Two summers ago, Hunter Fellers, 31, collapsed into a pool at an assisted living apartment complex for adults with mental disabilities, and died. In January 2013, Fried Rogers Goldberg partner Michael Goldberg, working with Atlanta solo practitioner Andrew Goldner, filed a lawsuit against the apartment complex on behalf of Mary Fellers, the mother and estate administrator of the victim.
Hunter had been living at the complex in Lilburn, called Just People Village, for seven years. On the day of the incident, Just People hosted a pool party for its residents and other mentally handicapped people. There was no lifeguard, and although there were five or six staffers chaperoning the event, no staffer was assigned to monitor the pool.
Goldberg described to Daily Report what is visible of a video of the incident. The man “kind of jerks, turns around twice, goes under water, has convulsions for four or five seconds, then goes limp. The other mentally handicapped people don’t realize he’s not coming up, and he’s under water for six minutes.”
Defense arguments against the premises liability and negligence claims included that Hunter, who had the mental capacity of a teenager, dead from a heart condition before falling into the pool.
FRG Counters, Takes Case to Trial
An initial offer of $50,000 was presented by the defense following the offer of a plaque for Hunter at the facility. In response to this, Goldberg responded by saying, “I told them I didn’t think my client wanted a plaque at the facility he died at.”
Fried Rogers Goldberg countered with a $1 million proposal, but the case went to trial on July 7 in Fulton County State Court. The scheduled five-day trial wrapped in two-and-a-half days. It took a Fulton County jury just over an hour to deliberate and come back with a $2 million verdict, in addition to funeral costs, for Hunter’s mother.
Many expert witnesses were called to testify the cause of death for both sides. However, the defense surmised that a shown video of the event was too much for the jury to look past.
Arguing the Value of Life
In his closing, Goldberg gave the jury an idea of what the value of a 31-year-old man’s life might normally be. He estimated this amount to be $4 million to $8 million and then asked the jury to consider whether it should be less because of a mental handicap.
While the value of a life cannot be equated with a number, victims of such incidents deserve justice. We care about protecting the rights of our clients and we will not accept less than what we believe is owed to them.
Contact Fried Rogers Goldberg for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.