Attorneys Serving Georgia and the Southeast Since 1974
Areas of Practice
Wrongful Death/Catastrophic Injury:
In Georgia, the measure of damages in a wrongful death case is “the full value of the life” of the decedent. This is unique compared with many states and every state has a different law in this regard. In Georgia, a wrongful death recovery involves both the tangible/economic elements of damages as well as intangible/human items of damages, as viewed from the perspective of the decedent. It is essential to evaluate economic losses using a well-credentialed economist/actuary.
Catastrophic injuries such as brain damage or paralysis, involve issues of guardianship, life-care plans, Special Needs Trusts and Medicare/Medicaid subrogation. Consideration of the annuity mortality table is also important in assessing these types of cases.
Our law firm has recovered six, seven and eight figure verdicts and settlements in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases, (many of which involve confidentiality provisions), including the following:
- Wrongful death of father and four year old son who were killed when their disabled vehicle was struck in the rear on multi-lane highway in broad daylight.
- Minor who suffered catastrophic burns as a result of being shocked by a negligently maintained electrical line.
- Young man who suffered catastrophic brain damage as a result of an equipment supplier negligently maintaining brakes on a boom truck, causing loss of control and ejection of the driver.
- Wrongful death of a little girl resulting from an amusement park ride which settled for a record amount in the State of Georgia. The case resulted directly in the enactment of the “Carnival Ride Safety Act” by the Georgia Legislature (O.C.G.A. § 34-13-1).
- Amtrak conductor killed when a barge collided with a railroad bridge causing the train to plunge into a bayou in Alabama.
- Represented Rodney Culver, running back for the San Diego Chargers, and his wife who were killed in the ValuJet crash in the Florida Everglades. Eight figure settlement was the highest for all passengers.
- Seven figure recovery against a bank and repossession company for individual who was killed in an altercation during the repossession of his vehicle.
- Wrongful death in the Swiss Air commercial air disaster resulting from defective insulation in the flight control wiring system.
- Wrongful death of a highly paid executive with two young children who collided with a disabled armored car on the interstate as a result of poor maintenance/mechanical defect.
- Represented the family of a retired husband and wife who were blown off of a highway bridge in Alabama by a speeding 18-wheeler while they were pulling an RV causing them to plunge hundreds of feet into the creek bed below the interstate bridge resulted in two seven figure verdicts.
- Numerous road maintenance/road run-off cases against state and local government agencies involving issues of sovereign immunity and highway maintenance policies/regulations.
- High seven figure settlement in a case where a tractor-trailer ran a stop sign causing a serious collision and rendering a teenaged boy paraplegic.
- Tragic case involving an ungated railroad crossing and the failure of the adjacent landowner to comply with specific zoning regulations about the crossing resulting in the death of two children and catastrophic injuries to their sister.
- Several private plane crashes including a case in which the gas was contaminated with water and a Federal Tort Claim arising from failure of air traffic controllers to divert a plane away from a severe thunder storm resulting in the deaths of the pilot and passenger in Alabama.
Medical malpractice cases in Georgia are complex and highly technical. They require the support of superior experts practicing in the specialty of the medical field involved. There are complex rules regarding the statute of limitations depending on the type of case (e.g. foreign object/failure to diagnose/minors). There are different standards of evidence and burdens of proof depending on the type of case. The plaintiff has the burden to prove a “deviation” from the standard of medical care by the medical provider, which can be a nurse, doctor or hospital. Often there are questions regarding employment/agency, government-affiliated hospitals such as the Veterans Administration, as well as issues of liability involving consulting physicians and nurses working at a hospital for an independent group. There is a requirement that an affidavit be filed with the complaint, signed by a qualified practitioner. These cases are expensive and must be handled by an experienced attorney. At Cathey & Strain we get the records reviewed preliminarily by the highest caliber physicians or nurses in the speciality at issue and meet with the client to decide on the best strategy.
Our law firm has recovered six, seven and eight figure sums in verdicts and settlements in diverse medical malpractice cases including the following:
- Brain damaged baby as a result of birth trauma resulting in cerebral palsy; doctor and hospital failed to recognize fetal distress and deliver baby by emergency C-section.
- Wrongful death of a husband/father after routine appendectomy where the doctor and nurses failed to diagnose and treat post-surgical bleeding resulting in shock and death.
- Numerous “V-bac” cases (vaginal birth after Cesarean section). Failure to recognize fetal distress and allow mother to continue with vaginal birth without performing emergency C-section resulting in catastrophic brain damage/cerebral palsy.
- Improper intubation of a trauma patient by EMS crew where breathing tube was inserted into esophagus instead of airway at the scene of accident resulting in death.
- Failure to diagnose unequivocal signs of cervical cancer and report to the patient resulting in death of young mother in North Carolina.
- Failure to remove chemotherapy port-a-cath which was left in patient for several years and migrated to her heart resulting in significant heart damage.
- Over prescription of a combination of anti-nausea/pain medication for a young mother who had come to the emergency room for the flu resulting in coma and death.
