In October 2015, E.R. was working as a day laborer at an apartment complex that was under construction in midtown Atlanta. One of his job responsibilities was to toss construction debris from a second floor opening into a trash bin below. A single wooden 2 x 4 was the only fall protection device that covered the opening.
As E.R. was tossing material through the opening, he leaned against the wooden 2 x 4. When he did, the 2 x 4 gave way, causing E.R. to fall from the second floor and into the trash bin below. An ambulance was called to the scene and transported E.R. to Grady Hospital in Atlanta.
At the hospital, E.R. was diagnosed with seven broken ribs, a punctured lung, and multiple bruises and contusions. He remained at Grady Hospital for five days. When he was discharged from the hospital, he received additional follow-up treatment with an orthopedic doctor for continued back pain.
Another Law Firm Asks The Champion Firm to Help E.R.
Another law firm originally represented E.R. When the law firm was unable to determine who was to blame for the incident, it referred E.R. to The Champion Firm. When we got the case, we immediately met with E.R. We listened to him explain how the incident happened, gathered information regarding any potential witnesses, and we took time to hear him explain how his injuries affected him.
The Steps We Took to Help E.R.
Shortly after getting the case and meeting with E.R., attorney Darl Champion filed a lawsuit in the State Court of Fulton County against the construction company that was building the apartment complex. During the discovery process, the defendant construction company produced documents that included an investigation report into the incident. The report showed that a third-party contractor that was making a delivery of products to the construction site had removed the wooden board to deliver the materials through the opening. When the delivery was complete, it had used the wrong nails to re-attach the board. Specifically, the nails it used were too short to hold the board in place. This is what caused the board to collapse when E.R. leaned against it.
After learning this information, we sent additional discovery to the construction company seeking the identity of all companies that made deliveries to the construction site on the date of the incident. Through out investigation, we were able to narrow it down to three different companies that may have been to blame. We quickly sought permission from the court to add the new defendants to the lawsuit.
Once we added the new defendants to the lawsuit, we had all of them served. Surprisingly, one of the defendants, a flooring company, never even responded to the lawsuit. Because the law requires that a defendant respond to a lawsuit in a Georgia court within 30 days of being served, the defendant was in default. When a defendant is in default, it is considered to have admitted the allegations of negligence in the lawsuit; however, it can still challenge damages. As a result, we filed a motion for default judgment.
The flooring company responded to our motion by stating that it had multiple legal justifications for why it did not respond to the lawsuit in a timely manner and why it should be not be held in default. The company requested that our motion be denied and that it be allowed to challenge E.R.’s claims. We replied to their assertions in a brief that thoroughly cited the law in Georgia on the topic of default judgments and included several cases where excuses similar to the ones that the flooring company was raising were considered to be inadequate to avoid a default judgment.
The Champion Firm Wins E.R.’s Case
After reading our briefs, the trial judge granted our motion for default judgment and set a hearing date for damages. As a result of our success in obtaining a favorable ruling from the trial court, the company’s insurer promptly offered to settle the claims. After weeks of back and forth negotiations, we were able to obtain a favorable settlement of $90,000 for E.R.’s claims.