Truck-Minivan Crash Settles for Nearly $1Million


John Hollis Baker
Personal Injury Attorney – John Baker

A lawsuit over a truck hitting a minivan that was carrying a mother and two young children near Athens has settled for just under $1 million, according to lawyers on both sides.

A key factor in reaching the resolution ahead of trial was the weight of the truck, according to plaintiffs’ attorney John Baker of Baker & Slider in Athens. The trooper at the scene of the crash noted the weight at under 10,000 pounds, but Baker said he learned in discovery that the truck actually weighed 12,300 pounds. It was an important distinction, because weight over 10,000 pounds subjects a truck’s owner to both state and federal safety rules for commercial motor vehicles, Baker said.

“After that became clear to all parties, the case never made it to the stage of taking depositions,” Baker said.

Also weighing in favor of the plaintiff’s side was the key witness, the mother whose Honda Odyssey the truck T-boned in an intersection of the Oconee Connector in August 2013. The mother, Dr. Tara Merritt, is a pediatrician and has served as an expert in another lawsuit. “We were expecting her to be a very good witness, if the case went to trial,” Baker said.

Merritt sustained a neck injury that ultimately required surgery, resulting in $120,000 in medical bills, Baker said. Her boys had soft-tissue injuries, but their primary injury was the trauma they experienced from seeing the truck running the red light and headed straight at them, Baker said. The children were plaintiffs, along with the mother and her husband, who brought a loss-of-consortium claim.

A factor that would have worked against the plaintiffs at trial was that Merritt had been treated for a previous neck injury from another accident. But Baker said her neurologist was prepared to testify that the recent wreck worsened her condition, and he had an MRI done just prior to the last wreck to use as a baseline to back up his assertion.

The complaint was filed in Clayton County State Court because of the location of the defendant, Atlas Roofing Company, which owned the truck that hit Merritt. Defense attorneys were Charles Dalziel Jr. of Gregory Doyle Calhoun & Rogers in Marietta and Roger Harris of Swift, Currie, McGhee & Hiers.

“On behalf of my client Atlas Group Enterprises, and on behalf of the excess carrier providing coverage over and above the primary layer, we are pleased that this matter has been resolved,” Harris said.

The lawsuit asked for $6 million. Baker said he made a time-limited demand for $2,030,000, but the parties reached agreement before the deadline. The settlement was made final this month.

The case is Merritt v. Atlas Roofing Co., No. 2015CV02781-9.

Read more at Daily Report

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