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Top verdicts of 2016

By: Heath Hamacher//January 30, 2017

Top verdicts of 2016

By: Heath Hamacher//January 30, 2017

Rare med-mal verdict returned for $6.9M


A Charleston County jury returned a $6.9 million verdict against a radiologist who allegedly misread a mammogram, resulting in the patient’s breast cancer ultimately becoming terminal.

Leanna Loud sued Dr. Jeffrey Short and Charleston Radiologists after she, in 2008, went for a mammogram at East Cooper Regional Medical Center.

Short reviewed the mammogram and allegedly characterized it as normal, deeming new calcifications in Loud’s right breast benign.

But in 2010, Loud discovered a lump in the breast that proved to be cancerous, and after radiation and chemotherapy, she had the breast removed. It appeared that the cancer was eradicated, but three years later, a routine follow-up exam revealed that it had spread to her bones. She was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and given a terminal prognosis.

Loud underwent a series of surgeries, including the removal of her left breast and a full hysterectomy. She also underwent new rounds of chemotherapy and experimental drugs.

The jury awarded her $4.8 million in economic losses and $1.4 million in non-economic losses. It also awarded her husband $700,000 for loss of consortium.



Amount: $6.9 million

Injuries alleged: Delayed diagnosis of breast cancer – now terminal

Case name: Loud v. Short

Court: Charleston County Circuit Court

Judge: Roger Young

Case No.: 2013-CP-10-5902

Date of verdict: Jan. 20, 2016

Insurance carrier: MagMutual

Attorneys for plaintiff:  John Eric Fulda, Cheryl Perkins and Charles Whetstone of Whetstone, Perkins & Fulda and David Savage of Savage Law Firm in Charleston

Attorneys for defendant: Molly Hood Craig and Brian Johnson of The Hood Law Firm in Charleston


  1. (tie) $5M verdict for broken leg


A 44-year-old woman struck by a vehicle as she prepared to walk into a Florence County library, was awarded $5 million.

The woman, Annie Cokely, suffered a broken leg.

She was represented by Roy Willey IV of the Anastopoulo Law Firm in Charleston.

According to a police report, on Feb. 10, 2014, Cokely and another woman had just exited their vehicle when Cokely was struck by a vehicle reportedly pushed into her after being rear-ended by the defendant, 36-year-old Andrew Poston. Poston claimed he was distracted by a cup in the floorboard of his car.

Willey was assisted in representing Cokely by Matthew Nall, also of the Anastopoulo Law Firm.



Amount: $5 million

Injuries alleged: Broken leg

Case name: Annie Cokely v. Andrew Poston

Court: Florence County Court of Common Pleas

Judge: William Seals

Case number: 2015 CP 2102245       

Date of verdict: Aug. 25

Attorneys for plaintiff:  Roy Willey IV and Matthew Nall of the Anastopoulo Law Firm in Charleston

Attorney for defendant: Karl Brehmer of Brown & Brehmer in Columbia


  1. (tie) Beaufort County hit with $5M verdict in land dispute


A jury awarded $5 million to an investor who alleged that Beaufort County breached the terms of a settlement agreement by torpedoing a developer’s plans to build a subdivision on coastal land.

The investor formed Road LLC to purchase a narrow strip of land that served as the sole access road for 230 acres surrounded by marshland and tidal rivers. Pinckney Point LLC intended to turn the land, which had been a family farm, into a residential subdivision.

Road paid $1.3 million for the access land in the wake of a January 2011 settlement agreement involving Road’s investor, Beaufort County and Pinckney Point. Pinckney intended to buy the access road for $5 million after securing site plan approval for the subdivision.

An attorney for Road and Pinckney, G. Trenholm Walker of Pratt-Thomas Walker in Charleston, argued at trial that the terms of the settlement agreement implied that the property was to be developed.