The Plaintiff in these cases must prove, at a minimum, negligence — which in Georgia is the absence of due care or that care which would be exercised by a reasonable person under similar circumstances. These cases often involve violations of the “Rules of the Road” and/or federal regulations and statutes pertaining specifically to semi-tractor trailers. There are special rules about proving various kinds of damages which are known as special, general and punitive damages. Most cases involve subrogation issues relating to payments by health insurance carriers/Medicare/Medicaid. Oftentimes, there are issues regarding driver training, guest passengers, driving history, aggravated/gross negligence, DUI drivers, talking on a cell phone/texting or leaving the scene of an accident.
- Death of young mother of two when she struck a vehicle that had become disabled on the highway as a result of poor maintenance of the vehicle and inadequate training of the driver.
- Severe brain damage to an individual when she collided with a poorly lit tractor trailer who pulled out from a chicken farm, blocking her lane of travel with the trailer.
- Failure to properly mark a disabled semi tractor-trailer with the required triangles/ warning devices on the interstate causing a working father to strike the rear of the truck resulting in catastrophic head and facial injuries.
- Tragic accident on Christmas eve when a beer delivery truck crossed the centerline striking our client and killing her two year old baby and causing massive orthopedic injuries to the mother.
- Family of ten and two foreign exchange students going on vacation to the beach when a semi tractor-trailer driver lost control, crossed the median and struck the van killing eight members of the family including both parents, one of the exchange students and seriously injuring the remaining three passengers.
- Numerous state and federal tort claims actions, including a GBI agent who crossed the centerline and killed a young woman.
- An undercover police chase resulted in an intersection collision catastrophically injuring a mother and her daughter.
- Numerous motorcycle accidents involving the deaths and/or serious permanent injury to our clients operating the motorcycles.
- A high wage earning pharmaceutical sales woman exiting the bathroom stall of interstate rest stop when an elderly man, attempting to park, crashed through the wall into the bathroom pinning her against the sink resulting in a crushed pelvis and other significant orthopedic injuries.
When someone is injured on another’s premises, the extent and the likelihood of recovery often depends on the status of the person who was injured — i.e., whether they were a customer, a social guest, or a trespasser. There are different standards of proof for each classification. Additionally, merely because someone is hurt on another’s premises doesn’t mean they automatically have a case. It is essential to take photographs early and to be sure that any security films are preserved, which requires a letter to the premises owner/insurance carrier setting out precisely what should not be destroyed. At Cathey & Strain, we employ highly credentialed engineers and human factors experts to analyze the defective conditions of the premises. The matter may involve OSHA investigations at work sites or other official/governmental investigations. There may also be issues regarding apportionment of fault between the landowner and other potential responsible parties. In such cases, a Motion for Summary Judgment is routinely filed by the defense in an attempt to have the case dismissed before it reaches a jury trial. Initial preparation for this Motion is key to a successful recovery.
- Disoriented and dehydrated patient was unmonitored and left her hospital room and was found three days later dead in a small restroom on another floor of the hospital.
- Numerous cases involving criminal acts of third parties on unsecured/unmonitored premises including an individual who had acid thrown in his eyes at a rental car company resulting in blindness and a hotel room invasion resulting in a serious shooting injury.
- A young female drug counselor working at a state prison who slipped and fell on stairs recently painted with non-abrasive high gloss paint requiring two back surgeries with a fusion/insertion of metal orthopedic hardware and resulting in permanent disability from work.
- Building inspector walking through partially constructed high rise fell through an inappropriate/ineffective wooden cover over a hole in the floor resulting in his death.
- Malicious dog with a previous bite history attacked and mauled a disabled Mary Kay sales woman causing permanent disfigurement.
- Neighbor who was asked to house sit fell over a hidden/rusty pipe in the garden causing a severe laceration which became infected and ultimately resulted in amputation of her leg.
- Patron at a carnival in North Carolina fell off an unguarded walkway to a ride and fractured her ankle, developed a blood clot and ultimately had a stroke causing permanent brain damage and disability.
- Swim team member drowned at a University swimming pool – failure to have life guard present.
Product liability cases involve complex issues of proof and chain of distribution, including designers, manufacturers, distributers and retailers. It is essential that the defective product be preserved by whoever is in possession of it and that a letter go out to that party immediately. We have a network of national experts in all fields with whom we consult about defects, feasible alternative designs and manufacturing processes. These cases involve issues of design, manufacture, marketing and warnings/instructions. Georgia follows a “risk utility” test for design defect cases and different standards of proof apply to different entities in the chain of distribution. Sellers/retailers must be put on notice of a claim immediately or the claim can be lost. There are also issues pertaining to the “statute of repose”, that relate to the age of the product involved. We have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements in a diverse range of products liability cases.
- We have represented victims of defective industrial, agricultural and consumer products ranging from “hi-lift” trucks, cranes, forklifts, lawnmowers, ATV’s, jet skis/PCW’s, farm equipment, gas ovens and exercise devices.
