Skip to main content
James E. Butler Jr.

James Butler’s Legal Cases

7 total

  • Hughes v. National Service Lines of New Jersey, Inc. and Michigan Mutual Insurance Co

    Practice Area:
    Brain Injury
    Date:
    Sep 29, 1988
    Outcome:
    Trucking Co Pays $500,000 for Brain Injury Crash
    Description:
    Hughes was a self-employed bulldozer operator who only had a first grade education. He was 63 years old at the time of the collision, and made his living running heavy earth-moving equipment. While in his pick-up truck returning from a service station with a full 55 gallon drum of diesel fuel for his bulldozer, an oncoming tractor-trailer driver was speeding along Highway 72 in Elbert County, GA. The vehicle ahead of the tractor-trailer slowed to be able to turn left. The driver of the speeding tractor-trailer saw that he did not have time to stop before striking the rear of the small vehicle, and had to make a split-second decision to either go off the highway to the right side of the small car (where a slope led to a small water runoff drainage area), or attempt to veer left (across the lane where Mr. Hughes was traveling) to a flat surface that would likely not cause his rig to overturn. He chose to go in the direction that would not flip his tractor-trailer rig, and Mr. Hughes' pick-up was not able to avoid the collision with the set of rear tires of the tractor-trailer rig. Mr. Hughes was knocked unconscious by the impact, and suffered a bad scrape and bruising of his upper forehead and scalp. He was awakened by other motorists shortly after the crash, but was dazed. He was soaked in diesel fuel, which had slammed into the cab of the pickup truck and erupted. He feared being burned alive, since the doords would not open on the pickup, due to compaction of the front end of the truck. A precautionary hospital visit to a local hospital resulted in his release 4 hours later. The total medical costs were less than $500, and the medical tests revealed no permanent damage. The probelm with the case was that every time Mr. Hughes got back on his earth-moving equipment, he became nauseous. The problem persisted, even after two more neurologists declared him to be fine. Because Mr. Hughes had never missed work before due to any health issues, and (prior to this visit) had never been in a hospital, the correlation to this collision was obvious. Fianlly, an Emory specialist in complex head trauma cases found the problem: his skull was cracked longitudinally, running from the center of his nose area straight back across the top of his skull. This crack was not detected on the routine scans that were done, but was picked up by special equipment at Emory University Medical School. At the eve of litigation in Fulton County State Court, the case settled in 1988 for $500,000, despite the relatively low earnings of Mr. Hughes, his first grade education level and his age of 63 years at the time of the incident. The amount he received, combined with social security, allowed him to retire in fairly good financial shape, if the money was conserved.
  • U.S. ex rel. Victor Bibby and Brian Donnelly v. JPMorgan Chase, et al.

    Practice Area:
    Consumer Protection
    Date:
    Nov 19, 2012
    Outcome:
    Cash Settlement--$161,700,000
    Description:
    Fraud/Qui Tam. Whistleblower. Six banks have settled claims under the False Claims Act brought by two whistleblowers for recovery of money on behalf of the U.S. Government. The banks which have agreed to settle are JPMorgan Chase ($45 million), Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. ($45 million), PNC Bank ($38 million), First Tennessee Bank ($16 million), SunTrust Mortgage ($10.2 million), and CitiMortgage ($7.5 million). The case alleges that eight banks cheated military veterans and taxpayers out of millions of dollars by hiding illegal fees in veterans' home mortgage refinancing transactions and then sought to collect on void government loan guarantees. The case is still pending against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. and Mortgage Investors Corporation-the biggest defendants with 70% of the total damages exposure.
  • Six Flags over Georgia v. Time Warner

    Practice Area:
    Consumer Protection
    Date:
    Apr 23, 2003
    Outcome:
    $454,296,000, over $640,000,000 collected with interest
    Description:
    The verdict awarded damages to the original investor of the limited partnership and to the general partnership in Six Flags Over Georgia amusement park against Time Warner affiliates (including Warner Bros.) for breach of fiduciary duty in Time Warner's management of the park between 1991 and 1997 when Time Warner acted as general partner. Plaintiffs proved a deliberate scheme to depress the value of the Georgia park by failing to install major rides and make appropriate capital investment. Plaintiffs proved that Time Warner took assets belonging to the partnership and used them for its own financial gain. The jury found by special interrogatory that Defendants acted with specific intent to cause harm so that the $250,000 cap on punitive damages under Georgia's Tort Reform statute was avoided. The verdict includes $197 million compensatory and $257 million punitive damages totaling $454 million. At the time, this verdict represented the largest compensatory, punitive or combined verdict in Georgia history, surpassing the previous high held by this firm of $105 million in Moseley v. GM in 1993. Defendants never made any settlement offer. The pretrial proceedings were notable for the attempt by Defendants to hide virtually all of the damaging documents under false claims of attorney-client privilege and work product. Plaintiffs were successful in unmasking these. The Court struck or Defendants withdrew thousands of such bogus claims after an exhaustive pretrial discovery battle. Defendants appealed the verdict and the Georgia Court of Appeals twice affirmed the judgment in its entirety. On April 21, 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari and the judgment was paid and satisfied in full by defendants. With interest, the collected, paid judgment exceeded $640 million, making it one of, if not the, largest verdicts ever affirmed and paid in its entirety.
  • Toole v. JMIC