But he said the county swooped in after Pinckney defaulted on its mortgage for the property and quietly negotiated a $6.95 million deal to buy the land from an investment firm in Atlanta that acquired the mortgage note. The deal unfolded while Pinckney was scrambling to drum up money to buy back the land.

Walker said that the county turned the property into conservation land, which left the investor behind Road holding the bag, and that Pinckney Point sunk about $9.5 million into the property.

A jury on May 2 determined that the county breached its contract with Road and awarded the investor $5 million. But the jury concluded that the county had not breached its contract with Pinckney Point.



Amount: $5M for Road LLC

Case name: Road, LLC and Pinckney Point, LLC v. Beaufort County

Court: Beaufort County Circuit Court

Case No.: 2013CP0701341

Judge: Carmen Mullen

Date of verdict: May 2

Attorneys for plaintiff: G. Trenholm Walker and Katie Monoc of Pratt-Thomas Walker in Charleston

Attorneys for defendants: Robert Achurch, Mary Lohr and Thomas Bendle Jr. of Howell Gibson & Hughes in Beaufort


  1. Woman awarded $4.6M in suit against Target


An Anderson County jury awarded a woman more than $4.6 million after she was injured by a hypodermic needle found in a Target parking lot.

Attorney Joshua Hawkins of Greenville, who represented plaintiff Carla Garrison, said that in early 2015, he was willing to settle the case for $12,000. Target’s highest offer, he said, was $2,500 — not enough to cover her medical bills alone.

Garrison had just parked at an Anderson Target when her 8-year-old daughter picked up a hypodermic needle. Garrison was stuck in the palm when she swatted the needle away.

Garrison was treated at a nearby hospital, tested for HIV and hepatitis, and prescribed medication for the potential risk of contracting HIV.

So far, those tests have remained negative.

An attorney for Target said in court filings that a merchant is not an insurer of the safety of his customer, but owes “only the duty of exercising ordinary care to keep the premises in reasonably safe condition.”

Hawkins said that Target did not meet that duty.



Amount: $4,618,500

Injuries alleged: Needle stick and HIV preventative treatment

Case name: Carla Denise Garrison v. Target Corp.

Case No.: 2014-CP-0401426

Court: Anderson County Court of Common Pleas

Judge: Keith Kelly

Date of verdict: Sept. 8

Attorneys for plaintiff: Joshua Hawkins of Greenville

Attorney for defendant: Knox Haynsworth III of Brown Massey Evans McLeod & Haynsworth in Greenville


  1. Faulty windows lead to $2.1M verdict against supplier


A condominium complex in Mount Pleasant was awarded more than $2.1 million in its defective construction suit against the supplier of defective windows that caused significant water and termite damage.

One Belle Hall condominiums were completed in 2007 by Trammell Crow Residential and the suit was filed in 2012. According to the property owners association, windows supplied by the defendant leaked, posing a danger to the condos and its residents.

On Sept. 1, after a four-day trial, a Charleston County jury awarded the association $2,163,493 for their claims of strict liability and breach of warranty.

An attorney for the plaintiff, Justin Lucey of Mount Pleasant, said that homeowners are often disadvantaged in their dealings with manufacturers and material suppliers.

“We hope this verdict sends an important message to suppliers that they can and will be held accountable for the quality of the construction products they supply,” he said.



Amount: $2,163,493

Injuries alleged: Water and termite damage

Case name: One Belle Hall Property Owners’ Association v. Trammell Crow Residential Co. et al.

Case No.: 2012-CP-10-7594

Court: Charleston County Court of Common Pleas

Judge: Diane Goodstein

Date of verdict: Sept. 1

Attorneys for plaintiff: Justin Lucey and Dabny Lynn of Mount Pleasant

Attorney for defendant: C. Davi Dyer of Kernoble Coleman in Charleston


  1. Misdiagnosis, death leads to $1.5M verdict


An Horry County jury awarded $1.5 million to the estate of a man who died after being misdiagnosed at a local medical center.

