Family of Man Killed In Deck Accident Seeks $25M After $1M Settlement
Greg Land, Daily Report, July 6th, 2017.
A $1 million settlement has been reached with the survivors of a disabled veteran who strangled to death when an apartment deck railing broke loose and trapped him in his wheelchair. But the parties are continuing to litigate, as the family and estate seeks $25 million from the apartment complex owner’s excess coverage policy.
The plaintiffs’ filing attorney, Thomas Reynolds, said the deceased man, Antoine Hendrix, had previously complained about the railings, and a repair man had worked on them, but that work did not include replacing any parts.
“The first time it happened, his wheelchair hit the railing and it gave way, but he did not suffer any injuries,” said Reynolds. The complex sent a man to fix the problem, and he “quote-unquote repaired it by popping it back into place-those were [the repairman’s] words,” said Reynolds, who is handling the case with Reynolds Law Group colleague Isaac Tekie.
A Facebook page for Hendrix shows him wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates cap and the caption: “Retired from Army, was injured in the Military. In a wheelchair, paralyzed from chest down. Hopefully it’s not permanently. Only GOD can judge me!!!”
According to Reynolds and case filings Hendrix, 37, was a divorced father of three who lived alone in a first-floor unit of the Hickory Falls Apartments in Villa Rica at the time of the accident.
On Jan. 31, 2014, Hendrix rolled his motorized wheelchair onto the patio of his apartment and bumped into the bottom railing.
As Reynolds explained, the railing consisted of an upper and lower horizontal bar, connected by vertical uprights.
“When the bottom rail gave way, it essentially swung open while the top rail stayed in place,” he said.
The front wheels went over the lip of the patio, pinning Hendrix’s throat to the upper rail by the weight of the wheelchair and suffocating him.
Another resident saw Hendrix trapped and called 911 at about 5:40 p.m., saying he was unconscious, but rescuers were unable to revive him and he died at the scene.
Last year, Reynolds sued in Fulton County Superior Court on behalf of Hendrix’s mother and estate executor, Katrina Dobbs, as well as his children and their guardians.
The named defendants included Hickory Falls Apartments and the company that bought the complex after the accident, Carter-Haston Real Estate Services and a related holding company.
Co-defendants included Carroll County and its development arm and several construction companies; they were dismissed without prejudice during the litigation, Reynolds said.
Before suing, Reynolds had demanded Hickory Falls’ policy limits and received no initial response, he said.
After hiring an expert to evaluate the status of the railing, the plaintiffs learned “there were rampant issues with the railings,” he said. “Probably 80 percent of the brackets had some impairment: Some were repaired by placing tape around them; some were improperly screwed in or appeared to be missing screws altogether.”
In May, Hickory Falls’ primary carrier, Westfield Insurance, paid its $1 million policy limit to get out of the case.
“What put them over the top is when I told them we would be pursuing a bad faith claim in excess of their policy limit,” said Reynolds. “We signed a limited release for the $1 million, and we’re still pursuing the $25 million in excess coverage.”
That policy is carried by Chubb Insurance, he said.
The former defense team was recently replaced, and now comprises Swift Currie McGhee & Hiers partner Stephen Cotter and associate Myrece Johnson. Cotter said he did not have permission to discuss the case.
Greg Land at [email protected] On Twitter: @GregLand1