A Georgia jury awarded $8 million to a motorcyclist who was seriously injured when a dump truck hit an orange construction barrel, which ricocheted into his path and caused him to lose control of his bike on Interstate 75.
The Clayton County, Georgia, jury deliberated for roughly two hours before returning a verdict in favor of Ronnie Stevens, who sustained a fractured wrist and a shattered ankle in the crash.
The jury found that JRK Trucking Inc. of Jonesboro, Georgia, and its driver, Donald Parks, were responsible for the crash.
Stevens, now 41, was riding his Harley-Davidson Street Glide southbound on I-75 on Oct. 12, 2015, when a dump truck driven by Parks “attempted to move into a closed lane of travel in order to go into a construction site in the median of the highway and negligently struck an orange construction barrel,” according to court documents.
At the time of the crash, Stevens was a chief petty officer in the U.S. Navy, but he was forced to retire seven years early because of his injuries, according to his attorney, Eric Rogers, of the law firm Fried Rogers Goldberg, headquartered in Atlanta.
Stevens was no longer able to complete the 1.5-mile run portion of the Navy’s physical readiness test as a result of his shattered ankle, Rogers said.
“If you aren’t able to perform at a high level at his rank, you kind of get stuck,” Rogers told FreightWaves. “He wasn’t able to go out on ships, he wasn’t eligible for promotions, so his career that he built for 23 years just sort of stagnated in the last three years after the accident.”
The police originally filed the case as a “John Doe” crash because the dump truck fled the scene, Rogers said. His firm had to go through discovery with all of the general contractors working on the construction project to narrow it down to the alleged driver and trucking company.
JRK Trucking is no longer in business, according to its website.
FreightWaves reached out to the company’s chief executive officer, Nizam Khan, for a comment regarding the verdict, but he denied any involvement in the shuttered company.
“I don’t have a trucking business,” Khan told FreightWaves on Nov. 15.
However, his voicemail states to leave a message for JRK Trucking.
While the jury was deliberating, Rogers said the trucking company and Parks, which never conceded responsibility for the crash, reached a “high-low agreement” that guaranteed a settlement for Stevens despite the pending verdict.
“The flip side was that it was a very large verdict,” Rogers said. “So we came to an agreement that there would be no appealable issues and it guaranteed resolution for [Stevens],” he said.