Christopher Douton, 41, was a project engineer with S&ME, Inc. in Conway and on Jan. 11, 2013, was at his office processing soil samples when his left leg went numb and he began experiencing a great deal of pain.

Douton was taken to Conway Medical Center and seen by emergency room physician Amanda Battisti, D.O. An attorney for Doughton’s estate, Scott Evans of Georgetown, said that Douton received “minimal testing” and was discharged after being diagnosed with a pinched nerve and leg pain.

Douton went to another local hospital the next day when his leg became completely numb. He was being transferred to the Medical University of South Carolina but died en route.

Two surgeons testified that had he been properly evaluated, there is at least a 90 percent chance that he would have survived.


Amount: $1.5 million

Injuries alleged: Wrongful death

Case name: Estate of Christopher Douton v. Conway Emergency Group LLP

Court: Horry County Superior Court

Case number: 2014-CP-26-8482

Date of verdict: Oct. 20

Attorneys for plaintiff: Scott Evans and James Moore III of Evans Moore in Georgetown, and Jeffrey Chandler of Myrtle Beach

Attorneys for defendant: Jack McCutcheon and Ashley Gwin of Thompson & Henry in Conway


  1. Newberry attorney awarded $1.3M for tortious interference

A Lexington County Circuit Court judge awarded a Newberry attorney more than $1.3 million in her lawsuit against a former client who schemed to bilk her out of her contracted fees.

In Adele Pope v. Gloria Corley et al., 11th Circuit Judge Diane Goodstein ordered three defendants to pay the damages for tortious interference of a contract that resulted from a more simple breach-of-contract dispute.

Attorney Pope and Gloria Corley entered a fee contract in 1998 that entitled Pope to a third of all the money in excess of $90,000 annually that Gloria received from her husband’s estate or trust for the rest of Corley’s life.

Pope secured an annual payment of $145,000.

The arrangement worked for about a decade before Corley’s daughter and attorney-in-fact declared that she was going to start paying what she felt like paying.

An attorney for Pope, Adam Silvernail of Columbia, said the Corleys and now-disbarred Lexington attorney Richard Breibart got together and negotiated a settlement among themselves that would pay Gloria a $650,000 lump sum in exchange for the relinquishing of any further rights to the trust.

“And that settlement appeared to be structured in a way that was intended specifically to avoid paying Mrs. Pope,” Silvernail said.



Amount: $1,349,173

Injuries alleged: Economic damages due to tortious interference

Case name: Adele Pope v. Gloria Corley et al.

Court: Lexington County Court of Common Pleas

Case No.: 2011-CP-32-1109

Judge: Diane Goodstein

Date of verdict: July 15

Attorney for plaintiff: Adam Silvernail of Columbia

Attorneys for defendants: Charlie Pender of the Craig Law Firm in Columbia for Gail Corley and Patricia Grant, and Timothy Quinn of Quinn & Hardy in Columbia for Andra Williams


  1. Ousted dental services COO awarded $1.23M


A Charleston County jury returned a $1.23 million verdict against a dental services company after it yanked its founder and chief operating officer and failed to honor the terms of a deal he signed when the company secured a round of fundraising from new investors.

Richard “R.J.” Adolfi launched National Dental Systems in South Carolina in 2012. The company had trouble securing adequate financing until Adolfi reached an agreement in March 2013 with Dental Investment Group to make a substantial injection of capital, his attorneys said.

As part of the deal, DIG asked Adolfi to sign an employment and non-compete agreement which provided for a five-year term of employment for Adolfi as chief operating officer at $250,000 a year. But Dental Smart dismissed Adolfi just three months later, and refused to pay him the salary left remaining on his contract.

Adolfi sued the company and a jury needed only an hour of deliberation before returning a verdict that awarded Adolfi all the money promised to him under the contract.

Mullins McLeod, Michael Cooper and Jackie LaPan Edgerton of McLeod Law Group in Charleston represented Adolfi.

