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Troup Jury Awards $2.5M in Transport Crash Suit

Plaintiffs argued woman was not properly strapped to stretcher during LaGrange wreck

, Daily Report

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Brandon Peak represented the father of a stretchered woman who died in the crash.
Brandon Peak represented the father of a stretchered woman who died in the crash.

The 94-year-old father of a disabled woman killed when she was thrown from a stretcher during an auto wreck was awarded $2.5 million by a Troup County jury after evidence showed that restraining straps that should have been installed on the stretcher were missing.

Lead plaintiffs' attorney Brandon Peak said the verdict was subject to a confidential high-low agreement reached before trial, meaning no appeals are expected. During closing arguments, he said he asked the jury for $2 million.

"This is something that's happening more and more," said Peak, a partner with Columbus-based Butler, Wooten & Fryhofer. Peak said there are frequently problems with subcontractors who handle nonemergency transportation (NET) cases for the state.

"I've handled a lot of these NET cases.… here needs to be some regulation of these folks," Peak said.

Dennis, Corry, Porter & Smith partner Grant Smith, who represented the companies responsible for the NET providers and their driver, confirmed the confidential agreement and praised his opposing counsel.

"Brandon is a top-notch trial lawyer and he tried an outstanding case," said Smith in a short email. "The defendants had some challenges with our witnesses and some evidentiary rulings."

Rakhi McNeill of Waldon Adelman Castilla Hiestand & Prout represented the estate of the driver that caused the wreck, Panfilo Chaves-Ramirez, who was deemed liable for 20 percent of the award, or $500,000 of the total.

"This was a well-tried case," said McNeill. "We knew going in that fighting liability would be an uphill battle; our goal was to show the jury that the co-defendants' negligence greatly exceeded that of Mr. Chaves-Ramirez."

McNeill's client was not a party to the high-low, she said; she said no appeal will be sought.

At issue was the death of 63-year-old Mary Ellen Humphrey, who suffered from several health problems including paralysis in her legs. Single with no children, she had been a resident of a LaGrange nursing home since 2006, said Peak. She had kidney problems that required thrice-weekly trips to the West Georgia Dialysis Center, and on Sept. 11, 2010 she had been picked up by a minivan owned by Brilansie Enterprises in Lawrenceville.

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