MARIETTA — A 12-member jury in the State Court of Cobb County on Friday returned a $40 million verdict against a Jacksonville, Fla.-based trucking company after one of its drivers ran a stop sign and killed two men.
On Feb. 11, 2007, William “Bill” F. Foster, Jr., took his wife, Theresa, and the general manager of Foster’s outdoor recreation store on a quail hunt in his 2002 Ford F-150 truck in Blakely, according to the lawsuit, filed on behalf of Theresa Foster and Dixie Shooters Supply Inc., Bill Foster’s company.
Landstar employee Stephen Collins of Florida was transporting a cargo of rubber pellets in a tractor-trailer truck.
At about 6 p.m., Collins ran a stop sign at a Blakely intersection and crashed his 77,000-pound 18-wheeler into the Ford, killing Bill Foster and his employee and sending Theresa Foster to the hospital with fractured vertebrae.
“He just ignored it and went right through it and caused the collision,” said Marietta attorney Matt Flournoy, who assisted lead attorney Bill Stone of Blakely on the case.
The civil case was tried in Cobb before Judge Maria Golick because Landstar had previously opted to have any Georgia lawsuits brought against it here.
“They’re basically saying of all the counties, if we’re going to be sued, we want to be sued in Cobb County,” Flournoy said. “Cobb has got a reputation for being a very conservative venue; in other words, low verdicts.”
In the two-week long trial, plaintiffs called 25 witnesses and the defense called none. After deliberating for two hours on Thursday and again from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Friday, the jury returned the $40,175,000 million verdict.
“This is the largest verdict in the state of Georgia for the wrongful death of one human being and also the personal injuries of the surviving widow,” Flournoy said. “There have been larger verdicts that included punitive damages, but they checked ‘no’ on punitive. We feel confident it will stand any appeal.”
Flournoy said the amount awarded was based on Foster’s future earnings and was not the result of a “runaway jury.”
“People had to get over the fact that some people can be really high-income earners,” Flournoy said. “We gave the example of Warren Buffet. If Warren Buffet had been killed by an 18-wheeler, his earning capacity in the future would probably be over $100 million.”
Neither State Court Clerk Diane Webb nor Cobb Superior Court Administrator Tom Charron said they could think of a Cobb jury ever returning a higher amount.
Defense attorney Kevin Williams of Weinberg, Wheeler, Hudgins, Gunn & Dial of Atlanta did not return calls for comment, nor did Landstar.
“This is wonderful family that was victimized by a big trucking company, and by God the little man finally got some justice,” Flournoy said.