    Practice Area:
    Class Action
    Date:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Outcome:
    $45,000,000 Cash Settlement
    Description:
    When Plaintiff and Class Representative Ken Toole purchased a motor vehicle in 2001, he also purchased single-premium credit life and disability insurance. He paid an up-front premium at the time of purchase for the credit insurance coverage over the term of his loan. When Toole later paid his loan off early, under the terms of the insurance contract, he was entitled to receive a refund of the unearned premium. As it did with many of its other insureds, JMIC failed to refund the unearned premium to Toole. During lengthy discovery, Plaintiff's counsel proved that the insurance company owed tens of thousands of its insureds millions of dollars of unearned premiums. A nationwide class was certified by the trial court in 2005, and in 2006, the Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the certification of the nationwide class. After more than 4 years of contentious litigation and extensive discovery, JMIC was forced to produce a database with information on thousands of potential class members. JMIC finally agreed to pay $45 million into a Settlement Fund to settle the case. The Court and Class Counsel will supervise a settlement administrator who will determine the amount of and pay unearned refunds to those class members/insureds that are due but have not received an unearned premium refund. JMIC is also required to take steps to provide additional prospective relief to make sure that insureds that terminate early in the future do get the refunds of unearned premium to which they are entitled. The settlement was preliminarily approved by the Court on October 31, 2007.
  • Moseley v. General Motors Corp.

    Practice Area:
    Wrongful Death
    Date:
    Sep 08, 1995
    Outcome:
    Cash Settlement--Amount Confidential
    Description:
    Defective GM pickup truck with side-saddle fuel tank design. This case was tried in early 1993 resulting in a verdict of $105 million, including $101 million in punitive damages, the largest verdict in Georgia history and the largest verdict ever against GM (at the time). GM appealed the case and the verdict was overturned, with GM boasting to the appellate court and the press that it looked forward to re-trying the Moseley case. The surviving parents of Shannon Moseley, who burned alive when his pickup truck was struck by a later model GM pickup and burst into flames, agreed to settle their case because they were satisfied it had helped to tell the public the trucks were dangerous and "it was time to move on." This was one of four cases GM simultaneously settled on the eve of the trial of one of the cases. The settlement amount is confidential at Defendant's request.
  • Leonard and Randall Heavrin v. Bridgestone/Firestone

    Practice Area:
    Defective and Dangerous Products
    Date:
    Mar 21, 2012
    Outcome:
    Cash Settlement--Amount Confidential
    Description:
    On November 10, 2005 Leonard and Nancy Heavrin were killed when a Firestone Steeltex Radial R4S II tire on another vehicle suffered a belt/tread separation, causing the vehicle to go out of control, cross the median and strike the Heavrin vehicle head-on, decapitating both Mr. and Mrs. Heavrin, who were on their way to visit family members in Florida. The Firestone Steeltex tires at issue were manufactured at Firestone's now-closed Decatur, Illinois plant. Other tires manufactured at the Decatur, Illinois plant were recalled by Firestone and the plant was shut down shortly after the tire at issue was manufactured due to quality problems. In addition to manufacturing defects, one of the design defects claimed by Plaintiffs was Bridgestone/Firestone's failure to include a nylon cap in the design of the tire. The case settled for a confidential amount.
  • Lynn and Douglas Wheeler v. Ford Motor Company

    Practice Area:
    Defective and Dangerous Products
    Date:
    Dec 18, 2009
    Outcome:
    Verdict--$17,716,401 & Cash Settlement--Amount Confidential
    Description:
    Plaintiffs Lynn and Douglas Wheeler won their design defect and failure to warn claims against Ford Motor Company relating to the 2002 Ford Explorer. On Christmas morning 2005, 58 year old Lynn Wheeler was on her way to church with her family. She was seated in the rear center seat of her son's 2002 Ford Explorer, wearing the lap-only seat belt Ford installed for that seating position. Two of Lynn Wheeler's grandchildren were in child seats on either side of her. As they entered a curve a 2-door Eagle Talon coupe driven by John C. Stanley crossed the centerline and struck the Explorer head-on. In the crash, the latch on the Explorer rear bench seat broke and the seat collapsed and folded down and forward. The lap-only seat belt allowed Ms. Wheeler to jackknife over and strike her head on the back of the front seat. As a result, she suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury that left her quadriplegic. Mr. Stanley admitted responsibility for the crash. Ford denied all responsibility. At trial, plaintiffs proved Ford knew, from Fords own crash tests and internal documents, that its rear center seats and restraint systems were failing and endangering passengers. Plaintiffs proved Ford planned to install a safer design including a three-point belt instead of a lap only belt -- in the 2002 Explorer but decided to delay that design to a later model year. At the conclusion of trial, the jury awarded $17,716,401 to Lynn Wheeler and her husband. The jury separately found that Ford's conduct showed reckless disregard for safety and decided to award additional punitive damages against Ford. After a second phase of trial, while the jury was out deciding what amount of punitive damages to award, Ford settled the case. The amount of the settlement is confidential at Defendant's request.