$29,250,000 Jury Verdict – Wrongful Death
Eric Hilaro worked at a recycling center in East Atlanta, Georgia. His father and brother worked at the same facility. One of the 19-yr-old’s responsibilities was to drive a front-end loader to push leftover scrap metal along the ground to clear space for the next day’s automobile shredding.
The facility had recently decided to begin vehicle recycling to increase their business, but had chosen not to invest in the standard safety equipment that the recycling industry typically uses to handle the task of gasoline removal from vehicles before they are shredded. Instead, they fashioned a homemade device they called a “puncher” to de-fuel old cars before they were shredded. Basically, it was a three foot metal spike they had welded together with a reservoir around it to catch gasoline from the gas tanks. They lifted up the cars with a huge crane, impaled them on the “puncher” and shook them to drain the fuel. It was not a safe and efficient method of removing all the fuel that remained in the vehicles they processed.
On the night of the incident, gasoline remaining on the floor from the improper fuel removal procedures was ignited by a spark from the scrap metal being pushed across the floor. Eric never had a chance.
Shiver Hamilton’s mission is to seek justice for people like Eric and his families. The firm represented the family of Eric Hilaro in a wrongful death civil suit against the recycling facility’s insurance carrier. The litigation, which lasted several years, was very complex and hard fought. The defendant argued that they were immune from being sued as the young man’s employer. The defendant also asked the jury to place 100% of the blame on another employer who they falsely claimed had violated company policy. After an 8-day trial in 2015, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the young man’s estate. The jury found the defendant company 100% responsible and awarded Eric’s family additional punitive damages to punish the defendant for the careless way it handled gasoline at the facility. The jury judgement was in the amount of $29.25 million. The insurance carrier settled the case confidentially after the jury verdict was reached.
The skilled attorneys of Shiver Hamilton strive to put grieving Atlanta, Georgia families, like the Hilaros, on an equal footing with insurance companies or corporate defendants. As a result, Shiver Hamilton has won some of the highest settlements and verdicts for wrongful death cases in the state of Georgia. Insurance companies representing firms that have had serious workplace accidents or deaths have an adversarial relationship to victim’s families. They immediately and aggressively begin gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and seek to build a defense to protect themselves from liability. Shiver Hamilton recognizes that families of people who have died in workplace accidents need a strong advocate through the legal process to protect their rights at precisely the time they are most incapacitated by grief.
Shiver Hamilton brings compassion and zeal to every case. They dedicate whatever resources are necessary to make sure clients are treated fairly and that justice is done. They don’t take quick settlements that leave clients’ families unable to recover from the financial and emotional loss of a loved one’s wrongful death. They know there is more at stake than just a legal judgement, that clients often need counsel across a range of problems and issues that go beyond the particulars of their case. They value the people they represent as deserving of justice and respect.
The lawyers of Shiver Hamilton also prepare all their cases to go to trial, alerting insurance companies and corporate defendants that they won’t settle for anything less than full justice for their clients. Preparing the case for trial is the only way to consistently achieve the best outcomes for clients. Opposing counsel must know that Shiver Hamilton’s clients are represented by skilled and experienced trial lawyers with all the necessary legal resources to win jury judgements.
Compensation in a wrongful death case includes both monetary and non-monetary damages. Monetary damages include lost income over the lifetime of the decedent and costs related to the death, such as funeral expenses or medical bills. Intangible things like the pain and suffering felt by the decedent between the accident and his death, as well as by family members after are non-monetary damages. This includes basically the full value of the life that was lost, all the things that make life valuable, all the things Eric and his family will never experience; his companionship with the father and brother who worked with him, the family of his own he will never have the chance to create.
Shiver Hamilton used its extensive investigative resources in Eric’s case to gather critical evidence that the defendant had sought to hide from them. Investigators were initially told by management the de-fueling process was safe. They, however, discovered extensive evidence that many employees had expressed fears about workplace safety to their superiors in person and in emails and that these concerns had been ignored. There had been battery fires and sparks in other parts of the facility. People had been concerned and had spoken up, but the company had done nothing.
Shiver Hamilton also learned in their investigation that after safety concerns had been raised the recycling company had gone back to the manufacturer of the safe de-fueling system and been quoted around $5000 for installation. It was revealed upon cross-examination at trial that the safety expert they employed to testify had been paid $30,000 to serve as an expert witness. For the same money they paid to hide their negligence, they could have purchased six of the de-fueling machines. The company had valued profits over the safety and well-being of its employees and attempted to hide it from investigators. This directly contributed to the unusually large verdict awarded by the jury in Eric’s case.
Shiver Hamilton is proud of the conduct of this case and honored that the young man’s family had the trust in their firm and the courage to see the case through all the way to verdict.