$30 Million Settlement for Georgia School Student Struck in Pedestrian Crosswalk Resulting in a Brain Injury

This settlement made a huge difference for a family in need. 

The lives of Karter Thompson,* her brother and sisters, and her parents were changed forever by a vehicle-on-pedestrian accident.  Karter was jogging through a crosswalk on her high school’s campus when a student driver sped past several moving buses, a crowd of pedestrians, and through the crosswalk, striking Karter.  The impact sent Karter flying and resulted in a catastrophic brain injury.  Karter was only fourteen.  

Before the collision, Karter was a social butterfly.  She loved playing with friends and swimming.  She was active in her church.  She was the only girl on her high school’s football team.  After the collision, all of that was taken from her.  Karter spent months in the hospital following the collision, including two life-saving brain surgeries.  Once Karter left the hospital, there was nobody that could care for her but her parents and siblings.  They stepped up without hesitation.  They fed her through a tube, washed her with sponges, drove her to therapy appointments, brushed her teeth, combed her hair, and changed her diapers.  They learned to transfer her from her bed to her wheelchair and back again.  

Even with all of the help at home, the financial burden on the family was tough.  Karter’s hospital bills exceeded $3,000,000.  Karter’s parents both had to stop working because caring for their daughter was a full-time job.  The Thompson family had to dig into their savings to make things work. 

Here’s how we were able to settle Karter’s case for $30,000,000, which will allow the Thompsons to care for Karter for the rest of her life.   

How the Pedestrian Accident Happened

On the afternoon of the pedestrian accident, school had just been dismissed. Fourteen-year-old Karter Thompson was on her way to football practice.  She approached the crosswalk between the school building and the football field.  

Once at the crosswalk, Karter looked to her left where a school bus driver waved her through the crosswalk.  She began crossing in the crosswalk toward the football field. 

Seconds earlier, a student driver rounded a turn onto the road on which the collision happened.  The student drove past a fifteen mile-per-hour speed limit sign and accelerated to twenty-five miles per hour.  Hazards such as oncoming buses, students congregating on the side of the road, and the crosswalk were plainly visible.  The driver did not slow down.

pedestrian accident

Karter had made it about three-quarters through the crosswalk when the student driver struck her. The impact sent Karter flying.  Her head struck the pavement where she landed.  Karter’s then-ten-year-old brother, Charles, saw everything. 

Fault for the Pedestrian Accident

Expert testimony was critical to proving fault.  In this case, we hired two liability experts – a collision reconstruction expert and a human factors expert.  A collision reconstruction expert goes to the scene of the collision, measures physical evidence (such as skid marks and debris patterns), interprets ‘black box’ data, and then – if everything goes right – explains how a collision happened.  A human factors expert evaluates what people could have seen and then the evaluates what a reasonable reaction time would be.  

In this case, our experts were able to work with an animation company to create an animated depiction of their opinions.  The first part of the animation illustrated the experts’ opinions as to how the collision happened.  The second and third part of the animation illustrated the experts’ opinions as to what would have happened if the student driver was had been going the speed limit from various points. 

The final result was compelling – in either scenario in which the driver was obeying the speed limit, the collision was avoided.  Watch for yourself below. 

 

Our firm created this animation of the collision.

The defense also hired experts and prepared an animation, but it backfired on them.  For example, we were able to use the defense reconstruction animation to prove that the student driver would have been able to see Karter with plenty of time to slow down, as seen in the screen shot below. 

Instead of slowing down, the student driver continued toward the crosswalk without slowing or braking.  We also used the defense animation to show that Karter had made it more than three-quarters across the crosswalk at the time of the collision. 

In the end, all four of the parties’ liability experts agreed that the student driver was speeding.  Both parties’ collision reconstruction experts agreed that the student driver’s speeding caused the collision.  

Pursuing Phone Records

We suspected that the at-fault driver might have been using her phone at the time of the collision, so we sought not only the records of her cellular service provider, but also a “full file system extraction” of her phone.  The defense did not agree to provide that information, so we filed a motion and argued the issue before the Court.  We prevailed and were able to get the evidence.

If you’d like to see the briefing and Order, here are Plaintiffs’ Motion to Compel Full File System Extraction of Cell PhoneDefendant’s ResponsePlaintiffs’ Reply, and the Court’s Order granting our motion.

 

Denial of Responsibility 

The defendant denied responsibility – despite admitting that she was speeding. 

defendant denied responsibility

Instead, the defendant asserted three defenses.  First, the defense blamed Karter jogging into the crosswalk.  Second, the defense blamed the school for not having a crossing guard.  Third, the defense hired a crew of experts to minimize Karter’s future medical expenses by arguing that given her injuries, she would not live very long.  

First, the defense blamed Karter for jogging in the crosswalk instead of walking.  To combat that defense, we distinguished vehicles, which are inherently dangerous and subject to speed limits, from pedestrians, who have the right-of-way in crosswalks.  Toward the end of the case, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which asked the Court to dismiss our case because Karter was allegedly more than fifty percent at fault.  In our response, we highlighted Georgia law requiring the issues of negligence and comparative fault to go before the jury.  Ultimately, the Court sided with us and entered an order denying the defendant’s motion. 

Second, the defendant also blamed the school and even hired a school policies and procedures expert to give opinions that the school failed to keep Karter safe.  Things went south for the defendant when, during the expert’s deposition, it became clear that she had reviewed the policies and procedures for the wrong school.  After we filed a motion to exclude the expert’s opinions, the defendant withdrew the expert and the apportionment defense.  

Third, the defense hired experts to testify that Karter had a reduced life expectancy because of her brain injury and therefore would not have as many future medical expenses as we claimed. However, each defense expert testified that Karter’s injuries were a direct result of the collision and that she would require around-the-clock care for the rest of her life.  The defendant never got the chance to present its experts to the jury, but we don’t think jurors would have cared too much for that argument. 

Settlement of the Pedestrian Accident Case

Our case was specially set for trial.  We had everything we needed to try the case, including evidence, law, witnesses, and the best clients around.  But there is always risk associated with trial, and even with a favorable verdict, there is delay with appeals other post-trial legal fights.  Karter’s family urgently needed help.   

Fortunately for our clients, the Court ordered the parties to mediation a couple months before trial.  After a full day of going back-and-forth, we were able to settle the case for $30,000,000.  

There is no amount of money that could make up for what happened to Karter and her family.  Before the accident, Karter was an able-bodied teenager with her entire life ahead of her.  Karter’s parents both had jobs that allowed them to take care of Karter and their three other children.  A moment later, all of that changed.  The settlement will help Karter’s parents take care of her for the rest of her life.  

*This name and others in this writeup have been changed for privacy reasons.

Matt Kahn
Matt Kahn is an Atlanta personal injury lawyer and a partner at the law firm Butler Kahn. Matt has dedicated his career to fighting for individuals and families who had been harmed by the negligence of others. At Butler Kahn, he has had the honor of helping families who have lost children in motor vehicle accidents and people who were critically injured. He helped a family secure a $45 million settlement to provide lifetime care for their son, who was critically injured in a motorcycle accident. Matt is a graduate of Emory University School of Law and has been recognized as a Super Lawyers’ Rising Star and by Best Lawyers as One to Watch. He has received an Avvo 10.0 Top Attorney rating. Connect with me on LinkedIn

Share:

Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Get a Free Consultation

Free Consultation

"*" indicates required fields

Agree To Terms*
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

SEARCH