- We have participated in numerous multi-district litigations around the country including L-tryptophan, Gammaguard, PhenFen and Vioxx.
- Handled numerous medical device cases including defective knee and hip replacements, leg lengthening device, and a needle disposal container with no fill mark in which a nurse received a needle stick and contracted AIDS causing extreme depression and suicide leaving behind a young child.
- A young computer specialist was blinded when an elastic exercise device snapped/broke and put out his eye. The manufacturer of the device was located in a country which was not signatory to the Hague Convention, did not answer the lawsuit and had no connection with the U.S.; however, a high six figure sum was recovered from the retailer of the device.
- Numerous defective firearm cases involving “gun drop” in which the handgun fired after being dropped on the ground due to a faulty safety and/or trigger mechanism.
- A large recovery was made on behalf of the family of a young woman who was run over by a co-worker backing up a defectively designed steam roller which did not allow proper rear visibility.
As with product liability cases in general, it is essential that the vehicle(s) be preserved in a dry, secure storage. We purchase the wrecked vehicle(s) and place them at a local storage facility, where we store all of our case related vehicles, with access to a lift, 3-D scanning and on-site experts/consultants. It is also imperative that no destructive testing be permitted on the vehicle or any component of the vehicle, including downloading the “black box”, without informing the auto manufacturer and having a representative of that manufacturer and its lawyer present during these inspections. At Cathey & Strain we have proven, qualified experts who will survive any Daubert challenge to their qualifications/methodology and testing. The costs to develop these cases is extremely high and we advance all costs of the case, which can run anywhere from $200,000 up to a million dollars, most of which relate to expert analyses by a multitude of experts from different fields, and testing of exemplar vehicles. We have obtained multi-million dollar settlements/verdicts in a wide variety of auto defect cases including the following:
- Client suffered catastrophic brain damage rendering her completely disabled as a result of a car hood failing to perform as designed and penetrating the windshield of her vehicle causing contact with the head of the driver.
- Death of a young mother with two children as a result of inadequate service/maintenance instructions by the auto manufacturer and negligent inspection/brake repair by a dealer which resulted in loss of control and rollover of the vehicle.
- A retired couple on their way to Alaska for a vacation was struck in their Jeep by another driver resulting in a rollover and roof crush due to inadequate roof strength rendering the wife quadriplegic.
- Numerous Jeep CJ-5 and CJ-7 cases across the country in which occupants were severely injured and/or killed as a result of instability and resultant rollover.
- Numerous multi-piece tire rim cases handled around the country arising from defects or mis-match and resulting in tire rim explosions causing catastrophic injuries or death.
- Cathey & Strain founding partners were part of the initial team of trial lawyers forming the Bronco II Litigation Group litigating and trying cases around the country based on the rollover propensity of the Ford Bronco II vehicle.
- Numerous cases resulting from the rollover/roof crush and death and/or catastrophic injury of occupants of 15-passenger vans, Suzuki Samuris and Ford Explorers.
- A multi-million dollar recovery was made on behalf of a one year old child riding in a defective child seat which was not compatible with the vehicle. After a head on collision rendered him brain damaged and quadriplegic requiring 24-hour care and respirator.
- Numerous defective seat back, door latch, seat buckle and seat belt cases resulting in the death or catastrophic injury of occupants including minor children and infants.
- Significant recovery for the parents of two small children who locked themselves into the truck of their parents’ vehicle and were found hours later dead from heat. Failure of the vehicle to have an illuminated trunk unlatch mechanism in the truck compartment which can be pushed from the inside to open the trunk.
Commercial Litigation and Insurance Coverage Disputes:
We have handled many cases both for the plaintiff and defense involving commercial/business disputes and insurance coverage issues, including declaratory judgments, bad faith failure to defend and recovery of excess judgments. These cases are often referred from lawyers around the state and across the country, and can involve technical issues of insurance policy and contract interpretation and enforcement.
- Medical group, law firm and business “divorces” both on behalf of the plaintiff and defendant.
- Fraudulent diversion of patent rights to a shell corporation in order to defraud investors from a return of their investment and profits earned.
- Disputes over primary and secondary coverages particularly as it relates to Uninsured Motorist claims, trucking companies and “claims made” vs. “tail coverage” for professionals.
- First party lawsuits against insurance carriers regarding failure to defend, failure to appear on behalf of an individual and allowing a case to result in a default judgment. Those often involve assignment of such claims by the judgment debtor to an injured client.
- Multi-million dollar verdict in an insurance coverage dispute involving commercial products which became tainted during manufacturing/bottling so as to make them worthless and distributed nationally to retailers.
- Declaratory judgment action arising from a denial of insurance coverage for the wrongful death of a student against a local school board when a teacher took the child home from an extra-curricular activity and caused a collision killing both the teacher and the student.
- International arbitration under the provisions of International Chamber of Commerce, Paris, France, involving failure to pay sales commissions to a French citizen for sales made in Europe, Australia and the U.S.