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Tyler Thompson: Kentucky Woman Gets $164M Verdict In Geico Roadside Crash

Ky. Woman Gets $164M Verdict In Geico Roadside Crash

By Jonathan Capriel

Law360 (March 19, 2024, 8:47 PM EDT)

A Kentucky state jury on Monday hit auto insurance giant Geico with a $164 million verdict over claims it negligently sent a tow truck out on a roadside assistance job only for it to ultimately rear-end a motorist stopped at a red light, leaving her a quadriplegic.

In a verdict returned late Monday, a Jefferson County Circuit Court jury awarded Jilianne Warner $163.9 million in damages for the past and future mental pain, suffering, permanent impairment and medical expenses she sustained due to the crash, according to documents given to Law360 by Warner's counsel.

Her lawsuit claimed that the insurance company was vicariously liable for her injuries because Geico had contracted towing company Midnight Recovery Inc. to respond to roadside assistance jobs.

The tow company and its driver, Christian Worley, previously admitted they had failed to exercise ordinary care and caused the crash.

The jury agreed with Warner that the insurer was indeed responsible, finding that Worley and Midnight Recovery were "on a GEICO roadside assistance run at the time of the collision," according to court documents.

For roughly six years, Warner has waited for her day in court, and Geico has "fought" her "every step of the way," said Matt White, co-founder of law firm Gray & White PLLC and counsel for Warner. In the end, the jury awarded her the maximum amount of money she had requested, including $111 million for future physical and mental pain and suffering.

"Jilianne is the bravest person I know," White said. "She was 27 when the wreck occurred and just starting her adult life. She brought this lawsuit to hold GEICO accountable and to raise awareness of the dangers of roadside assistance companies putting large trucks on public roadways. Jilianne's strength is what helped get us all to the finish line. It has been an honor and inspiration to represent her."

According to the amended complaint, the crash occurred on Dec. 29, 2017. That night, Worley was driving a wrecker owned by Midnight Recovery, the suit said. He had finished one job for Geico and was on route to another when he hit Warner, who was driving a Toyota Scion, the suit said.

The Scion was tossed nearly 100 feet as a result of the crash, the suit said. Counsel for Warner said that the tow truck was moving at nearly 45 mph when the collision happened.

Counsel for Geico didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Geico is represented by Charles H. Stopher and Edward H. Stopher of Boehl Stopher & Graves LLP.

Warner is represented by Matt White of Gray & White PLLC and the law firm Dolt Thompson Shepherd & Conway PSC.

The case is Warner v. Midnight Recovery Inc. et al., case number 18-CI-003622, in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.

--Editing by Andrew Cohen.

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