Home Tips & Reviews Another Successful Road Defect Case, This Time a $750,000 Settlement in Georgia
Tips & Reviews

Another Successful Road Defect Case, This Time a $750,000 Settlement in Georgia

We recently shared the story of a trial victory from the State of Texas where a bicyclist was injured due to a defect in a road maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation. Texas Road Defect We now can tell the story of flipside huge win in a road defect case, this time from our Bike Law Georgia Network shyster Bruce Hagen and his team at Hagen Rosskopf.

While there are many similarities in the cases, a couple of key differences between Texas and Georgia law were instrumental in getting this specimen resolved via settlement rather than trial.

The Crash

On July 23, 2019, Styles Caldwell, a 68 year old Videographer, was riding his mountain velocipede near his residence in the City of Sandy Springs, Georgia. Styles was riding on a slight downhill grade and intended to turn right at the driveway archway to the suite ramified where he lived. Styles usually rode his bicycle on the sidewalk, but on this day pedestrian traffic caused him to ride in the roadway.

Dangerous road for bicycles

Although Styles had driven his car in and out of the suite ramified before, he had never surpassing come from the roadway into the driveway while riding his bicycle. As a result, he had never surpassing noticed or appreciated the 1.25 – 1.50” longitudinal ridge located in the touchable spouse that separated the tile road and driveway entrance.

Road Hazard for Cyclists

As Styles gradually transitioned from the road to the driveway on his mountain bike, his front tire unprotected the ridge, throwing him nonflexible to the ground. He suffered several pulverized ribs and a wrenched collarbone, all of which required surgical repair. His medical superintendency was intense and painful, and he was left with over $60,000 in reimbursable medical expenses.

Cyclist injury Gerogia

Styles reached out to Bruce Hagen for help. After obtaining documents from the City of Sandy Springs through an Open Records Request, it was revealed that the City had implemented a plan to build out a bicycle network that included Morgan Falls Road, the road on which Styles’ suite ramified was located. In 2014, Morgan Falls Road had been assessed a grade of “F” in terms of its Bicycle Level of Service, which was the lowest possible grade. A large engineering firm that bid for the job indicated that some redesign was necessary for the section of road where Styles’ suite ramified was located. The City rejected outside engineering and construction management and chose instead to alimony financing lanugo by handling the project in-house.

Between 2016-2017, Sandy Springs completed improvements to Morgan Falls Road including resurfacing, designating some short segments of Velocipede Lanes and marking bicycle sharrows, as well as constructing an proximal sidewalk. On its website, City of Sandy Springs proudly proclaimed that the Bicycle Infrastructure improvements for Morgan Falls Road velocipede lanes and sharrows had been successfully installed.

What was left out, however, was that in the undertow of performing the redesign and construction of the road, the City of Sandy Springs unliable a dangerous condition to persist, specifically, the severe lip at the archway to the apartments.

Unlike the Texas case, we lacked a “Smoking Gun” witness to establish that the City had very notice of the dangerous condition prior to Styles’ fall. However, using Google Maps imaging, Bruce’s team was worldly-wise to establish that the condition had existed since at least 2007. Construction and Diamond drawings indicated that the hazard was likely created when the suite ramified was ripened in the late 1990’s in what was then unincorporated Fulton County, surpassing the City of Sandy Springs had been created in 2005. While it could not be established that the City had actual notice (meaning there was no record of a prior complaint well-nigh the hazard), the hazard existed for a long unbearable period of time given the recent road construction that the City had constructive notice of the danger, meaning that they should have known that the hazard existed.

The Litigation

Unfortunately, the City would not winnow responsibility for Styles’ injuries, so it became necessary to file a lawsuit in order to pursue justice for our client. Since the City would not plane unclose its responsibility for the zone where the crash occurred, the lawsuit included other defendants who were potentially responsible for creating or maintaining the hazard. A lawsuit was filed in August, 2020.

Bruce Hagen’s law firm was assisted by 2 variegated engineering experts in road diamond and construction, Herman Hill from Atlanta and Daren Marceau of Forensic Traffic Specialists in Cary, NC. After wide-stretching discovery and multiple depositions, a failed mediation at which NOTHING was offered to Styles, and successfully fending off various defense motions, it became well-spoken that (a) the City had responsibility for the zone where the crash occurred, (b) there was sufficient vestige to show that the City had knowledge of the hazard and failed to do anything to fix the problem, (c ) that the City had a duty to fix problems on it’s roads that create dangers to cyclists and (d) the City did not have the protections of Sovereign Immunity for this type of negligence. Once trial was imminent, the City got realistic well-nigh settlement discussions and we were worldly-wise to get the specimen resolved.

Why Did The Georgia Specimen Settle But The Texas Specimen Went to Trial?

Holding governmental entities responsible for the harm they rationalization to bicyclists and pedestrians is a difficult matter and there has to be an structuring between both the law and the facts to be successful. In Texas, lawmakers had imposed severe limitations on the worthiness to hold the State responsible for the harm it causes, which was washed-up under the guise of “Tort Reform”. The recovery in claims versus the State of Texas for injuries caused by road defects is limited to a maximum value of $250,000. This ways that Texas has no incentive to make its roads unscratched for cyclists because, ultimately, they only have a small value of exposure. It moreover forces cases to trial that would otherwise get resolved voluntarily through settlement, considering there’s no fear of a significant verdict. In other words, Texas is virtually unaccountable.

In Georgia, the State’s sovereign immunity for negligent road design, construction or maintenance is only waived under very specific circumstances and claims are subject to a $1,000,000 cap. Counties are largely immune although specific individuals may sometimes be held responsible if it can be proved that they violated a specific ministerial duty. Cities like Sandy Springs, however, are “relieved of any and all liability resulting from or occasioned by defects in the public roads of its municipal street system when it has not been negligent in constructing or maintaining the same and when it has no very notice thereof or when such defect has not existed for a sufficient length of time for notice thereof to be inferred.” There is no cap on a City’s liability for injuries caused by road defects.

As a result (a) cities in Georgia are often increasingly responsible well-nigh keeping their roads in decent condition (City of Atlanta stuff a notable exception) and (b) an injured victim like Styles Caldwell can obtain justice in Court, if needed. The threat of peccancy in a trial where damages are not limited by an strained cap is oftentimes unbearable to help the parties reach an amicable settlement. In this case, although it took a tremendous effort to get there, the ultimate result was that the City was held subject for Styles’ injuries. Justice was Served!

The Team That Obtained Justice for Styles Caldwell

Kendrick K. McWilliams, Sr., led the litigation team in the specimen versus the City and the other 2 defendants. His tireless efforts left the City in a situation where they simply could not wriggle out of responsibility. Dan Pruitt, a paralegal with the firm, was relentless in helping the tribunal prepare the specimen for success. Their combined efforts were instrumental in achieving the unconfined result for our client.

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