A local jury this week delivered one of the largest personal injury awards in Hall County State Court history – $11.5 million – in a DUI case that severely injured a husband, wife and their 12-year-old daughter who were hit by a truck while walking outside a Wal-Mart store.

The civil case against defendant Ronald Patterson was tried in Hall County State Court with Gainesville attorneys Mark Alexander of Stewart Melvin & Frost and Dan Sammons of Sammons and Henneke representing the victims as co-counsel. The trial spanned only two days with the jury deliberating less than 5 minutes before reaching its decision “due to the egregious nature of the facts in this case,” according to Alexander.

The lawsuit involved a pick-up truck crashing into pedestrians on June 7, 2013, in the parking lot of the Gainesville Wal-Mart store on Shallowford Road. The 42-year-old Hall County mother was struck by the work truck while walking with her husband and daughter in the crosswalk outside of Wal-Mart. She suffered a traumatic brain injury and continues to have seizures and emotional distress years afterward. The daughter, who was also struck by the truck, stills suffers severe emotional issues as a result of the collision. The stepfather, a school custodian, also had multiple physical injuries.

The entire incident was captured on the store’s security cameras.

“This was a horrific, life-altering event for this family who were carelessly run down by a driver who was driving under the influence of drugs,” Alexander said. “In awarding punitive damages that exceeded the amount we were seeking, the jury made a strong statement on behalf of our community that irresponsible behavior like this will not be tolerated.”

Patterson already had a checkered history of similar traffic offenses involving alcohol and reckless driving offenses. Years before this latest tragic event, he had been declared a habitual violator by the Georgia Department of Driver Services.

In announcing their verdict, jury members awarded $5 million in punitive damages even though the plaintiffs had sought $3 million. In addition, $4 million in compensatory damages were awarded to the injured mother, who suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) similar to that of military war veterans, according to local psychologist Dr. Guy Jordan who testified at the trial.

The jury also awarded compensatory damages of $1.5 million to the daughter and another $1 million to the step-father.

Alexander says the family plans to pursue collection of the full amount of the verdict from Patterson and the various insurance companies who insured him and the truck he was driving.

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