Cooper said that the jurors became visibly frustrated with the defendants in the case, figuring that investors “…figured that they were going to b e able to do whatever they wanted to do…”.



Amount: $1,238,962

Injuries alleged: Past due wages and breach of contract

Case name: Richard John Adolfi v. National Dental Systems, LLC

Court: Charleston Circuit County

Case No.: 2015-CP-10-1683

Judge: Roger Young

Date of verdict: June 17

Demand: $850,000

Attorneys for plaintiff: Mullins McLeod, Michael Cooper and Jackie LaPan Edgerton of McLeod Law Group in Charleston

Attorney for defendant: Mark McKnight of Charleston


  1. $1.2M judgment ends labor violation case against La Hacienda


The two owners of a chain of Mexican restaurants in the Charleston area consented to a federal judgment requiring them to pay nearly $1.2 million to 119 workers who were deprived of wages.

The April 18 resolution between restaurateurs Antonio Ayala and Jaime Tinoco and the U.S. Department of Labor followed a federal investigation that uncovered widespread violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act at 13 locations of the La Hacienda Mexican Grill Inc.

Investigators alleged that servers were being forced to give a cut of their tips to their employers; that three servers were working for tips only; that some employees had to buy their own uniforms and were not properly paid for all hours worked; and that restaurant operators failed to keep proper time and attendance records.

Ayala and Tinoco are jointly and severally liable with all 13 restaurants named in the complaint for $589,522.79 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages.

Damages vary greatly between the individual employees involved in the case. For instance, one is owed $136, while another stands to collect more than $61,000 in damages.



Amount: $1,179,045

Case name: Perez v. La Hacienda Mexican Grill Inc., et al.

Court: U.S. District Court, Charleston

Case No.: 2:16 CV 01146

Judge: C. Weston Houck

Date of judgment: April 18

Attorneys for plaintiff: Barbara Bowens of the U.S. Attorneys Office in Columbia

Attorneys for defendant: Albert Bolet 3rd of Goico & Bolet in Brookhaven, Georgia, and M. Lee Daniels Jr. of Wimberly, Lawson, Daniels & Fisher in Greenville, South Carolina


  1. Homeowners liable for construction accident


After finding the homeowners liable, an Orangeburg County jury awarded more than $1 million to a 65-year-old man who was injured during a construction accident on the private, lakeside farmhouse.

The trial centered on whether plaintiff Bobby McClellan was an employee of the defendant homeowners, Joseph and Lena Rich, or an independent contractor.

McClellan was helping the contractor when a winch supporting a crane back-spooled and struck him, knocking him into the lake and leaving him with fractured bones and a chronic pain condition, according to one of his attorneys, Robert Goings of the Goings Law Firm in Columbia.

The contractor was uninsured and insolvent, which meant that McClellan had to prove that the Riches were liable for his injuries in order to recover damages.

McClellan testified that the Riches paid him cash weekly to work on their farm. The Riches denied that. They were out of the country at the time of the accident and said that the contractor was in charge of McClellan and that McClellan was to blame for his injuries.

Goings and his co-counsel, Marion Moses of The Law Offices of Marion Moses in Columbia, also argued that “inherently dangerous activities” were taking place on the property, which also would make the Riches liable for McClellan’s injuries.

The jury ultimately found that McClellan’s damages amounted to $1,115,180, but reduced the award by 10 percent for contributory negligence.

The final settlement offer from the Riches’ insurer, Selective Insurance, had been $600,000, according to Goings.



Amount: $1,003,662

Case name: McClellan v. Rich

Court: Orangeburg County Circuit Court

Case No. 2015CP3800768

Judge: Maite Murphy

Date of verdict: Jan. 8, 2016

Attorneys for plaintiff: Robert Goings of the Goings Law Firm and Marion Moses of The Law Offices of Marion Moses, both of Columbia

Attorney for defendant: Erin Dean of Tupper, Grimsley & Dean in Beaufort


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