Woman Impaled by Tree Branch Wins $12M Against City
A woman who was impaled in her car by a falling tree branch and lost her leg as a result won a $12 million jury verdict.
Shanta Greene, an assistant manager at Wendy’s in Savannah, Ga., had just gotten off her job on July 2, 2010, when her cousin and his son picked her up in his pickup truck. Greene was sitting in the passenger seat when a large limb of an evergreen oak tree plummeted into the car, impaling her.
She lost her right leg, pelvis, suffered brain damage and is confined to a wheelchair.
She racked up $948,000 in medical bills, spent 75 days in the hospital and underwent 35 surgeries with five more ahead of her.
Her lawyer, Howard Spiva, drew headlines when he appeared in front of the Savannah City Council and told them to settle the case or face a lawsuit when “the war begins.”
The city didn’t settle and went before a jury.
At trial, Spiva told the jury that the city knew or should have known that the tree was in danger of injuring someone, because in 2007 the same tree dropped another branch.
He asked the jury to award at least $20 million to send a message to city hall.
“We’re not interested in charity,” Spiva told jurors. “We’re not interested in sympathy.”
He said Greene trusted the city to take care of its trees.
“If they had just done what they were supposed to do, they would have found it. … They didn’t check the tree,” Spiva argued.
The city’s attorney, Malcolm MacKenzie, argued that the incident was an accident and that with about 85,000 trees in the city, “occasionally they will shed limbs.”
He said the tree had an internal defect that the city didn’t know about.
The jury disagreed, awarding Greene $12 million plus $20,000 to her cousin, Louis Anderson, and $10,000 to his 9-year-old son, Xavier, who were also injured but less seriously.