Record-Setting $200m Verdict in Rural North Georgia County

A design defect in a 2000 Malibu Response LX ski boat caused it to suddenly submarine under the water when crossing its own wake at 4-7 mph. A seven year-old boy was sitting in the very front with his older brother and cousins when that submarining washed him out of the boat and into the path of the propellor. He was killed by the boat’s propellor, but survived for 1-3 minutes before succumbing to his horrific injuries.

We tried mightily to settle the case for 5.5 years. The family, who lived in Florida, did not want to come back to Georgia, let alone Rabun County where their son was killed. But the boat company and its insurance companies mocked us throughout the entire litigation. The boat company’s lawyer even said to us that our attempts to resolve the case meant that we were “afraid to try the case” against him. His highest offer to settle this horrific case was $2m. He and the insurance companies argued that a “rural conservative jury in Rabun County” would give a small verdict that would benefit the insurance company. Once again, we believed they were wrong, and we proved it.

The jury’s verdict was exactly 100x the insurance company’s final settlement offer. It recognized the value of human life, the value of human suffering, and the level of accountability that this boat company desperately needed. News of the verdict spread internationally, getting the attention of not only the boat company itself, but the boating industry as a whole. As a result of the jury’s verdict, the boating industry has already begun instituting changes to ensure that something like this never happens again.

“Drew was associated in the representation of a client that was severely burned while working at a South Georgia industrial plant. Drew’s unstoppable work ethic and persistent discovery of facts took the value of the client’s case to an entirely new level. As a result of Drew’s diligence, we were able to obtain a jury verdict over $13,000,000. This would have never occurred without Drew’s involvement.”

— Chad Shenton; Young Thagard Hoffman Smith Lawrence & Shenton; Valdosta, Georgia

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