Gordon & Rees Atlanta partner Jeff Melcher and associate Tawana Johnson recently negotiated a favorable settlement in a premises liability action in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Our clients, Ocean Medlock Bridge, LLC and Atlantic Pacific Property Management, LLC, own and manage an apartment complex in Gwinnett County, where Plaintiff was a resident. Plaintiff claimed that she stepped on a pool skimmer box, which was unsecured and collapsed under her weight, causing her to sustain a puncture wound to her shin. Plaintiff delayed seeking medical treatment, and refused antibiotics for over three months. Less than a month after her injuries, she traveled to Russia and the Baltic Sea region, where she developed a drug-resistant fungal infection, and a lymph node in her groin region became inflamed. Ultimately, Plaintiff required surgery to remove the infected lymph node, her wounds did not heal for over a year following her injury, and she sustained significant scarring to her shin and groin area. During the time period between Plaintiff’s injury and when she filed suit, our clients experienced 100% employee turnover, so there were no witnesses to corroborate Plaintiff’s version of the events or that could testify regarding any maintenance procedures for the pool area. Compounding the difficulty for the defense, there was no documentation in the corporate records regarding maintenance procedures or the incident when Plaintiff alleged she was injured.
In defending the claims, the Atlanta team methodically negated every aspect of Plaintiff’s case. Plaintiff failed to present evidence that Defendant breached any duty or other statutory requirement with regard to the skimmer box. Plaintiff identified a pre-eminent infectious disease physician as an expert, who was also her personal friend and treating physician. However, perhaps most fatal to her claims, Plaintiff’s expert witness could not testify conclusively that that her fall was the proximate cause of the resulting infection and lymph node surgery. Moreover, notwithstanding Plaintiff’s allegations of severe emotional distress and lost wages, the Atlanta team presented evidence that Plaintiff continued her travels, attended parties, and maintained her regular activities during the six month period that Plaintiff claimed she was unable to work as a bartender. The Atlanta team also presented evidence that Plaintiff’s income actually increased significantly since her injuries, thereby negating her lost wages claim. The pre-suit demand was $350,000, but Plaintiff’s total damages came to less than $50,000. The Atlanta team successfully negotiated a settlement for less than 1/3 of the demand.