Thomas J. Henry Recognized for Top Back Injury Verdict of 2012
The $21 million back injury verdict was awarded to Vanice Chatman-Wilson for injuries sustained during a distracted driving accident in 2010. Ms. Chatman-Wilson was struck by an employee of Coca-Cola Enterprises, Inc. who was allegedly talking on her cell phone while driving. The case (Case No. 10-61510-2) was tried in Nueces County Court at Law No. 2.
Ms. Chatman-Wilson sustained a back injury (herniation at L4-5) that required spinal surgery. Plaintiff’s vocational expert testified that Ms. Chatman-Wilson’s injuries were permanent and that she would not be able to return to work. According to court documents, she was awarded $11.5 million in actual damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
At the heart of the case was Coca Cola’s cell phone policy, which allowed for employees to use hands-free cell phone devices while driving. According to court documents, the plaintiff’s attorneys argued that Coca-Cola should not have allowed their employee to talk on her cell phone while driving a company vehicle and was therefore vicariously liable for negligent training, management, and supervision of that employee.
It was a notable case in an ongoing national discussion regarding the dangers of distracted driving, the debate over cell phone driving laws, and the necessity of corporate responsibility for employee accidents. The case appeared in Verdict Search and was recognized by the National Law Journal as being one of the Top 100 Verdicts for 2012 and the #1 Back Injury Verdict for that year.
The National Law Journal is a premier legal news publication which disseminates information on federal court decisions and legislative issues and reports on the top verdicts, judgments, awards, and settlements in the country.