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Attorneys reach $10.5 million settlement for family hit by pickup truck
2016 federal courthouse
Sidney O. Smith Federal Building & United States Courthouse - photo by Erin Smith

After a Hall County civil jury awarded one of the largest judgments in its history, it took almost another three years for the family to get any closer to that money.

The family settled with Columbia National Insurance Co. for $10.5 million as the case was set to go before a federal jury in February, according to the family’s attorneys.

Attorney Steve Rapp, who represented the insurance company, did not return a request for comment left Thursday, Jan. 23.

Amy and James Dunn and their then 12-year-old daughter were struck by a truck in the crosswalk outside of the Shallowford Road Wal-Mart on June 7, 2013.

As a result of the crash, the family suffered physical and emotional distress, including a traumatic brain injury for Amy Dunn, according to a news release from a public relations firm representing the family’s attorneys.

Attorney Mark Alexander said the family “just kept wanting some justice to happen.”

“Sometimes it was hard for them to understand why the insurance company wouldn’t just pay. That’s sort of a struggle that they face, and a lot of times they just couldn’t understand. They felt the frustration of having to expend all their resources and all the expenses of having to go through this epic legal battle just to get the insurance company to do what they should have done all along,” Alexander said.

In June 2017, the jury awarded $11.5 million in a personal injury lawsuit.

“After the verdict came out from the jury, the insurance company had denied any coverage. What the family had to do was to pursue collection of the verdict against the insurance company,” Alexander said.

That led to a lawsuit filed in November 2017 in U.S. District Court. The legal team included Alexander, Dan Sammons and Rich Dolder.

The plaintiffs were seeking $3 million in punitive damages, but the jury awarded $5 million. Another $6.5 million was awarded as compensatory damages.

Columbia National Insurance Co. denied coverage because it claimed the driver did not have permission to use the company truck at the time of the crash, Alexander said.

“In reality, the court found that the driver had received sort of general permission to use the company truck. Because the company had given the driver this permission to use the truck for both personal and business reasons, Columbia’s insurance policy covered the driver and the insurance company should have provided him with a lawyer,” Alexander said.

Alexander said the family had offered to resolve the case with the insurance company as far back as 2016 for less than the business insurance policy of $4 million.

Because the insurance company refused to settle the case on the driver’s behalf or provide him with any legal defense, Alexander and the legal team argued Columbia should cover the verdict beyond the $4 million policy limit.

With Columbia’s payment, all outstanding claims will be resolved.