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Defense Verdict in Truck Fatality

No liability for truck that crossed center line after being hit by another driver

, Daily Report

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Scott Masterson, left, and Brantley C. Rowlen were among the defense lawyer who represented a truck driver and company.
Scott Masterson, left, and Brantley C. Rowlen were among the defense lawyer who represented a truck driver and company.

A Gwinnett County jury declined to hold a trucking company driver liable for the death of a man killed when a box truck crossed the center line and rammed a car after being hit by another vehicle during a nasty three-vehicle wreck in 2005.

"This case has been around a long time," said Swift, Curry, McGhee & Hiers partner Roger Harris, who represented co-defendant Allied Van Lines, noting that the trial was first delayed by a trip to the Georgia Court of Appeals, and then reset by a mistrial.

"I got called the day of the accident, so I've been there since day one," Harris said. "It's satisfying to finally get this case to trial."

"We knew we had a tough case going in on liability," said lead plaintiff's counsel Pete Law, whose case was complicated by the trial judge's refusal to keep out evidence that the driver who hit the truck—and was not a party to the case—had pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide, a ruling subsequently upheld by an appellate panel.

"The defense counsel did an excellent job pointing out that the state trooper [who investigated the accident] found that their guy did not contribute to the wreck at all," Law said.

"To say this was a hard-fought victory is about half as strong as I feel about it," said Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith partner R. Scott Masterson, who came on as co-defense counsel along with firm partner Edward Rowlen as the case moved toward trial. "I thought it was a well-tried case by top-notch plaintiffs' lawyers."

The wreck occurred at about 6 a.m. on Aug. 4, 2005, on Georgia Highway 20 in Cartersville. A GMC Savana driven by Jason Green was traveling east and crossed the center line, according to both sides' accounts in the retrial order, clipping a westbound box truck driven by Nekia Ramey.

Ramey lost control and the truck crossed the center line, hitting a Ford Taurus driven by Jimmy Woods that had been traveling east behind Green's van.

The impact drove Woods' car back more than 64 feet, according to the plaintiff's portion of the order, before it flipped and came to rest. Ramey's truck traveled another 370 feet before stopping, it said.

Woods, 53, was trapped in the car's wreckage and lived for about another 30 minutes while rescuers tried to free him.

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