Attorneys for a man who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a beating he received after a 2007 visit to Six Flags Over Georgia are appealing the ruling that tossed out his jury award of $35 million. The theme park is also appealing the court decisions that found it at fault in the attack.
The Georgia Supreme Court is expected Monday to hear oral arguments regarding the case of Joshua Martin, who traveled to Six Flags on July 3, 2007, to celebrate a friend’s acceptance into college. After exiting the park, Martin and his friends saw a group of about 40 men, all wearing similar T-shirts, which led them to walk away from the park to a Cobb County Transit bus stop just beyond the park’s property. It was there that several men from that large group — including those who earlier in the day had accosted two young families inside the park — attacked Martin and his friends, according to details provided by court staff.
Martin was beaten with brass knuckles to the point of entering into a coma that lasted a week. He remained in the coma for a week and suffered severe and permanent brain damage. Two of his friends escaped with lesser injuries, the MDJ previously reported.
Six years after the attack, a Cobb jury awarded Martin $35 million, apportioning 8 percent of the fault — a total of $2.8 million — to the four men convicted of the assault. It apportioned the remaining 92 percent of the fault to Six Flags. Adding to the $32 million judgment was more than $540,000 in interest and court costs.
In November 2015, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed the jury’s verdict and ordered a new trial, determining that not all of Martin’s attackers were listed on the verdict form and at least two of the men were not included in the apportionment of damages. But the court rejected Six Flags’ attorneys’ argument that the theme park was not responsible for providing care to Martin as the attack occurred off park premises.
Both sides are appealing the decisions from the Court of Appeals, with Martin’s attorneys asking the court to reinstate the jury’s verdict in full or limit any potential retrial. Six Flags’ lawyers are set to argue that the judgment against them, in addition to being “patently excessive,” was unfair and did not take into account a number of attackers involved in the incident. Though they say a few of the attackers had been “off-duty Six Flags employees,” most of the crowd of 20 involved in the beating were never identified or linked to the theme park.
Attorneys are also expected to argue whether the theme park had a responsibility to keep safe those at the bus stop where the attack occurred. While Martin’s attorneys contend that the bus stop was an “approach” to the theme park and therefore should have been kept safe by the park, Six Flags’ attorneys argue that the appeals court’s ruling deeming the park responsible for the incident was not in line with premises liability law in Georgia and in other states.
The case is expected to be decided within six months.