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Neglected Guardrail in Disrepair Kills Passenger in Multi-Vehicle Collision

It began with a seemingly mundane feature of roadway safety: a guardrail. This very device — designed to protect — became the focal point of a catastrophic injury. In Georgia, like all other states, guardrails often fall into disrepair. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) hired subcontractors Martin Robbins and Arcadeus to identify and fix them. In one case, Martin Robbins was contractually obligated to repair a guardrail on the 85 Interstate in Atlanta, Georgia, within 21 days. It took them 45. On the 44th day, a woman named Katrice Hunter lost her life.

Katrice, a young mother of two in her twenties at the time of the accident, was riding in the passenger seat in a Kia Sorento when a taxi collided with her vehicle. The Kia slid directly into the guardrail, vaulted over the faulty barrier, and collided with a concrete surveillance pole. The SUV crumpled, twisted, and buckled like a tin can. The metal frame was mangled. The windows shattered. The doors warped. Katrice was killed instantly. The driver of the Kia suffered severe brain damage that altered her life forever.

The driver of the vehicle sought out an attorney to help attain justice for the damage she and Katrice suffered. While reviewing the case, the attorney saw a potential conflict of interest representing Katrice as a co-Plaintiff. He contacted Jeb Butler and Matt Kahn of Butler | Kahn to represent Katrice as they faced off against GDOT, Martin Robbins, and Arcadeus — three titan Defendant corporations. Jeb and Matt immediately retained an accident reconstructionist to reconstruct the events that night. They also retained a highway safety expert who could attest to the guardrail’s condition and an economist to estimate the value of a wrongful death claim.

Jeb and Matt submitted discovery motions to determine everything they could about the subcontractors. Martin Robbins was contracted to repair to the guardrail; Arcadius was hired to locate and assess roadways that needed repairs. Jeb and Matt also learned Arcadeus had records showing that their drivers passed through the interstate every week for months. After almost ten months of neglect, Arcadius finally informed GDOT and Martin Robbins about the damage. 44 days later, Katrice died.

Even with the accident reconstruction report demonstrating how the Kia Sorento crashed and the blatant negligence, the Defendants withheld from negotiating a suitable settlement. Matt and Jeb knew the evidence needed to persuade a potential jury of negligence was there. But, with such an important case, they also needed a strong story — a way to communicate to a possible jury how ten months of negligence ended Katrice’s life, along with what could have happened that day if the faulty guardrail had not taken 45 days to fix. To communicate the story, Matt and Jeb reached out to DK Global to create an accident reconstruction animation showcasing a near-identical recreation of what happened, as well as a "What if" scenario of what should have occurred with the guardrail.

The animation commenced with an overview of the 85 Interstate. After establishing the location, a bird’s eye view of the Kia Sorento was shown moments after the initial collision with the taxi. The animation showed the Kia swerving into the far left lane, vaulting over the faulty guard rail. The animation continued with the vehicle impacting a concrete pole, folding to a cylindrical shape. After the initial showcase of the accident, a step-by-step replay broke down each moment of the crash. Finally, a "What if" scenario showed the vehicle impacting and ricocheting off the guardrail — what should have happened if Arcadeus, Martin Robbins, and GDOT had done their jobs.

After four years of litigating the case, the Defense was firm on a total settlement sum of $1,000,000, split between a life lost and another forever altered. Jeb and Matt presented the DK Global animations alongside their numerous expert testimonies attesting to the accuracy of the visuals. Each of the three Defendants agreed to settle for the maximum policy limits: $3,000,000 from GDOT, $16,000,000 from Arcadius, and $21,000,000 from Martin Robbins — a total net settlement of just over $40,000,000 — split between the driver of the Kia and the family of Katrice Hunter.

Jeb Butler is a founding partner at Butler | Kahn, primarily focusing on personal injury and wrongful death law. He has been honored as a Young Litigator of the Year by the Georgia YLD, recognized as an On the Rise / 40 Under 40 by the Daily Report, and acknowledged as a Legal Elite by Georgia Trend. Jeb's expertise and dedication have led to his selection as a Super Lawyers Rising Star and one of the top 100 Trial Lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers. With an impressive track record, Jeb has secured over $200 million in settlements and verdicts for his clients.

Matt Kahn has been specializing in personal injury law since 2015. In 2019, he joined Butler | Kahn as a partner, finding his home. He has been consistently recognized as one of Super Lawyers' 'Rising Stars' from 2020 to 2024, a testament to his exceptional legal skills. Matt is an esteemed member of the American Association for Justice and the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association. Additionally, he serves as a board member for the Parkinson's Foundation - Georgia. Notably, his recent case results have surpassed $120,000,000.

"Before we had the animation, it was a bunch of words from engineers and experts. But the animation really put life into our theory of the case. It gave us a really compelling tool to show witnesses and jurors what happened."
Matt Kahn - Butler | Kahn
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