One Week, Two Defense Verdicts

Two unrelated catastrophic injury cases recently ended within days of each other with the same result: a defense verdict. Weinberg Wheeler Hudgins Gunn & Dial attorneys in Atlanta and Miami achieved a favorable result for their clients.

The first case involved a wrongful death claim at The Abaco Club in Abaco, Bahamas managed by The Ritz-Carlton. The decedent, Mr. Knowlton, and three friends vacationed at The Abaco Club over a weekend in 2007. Mr. Knowlton died that weekend after wandering off from his group of friends. It is speculated that he was swept off a cliff by a rogue wave and subsequently suffered from blunt trauma and shark bites.

Plaintiffs alleged that the owners and manager of the property, The Abaco Club and The Ritz-Carlton, knew of the dangers of the rocky, steep terrain on the cliff where the Club was built, but failed to warn homeowners and guests of such dangers. The defense, led Lawrence Burkhalter, countered that the sharp rocks, craters and large holes were open and obvious dangers. Further, the plaintiffs could only speculate as to the cause of death, as no one had seen Mr. Knowlton fall or enter the water, and could offer no proof as to any theories of liability, including what caused him to enter the ocean. Plaintiffs asked the jury for $20 million in damages for the decedent’s estate and family. After only four hours of deliberations, the jury found no liability in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The plaintiff in the second case alleged a breached duty of care at Gwinnett Medical Center. WWHGD represented Gwinnett Hospital System, Inc. and an individually named nurse. The plaintiff claimed that the nursing staff at the hospital breached the standard of care by failing to ensure that the bed rails were in the upright position during his stay in the ER. The plaintiff fell out of the bed and broke his neck. The defense, led by Scott Kerew, contended that the nurses complied with the standard of care and also provided expert testimony questioning whether the broken neck may have been caused by a previous fall. The plaintiff sought damages for permanent pain and suffering and loss of use. The jury found in favor of the defense after just 20 minutes of deliberations.

“In each case, the jury very quickly reached a verdict in favor of our clients,” said David Dial. “This shows the acumen of our attorneys and their ability to bring a contentious case before a judge and jury.”

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