ATLANTA— Last week the Georgia Department of Transportation agreed to pay more than $2 million to victims to settle ongoing lawsuits after four different men fell into open storm drainage ditches along I-75, I-285 and the Buford-Spring Connector. Victims fell up to 15 feet through open drains missing safety grates between 2013 and 2015. Three of the victims suffered injuries requiring surgery while a fourth victim died from his injuries.
A total of $2,095,000 was paid by the GDOT to four victims who sustained injuries in accidents involving missing covers for storm sewers, named “mantraps,” along Georgia highways. The Georgia Department of Transportation announced the grates normally preventing these safety hazards were missing because of thieves stealing the covers to sell as scrap metal. Information uncovered by private contractors revealed that between 2013 and 2015, at least 600 grates were reported missing by the GDOT. Evidence obtained by attorneys Rob Hammers Jr. (Schneider Hammers) and Dustin Davies (Hasty Pope) showed the GDOT had ordered several replacement grates, never used them and stored them in a warehouse.
Victims Larry Cook and Mickey Koelling both sustained injuries requiring surgery after falling through the open storm sewers. In September 2014, Cook fell 15 feet through a storm drain located on the Buford-Spring Connector in Atlanta and shattered his left ankle and foot, requiring the placement of a metal plate during surgery. Cook, represented by Davies (Hasty Pope) received a settlement of $550,000. Koelling plummeted through an open drain in January 2015 on the I-75 North exit ramp of I-285 and suffered a broken ankle that required fusion surgery. Koelling was represented by attorney Adam King (Nicholson Revell) and received a $260,000 settlement.
A third victim, Raymond Sisson, passed away as a result of his fall through an open drainage sewer on I-75. Sisson was traveling with his wife in October 2014 and fell through one of the “mantraps,” hitting his head. He ultimately suffered an acute brain bleed due to a subdural hematoma and passed away the following day after being airlifted to a Jacksonville trauma center. His wife Ann Sisson was represented by Lance and Robin Lourie (Watkins Lourie Roll & Chance) and received a settlement of $750,000.
The victim represented by Rob Hammers Jr. (Schneider Hammers), Jonah McKenzie, fell over 11 feet through an open storm drain on I-285 in August 2013. His car slid off the highway in the early hours of the morning and he fell into the drain after exiting his vehicle to check for damage. He shattered his right fibula and tibia which required multiple surgeries and months of rehabilitation. He also lost more than $4,000 in wages. McKenzie’s case was the first to occur amongst the four court filings against the GDOT and he received $535,000 as a settlement.
With 600 reportedly missing grates, the open drainage sewers that are scattered throughout Georgia highways pose threats for drivers statewide. If you or a loved one has suffered a personal injury or wrongful death due to one of these open drainage ditches, contact one of our attorneys at Schneider Hammers today. We are committed to representing you effectively and strategically to ensure you receive the settlement you deserve.