Record $280 Million Judgement Against Schnitzer
Schnitzer Lawyer Blames Victim For Fatal Crash In Bizarre Closing
A record $280 million dollar judgement was handed down by a Muscogee County Jury Friday in response to a fatal truck crash that killed five members of one family in East Alabama.
Attorneys from Butler, Wooten and Peak told the Jury this case was about justice for Judy Madere. She was the mother, grandmother, and twin sister of the passengers who died next to her on Alabama Highway 80 that day in July of 2016.
The civil lawsuit filed on behalf of the Madere family was also to some extent about the almighty dollar and sending a message to large transportation companies that if you don’t follow the rules and you kill somebody you will pay in a big way.
Brandon Peak told the jury here in Columbus where the trucking company is located that Kenneth Cathey and Schnitzer Steel were asleep at the wheel the day their driver slammed head on into the Nissan Rogue carrying three generations from one family.
The company he said had not followed proper training and safety policies and took no corrective action after their driver killed five people and nobody seemed to care, Peak said.
“And they were trying to wear ’em out. They wanted them to give so they wouldn’t have to come into court and go through the pain of having to relive this incident over and over again but they picked the wrong two people,” Peak said during his closing arguments.
The attorney for Schnitzer, Robert Shannon told the jury the family’s lawyer was “good at exploitation” and then shocking even seasoned court observers proceeded to blame the victim for the fatal crash despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It was an egregious and ineffective charge that wasn’t lost on the jury.
“Do I want to come into court you know and put this family through more when I say here’s evidence that Carrie Ann Jones was responsible for the life of her mother, her aunt and her children,” Shannon said to the jury.
The family’s attorney, Brandon Peak veered briefly from his prepared remarks to address the accusation.
“Ive been doing this a long time and I’ve really never seen anything more underhanded that’s occurred than that right there. You notice one word you’ve not heard come out of their mouths at all? Sorry. Who has looked at Larry Madere who lost his wife of 42 years and said Larry, I ‘m sorry. Who’s looked at Anjanette who lost her mother and said I’m sorry? I’m sorry for what your family’s been through? Nobody.” Peak said.
The jury returned with the largest judgement in Muscogee County history, $280 million for compensatory and punitive damages against Schnitzer Steel and the truck driver, Kenneth Cathey.
Schnitzer Southeast, the local company the driver worked for issued a statement late Friday night saying in part “We were hoping for a fair and reasonable outcome for all parties, unfortunately we believe the jury’s verdict has significant flaws, and we plan to appeal it.”
The truck driver is still facing criminal charges where the fatal crash occurred in Russell County. Kenneth Cathey was indicted for five counts of Criminal Negligent Homicide and the case is on the trial docket there later this year.
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